Laura Lynn Thompson

Laura, circa 1993; Age-progression to age 35 (circa 2012); Joseph Marshall Jr.; Sean McDonough

  • Missing Since 01/07/1993
  • Missing From New Castle, Pennsylvania
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 04/05/1977 (47)
  • Age 15 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'6, 140 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Red hair, blue eyes. Laura has a light-colored birthmark at her hairline on the back of her neck.

Details of Disappearance

Laura was last seen in New Castle, Pennsylvania on January 7, 1993. She was a high school student at the time, and the mother of a nine-month-old son. Her case was classified as a runaway for many years after her disappearance, although she had no history of such behavior and she didn't take any belongings with her.

In September 2010, two suspects, Joseph N. Marshall Jr. and his friend Sean M. McDonough, were charged with Laura's murder. Photographs of both of them are posted with this case summary. Laura knew them, and she was last seen en route to play cards with them.

The homicide came to light when Joseph's wife, Shannon Marshall, went to the police in the summer of 2010 and told them what she knew. She had known about the crime since January 1993. During their engagement, Joseph had told her he killed someone, but didn't name his victim.

Later he told her more, stating McDonough had persuaded Laura to come over, and they took her to a cabin in the woods Shenango Township, Pennsylvania. There, McDonough stabbed Laura to death and sexually assaulted her corpse. Several months later, McDonough returned to the shallow grave where he'd buried Laura, removed her skull, teeth and hands, and moved them elsewhere. In the summer of 1993, Shannon accompanied Joseph and McDonough when they dug up the rest of Laura's body and dumped it in a ravine.

Shannon didn't come to the authorities with her information until July 2010; she had decided to divorce Joseph and was afraid for her life. She agreed to wear a wire and recorded conversations with her husband and McDonough that implicated them. She has not been charged in the homicide.

Joseph was charged with criminal homicide, murder, conspiracy and abuse of a corpse. McDonough faced the same charges, as well as two counts of rape. He was living in Thibodaux, Louisiana at the time of his arrest, and had never been arrested before.

In February 2015, McDonough pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and was sentenced to eight to sixteen years in prison, with credit for time served; he spent more than four years in jail awaiting the resolution of the case.

Later that month, Marshall pleaded guilty to misdemeanor abuse of a corpse. He was sentenced to one to two years in prison, and given credit for two years of time served; as a result, was released from custody. All the other charges against him were dropped, the prosecution didn't believe there was enough evidence to convict him of murder.

Authorities believe Laura's body may not be recoverable, as a farmer dumped a demolished barn and a large amount of earth into the ravine after her body was put there. Foul play is suspected in Laura's case due to the circumstances involved. Her disappearance remains classified as a runaway with many agencies.

Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated January 8, 2016; details of disappearance updated.