ITHACA, N.Y.—In an emotional courtroom Thursday afternoon, William L. Marshall pleaded guilty to the July 2021 killing of Alan Godfrey, bringing some resolution to a case that has loomed with nearly no available details for 19 months.

Marshall pleaded guilty to one charge of first-degree manslaughter, admitting that he “intended to cause the death of Alan Godfrey on July 20, 2021, and then, in fact, caused his death,” according to case prosecutor Tompkins County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Bonavia.

Marshall faces between five to 25 years of incarceration, the length of which will be determined at an April sentencing hearing. District Attorney Matthew Van Houten stated that the prosecution will be seeking the maximum sentence of 25 years incarceration with five years of supervised release afterward.

Marshall waived his right to appeal whatever sentence he receives, with the exception of if Marshall argued the sentence is unduly harsh. Defense attorney Jake McNamara, of Schlather, Stumbar, Parks & Salk, would not comment on what length of sentence he would deem worthy of appeal.

Wednesday’s proceedings before Judge Joseph R. Cassidy were relatively brief, though the courtroom was crowded with both supporters of Marshall, who had been a celebrated peer advocate during a previous stint in prison for a drug dealing offense in the early 2000s, and family members and friends of Godfrey, who was a widely beloved community center worker and cook. Several of those in attendance who knew Godfrey wore black shirts with “Fly high, my angel” inscribed in white on the back.

Bonavia said the family had been consulted regarding the plea, and that they hesitantly supported the deal.

“I would also mention that I have conferred at length with the family of Alan Godfrey, including his mother, sisters and brother, and explained to them the various options in this case,” Bonavia said in court. “For the family, the criminal justice system cannot provide a measure of justice that would make up for the loss of their son. But understanding that reality, they have, with great pain and loss, accepted this proposed resolution.”

Marshall read a statement outlining his version of the incident in question, the first narrative of the crime that has been released publicly. It laid the foundation for what would have been Marshall’s extreme emotional disturbance defense, a legal defense in New York that, when proven, can reduce criminal charges in murder cases to manslaughter charges. Bonavia and McNamara both acknowledged that the extreme emotional disturbance defense likely would have been used for Marshall’s defense had the matter gone to trial.

Essentially, Marshall alleged in court that Godfrey had been extorting Marshall’s younger brother for years. Marshall’s brother, according to his statement in court, has “serious disabilities and needs help and protection.” Marshall said he thought his brother was scared of Godfrey, claiming that Godfrey had taken sexual photographs of Marshall’s brother and had used the photographs to extort money out of Marshall’s brother over the last several years.

The night of the killing, according to Marshall’s statement, his younger brother called him panicked because Godfrey was outside his apartment yelling at him and throwing stones at his window. Marshall then drove to the location and shot Godfrey, according to his statement.

“I heard my brother cry for help and I snapped and lost all self-control,” Marshall said in a prepared statement in court. Marshall claimed Godfrey was holding a brick when Marshall arrived, though Godfrey’s family has specifically challenged that claim. “I was enraged. […] The moment I saw Mr. Godfrey I shot him repeatedly and intentionally took his life.”

Marshall concluded by saying that he “wish[ed] he had not taken Mr. Godfrey’s life” while apologizing to Godfrey’s family.

Towards the end of Marshall’s statement, Godfrey’s sister, Latishia Abdellatif, became emotional, objecting to Marshall’s apology for the crime and calling him a “liar” through tears. She quickly exited the courtroom on her own.

In an interview with The Ithaca Voice after the hearing, Abdellatif said Marshall lied about Godfrey having a brick when he was shot. She also contended that Godfrey was not extorting Marshall’s brother for money; she alleged that the real reason Godfrey was killed stemmed from William Marshall’s discomfort with his brother’s sexual orientation and that he was scared Godfrey would out his brother.

“My brother wasn’t forcing anybody to do anything […] That wasn’t my brother,” Abdellatif said, claiming that Marshall had never actually met Godfrey until the night of the killing. “[Marshall] murdered my brother based on what his brother told him.”

She reiterated that the family was disappointed with the first-degree manslaughter charge, particularly with the thought that Marshall could get out in just five years based on the sentencing minimums (though, as stated above, Van Houten has committed to seeking the maximum sentence of 25 years). Abdellatif said that she “hates to say it,” but felt Marshall’s class, race, pedigree as a Cornell University graduate and family connections were playing a role in the case.

Van Houten would not comment on the veracity of Marshall’s narrative of the crime, referring instead to the sentencing hearing in April. Van Houten additionally said Marshall “brutally killed Alan Godfrey and devastated his entire family.”

“Alan Godfrey was 32 years old when his life was tragically cut short by Marshall’s senseless act of violence,” read a press release from District Attorney Matthew Van Houten after the court proceedings. “Alan was a loved member of the Ithaca community, known for his smile and vibrant personality. Alan had worked at GIAC and Southside and was universally regarded for his positive energy and larger-than-life persona.”

The Ithaca Voice cannot independently verify Marshall’s claims made in court about Godfrey — that will have to wait until the sentencing hearing. Police reports reviewed by The Ithaca Voice do show that Marshall’s brother had called the police twice in late 2017 to complain that Godfrey was harassing him for money. However, both reports explicitly state that Marshall says Godfrey is not making actual threats, and neither report mentions any sexual exploitation. Godfrey and Marshall’s brother had become acquainted while working together years prior.

More evidence will be presented at the sentencing hearing, currently scheduled for April 13, 2023. Godfrey’s family members will be allowed to make personal statements in court the following day, April 14.

Before the current case was brought, Marshall had spent several years incarcerated after catching drug charges for being caught with a large brick of cocaine in a Tompkins Cortland Community College residence hall in Dec. 2001. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for that offense, though he was then released after drug laws changed. Once free, he attended Cornell University and befriended former Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. Myrick recused himself from learning about the investigation into Marshall during his time as mayor, which ended in Feb. 2022. There is no indication Myrick is involved in Marshall’s case.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at