AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – The family of 66-year-old Marti White is feeling a small measure of comfort and justice as an Auburn teen was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to White’s murder Thursday, inside a Lee County Courtroom.
On May 26th, 2022, 19-year-old Ross McFarland pled guilty to Intentional Murder in the October 2019 shooting death of 66-year-old Martha White. According to a witness in the case, Ross harbored animosity towards White for being engaged to McFarland’s father after the teen’s mother died. During the sentencing, Ross admitted to thinking about killing the teen’s father, Dr. John McFarland, a prominent east Alabama physician, and White for several months before the actual shooting took place at the family’s home along Burke Place in Auburn.
White’s family says Ross’ father initial hired her to tutor Ross, and he then pursued a romantic relationship. White’s daughters, Elizabeth Chaisson and Rachel Raper, say their mom’s intent was to help Ross complete high school while dealing with the horrific trauma of his mother’s recent suicide, another traumatic event, and overall chronic familial trauma.
White spent 35 years as an elementary educator with Auburn City Schools. She had two beautiful daughters and five grandchildren.
“Today, we moved closer to obtaining justice for our dear mother, Marti White. She was a faithful and committed servant to ALL the children in her life, from her countless numbers of young students to her beloved family, children, and precious grandchildren. She dedicated her life to loving and showing compassion to those who needed it most. To the end of her life, she sacrificed herself to help children in need. While we know this is a step towards earthly justice, we will never know true peace and justice until we meet again,” said Chaisson.
Ross was 16-years-old at the time of the murder; the teen applied for youthful offender status, which was denied before Thursday’s plea and sentencing. During the Youthful Offender hearing Rachel Raper shared her what happened to her life after her mother’s murder. Raper shared her entire victim impact speech with News 3:
Dear Judge Smithart,
My name is Rachel Raper and I am the youngest daughter of Marti White. I want to start by thanking you for having us write these statements. The past two and a half years have felt like torture and hell on earth. I am, however, thankful for any opportunity to speak of the amazing woman my mom was and to play my part in securing whatever justice is left for her and for my family. When my precious mother was so unjustly and traumatically taken from us, I lost much more than a mother figure. I lost my best friend, my first call, my biggest fan and cheerleader, my advice-giver, my fierce protector, and most heartbreaking-my children’s doting and beloved Mara. There is no part of my universe that my mom didn’t touch and the immense hole that was left when the defendant valued his personal agenda over a treasured human life will always be there. My mom was compassionate, feisty, funny, strong, loyal, and had an unshakeable faith. A faith that I am so thankful she shared with me and raised me to also have, it has been my saving grace. It is impossible to put the gravity of my grief into words. To say that her murder has had an impact on me is a vast understatement.
I am aware of the defendant’s traumatic childhood and unfit parents, but the terrible things that happened to him and the lack of guidance that he received is in no way a justification or defense for his senseless and malicious act. It was evident from the very beginning of my mom’s and Dr. McFarland’s relationship that the defendant was troubled and exhibited problematic behavior. My mom viewed these circumstances as part of her mission and calling. She has always had a tendency to love the unloveable and have a heart for those that most would find intolerable. The defendant’s trauma was heartbreaking to my mom and she felt led to show him a compassion that he had never known before. Whether as a result of his unfortunate background or not, the defendant is a miserable and evil individual. In his desperate plea for attention and in an attempt to hurt his father, he, instead, destroyed me and my family. His selfish and foolish decision is something we will have to live with forever.
