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A single mother from California thought she’d found love, but perhaps all that glittered was not gold.
Kathi Spiars had a rough go of things, with two failed marriages by the time she was 30 years old. But she persevered, and in October 1980, Kathi took her 6-year-old daughter and moved to Colorado for a fresh start. Kathi, described by family members as an equal mix of beautiful and vulnerable, found herself a job at a restaurant. It wasn’t long before she snagged the attention of a busboy named Steve Marcum.
“He was really charming and real nice to me,” said Kathi in a police recording featured in “Charmed To Death,” airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen. “He was real protective of the fact that I was sober and I was working around cocktails.”
Steve tried to woo Kathi by showering her with lavish gifts, some of them surprising for a busboy’s meager wage.
“I remember he took me shopping for my birthday,” said Kathi on the police recording. “And he had $3,000 in his pocket, and he was going to dress me from head to toe in clothes and jewelry. I was really impressed with that.”
But there was one obstacle standing between Steve and Kathi, and that was Kathi’s boyfriend, who was allegedly abusive. Kathi wanted out, and so the next day, Steve handed her an envelope filled with hundred-dollar bills so that she could take her daughter and leave, no strings attached.
Steve’s persistence continued, and so did his spending. He even surprised Kathi and her daughter with a brand new Porsche. When peers questioned where Steve got the funds, he explained he’d inherited money after his parents’ death, and that he was only a busboy to keep occupied.
Soon after, Kathi allowed Steve to rent a room in her home. It didn’t take long for Kathi to grow suspicious of some things, such as packages of gold foil in the refrigerator filled with hundred-dollar bills, or bars of gold in the back of the toilet.
His former roommate, Chris Lewis, had also found gold bars in his toilet while they lived together.
“He opened up this package, and there were easily 25-ounce ingots of solid gold,” Lewis told producers. “He stored them in my toilet tank.”
Steve claimed the gold was also part of his inheritance.
If Kathi had suspicions, they were abated when Steve took Kathi for a holiday in Mexico, where things became romantic. In June1981, the pair married.
The gifts continued, as did Steve's odd behavior. On one occasion, Steve showed Kathi's daughter, Shawna, several fake IDs and passports, telling the child he wasn’t really named Steve Marcum. Instead, his name was Eric Stone, and he was a mercenary on the run from the CIA.
“He killed a civilian,” Kathi said in a police interview. “Someone that the government didn’t tell him to kill.”
According to Marcum/Stone, he killed a man who was becoming violent with a woman at a bar. While in prison for the murder, he allegedly wrote a tell-all book that revealed government secrets and put a target on his head. His parents were the victims of a house fire that took everything he had, allowing him to change his name and give himself a fresh start as Steve Marcum.
For the next few years, Steve, aka Eric, provided Kathi with everything she could ever dream of: vacations, a 40-acre ranch, even her own dream beauty salon. But by 1992, the money had run out, and tension in the marriage reached a boiling point. Kathi had suffered silicone poisoning from her breast implants, and when doctors had to remove them, Eric resented Kathi.
Desperate to keep her husband happy, Kathi thought it would be a pleasant surprise to reach out to Eric’s high school and obtain a copy of his yearbook. A man named Chuck answered Kathi’s request. Based on the birthdate and description of Eric Stone, Chuck revealed that he’d known Eric but that Eric Stone wasn’t his real name.
Not only was Eric Stone actually Eric Wright, but Chuck confirmed that Eric’s parents were alive and well.
Kathi couldn’t believe what she’d heard and took it upon herself to track down Eric’s mother. She called the woman, who explained that she hadn’t seen her son in a very long time. Kathi then told Eric that she’d discovered his identity.
“He said, ‘What did you do to us?’” claimed Kathi in the police recording. “You just signed our death warrant. We’re dead.”
Eric physically attacked Kathi, and after 12 years of marriage, he left home and never returned. Eric filed for divorce, leaving Kathi without any money and without any answers. Kathi became hell-bent on trying to figure out just who her husband was.
As it turned out, Kathi uncovered that not only had Eric been married twice before, but he was still married to his second wife when he married Kathi. He also had three children between his two former wives, and he’d abandoned them all. Plus, Eric was not on the run from the CIA, as he’d claimed.
By the end of 1993, Kathi went to California authorities with the information she had on hand. San Joaquin County Detective John Huber took the case. After searching his records, he made a shocking discovery: Eric Wright had been reported as a missing person back in 1980, just before he met Kathi.
Back then, Bob Luca, an investigator for the Department of Justice, headed the investigation into Eric Wright’s disappearance.
Eric had served in Vietnam before getting married the first time but married his second wife when it showed signs of opportunity.
“He married Christine,” explained Luca, "who was the daughter of the superior court judge in Alameda County.”
Through his wife and father-in-law, Eric established himself as a prominent figure in the county and became one of the youngest lieutenants ever promoted in the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. Everyone believed he was on the fast track to becoming sheriff.
But out of the blue, Eric decided to leave his promising career at the sheriff’s office and begin an enterprise with a former deputy in gold investments. One day, Eric told his partner that he was off to buy some silver from a seller and that he’d be back within a couple of hours.
Eric never returned.
Investigators found Eric’s abandoned car in a parking lot with trace amounts of what looked like blood, evidence of possible foul play. In Eric’s office, however, authorities found a book on how to disappear and start a new life. Authorities also discovered the car had been staged to look like a crime scene, with Eric even using animal blood on the vehicle. They believed Eric left on his own volition and closed the case. Eric then started his new life in Colorado as Steve Marcum.
But Kathi's tale of the gold he hid throughout the home piqued detectives' interest.
“She called and asked about any cases involving gold in northern California,” Huber said. “We had a case from 1980 involving a victim, Lester Marks, who was found in the California aqueduct missing 18 pounds of gold; six 3-pound bars worth $850 an ounce, at the time. So over $200,000. The Lester Marks case was never solved.
Marks was a gold dealer out of San Francisco. When his body was discovered, he’d been tied up with chains and plastic ties. While looking through the original case file from 1980, Detective Huber found that written in a notebook in Marks’ apartment was Eric’s name and contact information.
Authorities eventually found Eric in Denver, and despite interviewing him, they got nowhere. When a grand jury decided not to indict Eric on charges of murder, investigators turned to photos of the original gold bars seized at the 1980 crime scene.
Eric’s former roommate, Chris Lewis, confirmed they were the same gold bars he found in his toilet, noting the distinct two-tone color. But as soon as an arrest warrant was issued, Eric disappeared once again.
Kathi told authorities about a town in Mexico that Eric seemed especially fond of, and lo and behold, Eric was there. But since no extradition treaty exists between the USA and Mexico, Eric lived freely south of the border for several years.
Finally, in May 2002, Detective Huber convinced the FBI to extradite Eric from Mexico.
Eric would ultimately be charged in the murder of Lester Marks. He pleaded guilty and was convicted on manslaughter charges. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment and released three years later in 2005.
“My mom wasn’t too happy about that,” Kathi’s daughter, Shawna, told producers. “But she felt really confident that she had done all that she can. She was happy that it was finally coming to an end.”
Eric died of a heart attack within one year of his release. Kathi, whose years of risk and determination helped get justice, later died of natural causes.
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