Rachel Timmerman with her daughter, Shannon Verhage

Real Name: Rachel Helena Timmerman
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Cedar Springs, Michigan
Date: June 3, 1997


Details: Rachel Timmerman of Cedar Springs, Michigan, came from a broken home and was just seventeen when she had her first child. On the night of August 7, 1996, eighteen-year-old Rachel left a party with forty-three-year-old Marvin Gabrion, a family friend, and two other men. After stopping in a field, Gabrion ordered the other two men out of the car and then drove off with Rachel. Gabrion then violently beat her and raped her three times. She told her mother that she was afraid to press charges because Gabrion had said that, if she did, he would kill both her and her baby. However, the next day, she reported the rape to police. After a six month investigation, Gabrion was arrested and charged with rape on January 20, 1997. He was then released on bail two weeks later. According to Rachel's family, the rape had a horrible effect on her, both physically and mentally. She had much difficulty trusting others.
In the months following the rape, Rachel attempted to turn her life around. She began focusing her time on her eighteen-month-old daughter, Shannon, her family, and her work at a local restaurant. However, as the date for Gabrion's preliminary hearing came closer, Rachel worried about having to testify against him. She told her parents that Gabrion had threatened her several times. She also said that she was having recurring nightmares about Gabrion and believed that he would kill her. Her father told her that he would help her with the trial. However, according to her parents, on June 3, 1997, Rachel seemed happy. She told her father that she was going on a date with a man, and that the man told her to bring Shannon along. She also told her father that she would be home within a few hours, but that time came and went. Rachel and Shannon did not return and were never seen again.
The next day, Rachel's father received a letter, allegedly from Rachel. She said that she was going on vacation. He was concerned because she had just started her job and was supposed to testify soon. On June 5, Gabrion had his preliminary hearing, but Rachel did not show up. Without her testimony, authorities were forced to drop the rape charges against him. Eleven days later, the prosecutor for the case received a letter, allegedly from Rachel, that was postmarked from Little Rock, Arkansas. The letter said that Rachel had tried to have intercourse with Gabrion, but when he refused, she made up the rape allegation. The prosecutor did not believe that Rachel wrote the letter; she believed that Rachel was in danger.
The same day, Rachel's father also received a letter postmarked from Little Rock. The letter, also allegedly written by Rachel, said that she and Shannon were fine and that she would soon call him. However, he never received a call from her. Two weeks later, on the morning of July 5, the decomposed body of a young woman was found on Oxford Lake. The body was later identified as Rachel's. She had been wrapped in chains and cement blocks had been padlocked to the chains. She also had duct tape over her mouth and eyes. Disturbingly, the autopsy determined that Rachel had been thrown into the lake alive and drowned. However, no trace of Rachel's daughter Shannon was found.
Authorities theorized that whoever kidnapped Rachel forced her to write the letters on June 3. After dumping Rachel into the lake, the killer then mailed the letters. From the beginning there was one obvious suspect: Marvin Gabrion. Authorities went to Gabrion's residence and found cinder blocks on his property that matched those found tied to Rachel's body. Authorities now believe that Gabrion killed Rachel in order to prevent her from testifying against him at trial. However, Gabrion fled the area before police could arrest him.
Curiously, Gabrion was not the only person that turned up missing in the police investigation. The first person to go missing was Wayne Davis, a friend of Gabrion, who was one of the two men kicked out of the car on the night of Rachel's rape in 1996. Wayne had agreed to testify against Gabrion at his trial, but he vanished a few days after Gabrion was released from jail.
John Weeks was the second person to go missing; he was an acquaintance of Gabrion's and a friend of Rachel's who had asked her out on a date a few weeks prior to her death. He was later identified as the person that picked her and Shannon up on the day of their disappearances. John vanished in late June of 1997.
Authorities brought the FBI to investigate the bizarre case. They discovered that Gabrion was using the alias of "Robert Allen". The real Robert Allen is a transient who vanished in 1995. None of these people have been located and Gabrion is now wanted for Rachel's murder.
Suspects: Marvin Gabrion is the prime suspect in Rachel's murder.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the April 10, 1998 episode. This case was also profiled on "FBI: Criminal Pursuit".
Results: Unresolved. In October of 1997, Gabrion was arrested in Sherman, New York; he was found to be cashing Robert Allen's social security checks. A few days later, he appeared at an identity hearing in New York. Initially, he denied that he was Gabrion, but his identity was soon confirmed.
In December of 1997, Gabrion was officially indicted for Rachel's murder. Several witnesses claimed to have seen Gabrion with Rachel and another man (believed to be John Weeks) near Oxford Lake the day after she vanished. The witnesses recalled him driving with a distinct pickup truck with a boat attached. Two days after that, Gabrion's neighbor saw him dragging a metal boat on his gravel driveway. The neighbor also saw him pulling out two life vests, three concrete blocks, and a length of chain from the boat. Gabrion then pulled the boat into his garage and ground off the serial numbers.
When police searched Gabrion's home, they found two keys that matched the padlocks found on Rachel's body. Also, the concrete blocks at his home were stained with the same tar and paint materials as the blocks attached to Rachel’s body. Gabrion's nephew later led investigators to Gabrion's campsite near Oxford Lake. Scattered about they found bolt cutters, another length of shiny chain, duct tape, a woman’s hair clip, and silicone nipples for a baby bottle.
Several witnesses also testified to Gabrion's propensity for violence. Two witnesses described how each of their homes had been set afire shortly after a disagreement with Gabrion. Another witness described how Gabrion began shooting a bolt-action rifle towards his house after he told Gabrion to leave a party there. Another witness described how Gabrion trained a rifle on her and her two-year old child as she walked to her car one day, and then climbed into his car and followed them for miles. Another woman testified as to how Gabrion sexually assaulted her in her home. Another witness testified that Gabrion beat and kicked him, punched his wife in the face, and then punched his teenaged son, after the witness interrupted a card game to retrieve heart medicine for the witness’s uncle. Yet another witness said that Gabrion claimed he could shoot anyone in the neighborhood. The next day, the witness's house was shot at by Gabrion.
In March of 2002, a federal jury convicted Gabrion in the murder of Rachel Timmerman; he was later sentenced to death. The body of Wayne Davis was found in July 2002; he was killed in a similar fashion as Rachel and Gabrion remains the prime suspect. However, Shannon Verhage, John Weeks, and Robert Allen remain missing. Gabrion appealed his sentence and conviction, but it was upheld in 2006. Investigators are almost certain that Shannon is deceased. While awaiting trial for Rachel’s murder, Gabrion gave another prisoner a map of Oxford Lake, on which he had written, “body of 3, 1 found.” While incarcerated, Gabrion also told two inmates that he “killed the baby because there was nowhere else to put it.”