When my mom was murdered, part of me stopped existing. I am grieving not only the loss of my mom but also the loss of myself and the loss of our future as a family. The fact that I’ve been able to wake up and somewhat function since October 17, 2019 is nothing short of a miracle. Every day is a fight for me and I feel a sense of relief when each day is done because I feel one day closer to hugging my mom again. It has been unspeakably hard to hold the grief of losing my mom, and the manner in which her life was taken makes the pain even more unbearable. When approached with the question, “how has being a victim of your mother’s murder impacted you?”, the only logical response seems to be “how has it not impacted me?”. My mental health has suffered tremendously. Although I am slowly working towards living a life that would make my mom proud and I fight hard against it, my outlook on life has turned bitter and resentful. I often feel that if something so terrible can happen to my mom and to my family, then what’s the point in caring? The loss of my precious mom has rearranged my world. The grief and pain that the defendant decided to bestow upon me changed the way I see everything. I battle depression on a daily basis and have been taking prescribed medication since my mother’s death. I feel like I am constantly pulling the knife from the wound- I have disturbing flashbacks of the phone call I got on the night of her murder and of the days following. I am often riddled with panic, anxiety, and physical illness over the unknown details and thoughts of how in the world I’m going to continue surviving in a world where this is my story. I am surviving the impossible, the unimaginable. Others see bravery and strength, but I’m on autopilot and trying so hard to disassociate just to make it through the necessities of life. I am facing the heartbreaking fact that sometimes things don’t get fixed or put back together the way they were-some broken things stay broken on this side of heaven. For me, the most difficult way this monster’s repulsive choice has impacted my life is in the way it has affected my family. It has taken time and attention away from my husband and small children and left me often distant and irritable. Because of the defendant’s heinous decision, I have not been thekind of wife and mother that I want to be and certainly not the kind that my husband and children deserve. I have been unavailable for my family emotionally and physically and I have lost time with them that I will never get back. My husband and I have also had to share only half-truths with our children regarding how and why their grandmother died. They were only four and a half and two and half when she was mercilessly taken from us and we can’t bear the thought of inundating their minds with the thoughts and images that we have been forced to cope with. The heaviness that comes with my children’s’ questions about heaven and mortality and bad guys is, many times, insufferable. I am intensely triggered by typical conversations and make-believe scenarios. It is difficult and unfair to be the mom of the only little boy who isn’t allowed to play with nerf guns because I simply cannot handle the connotations. I am devastated that my mom will not be here as my children and their cousins grow up. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone enjoy their grandchildren more than she did. I am so angry that we have been robbed and cheated out of more special moments with her. The damage and suffering the defendant has caused will live on in this world for far longer than I am a part of it. He did more than take a precious life, he has inflicted irreparable pain that will ripple across generations, not only in my family, but in the families of those that love us. I go back and forth between feeling completely hopeless and clinging to hope desperately because it’s all I have. Living in her honor and the hope of a heaven that is so much more than any of us can imagine is what keeps me going.
To consider the financial impact of my mother’s murder is almost insulting. Yes, we had to spend money that we should have never had to spend. From travel expenses, to funeral expenses, to transporting her belongings to their rightful owners. This has certainly been an added stress, but I would give every last penny I had if it meant that I could have my mom back. The financial strain is nothing in comparison to the damage that has been done to our very hearts and souls.
As far as my thoughts and wishes on the defendant’s sentencing, the thought of him ever rejoining society is simply incomprehensible. True justice for me and my mother and my family does not exist on this earth. The magnitude of the crime he committed and the demonic and heinous thoughts and plans he had for other innocent victims leaves no question that he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This individual is dangerous and evil and the potential for him to ruin even more lives is, unfortunately, highly likely. The crime this person committed was not with the intentions of a child who was unaware of the repercussions of his choices. This crime was committed with the intentions of an adult who was completely cognizant of the heartbreak and devastation he would cause. If he were to be released, especially within the next three years, I would have legitimate fear and concern for my family as well as for the the general public. I think we have a responsibility to the community and to my mother’s legacy to make sure that he is not only not granted youthful offender status, but that he never sees the light of day again.
Thank you for your time, Rachel Raper
According to Auburn investigators, on October 17, 2019, Auburn Police located White inside the home, suffering from a gunshot wound to the face. During the investigation, Ross was developed as a suspect, and a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun was discovered missing from the residence. A witness, a close friend of Ross McFarland, was located and advised they were in the home earlier and witnessed Ross shoot the victim when she turned her head to look away from Ross. According to the witness, Ross picked up the shell casing, and they left the scene.
After Ross was arrested, a Lee County Judge ordered the teen to be held without bond due to public safety concerns. Investigators said Ross had admitted to fantasizing about killing others in the community, including children, in a statement to police after the teen’s arrest.
McFarland was found competent to stand trial, which will now be avoided with Thursday’s guilty plea.
Dr. McFarland, who was in court for the guilty plea, told News 3 he was broken and hurt for all involved.