Auburn teen allegedly “harbored animosity” towards future step-mom prior to murder


AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – Chilling new details are surfacing in the murder of an Auburn woman who investigators believe was shot and killed by her future teenage step-child.

Court documents obtained by News 3 indicate the teen Murder suspect, 16-year-old Ross McFarland allegedly harbored animosity towards the victim, 66-year-old Martha White for getting engaged to Ross’ father, a prominent East Alabama physician, soon after Ross’ mother passed away.

A source close to the investigation tells News 3 that a friend of McFarland witnessed the deadly shooting at the family’s home along Burke Place in Auburn.

Ross McFarland was born a female, however, identifies as a male. McFarland is being held without bond as a female, according to detention records.

The Affidavit Charging Crime refers to Ross as a male and reads as follows:

“On or about October 17, 2019, Auburn Police responded to (REDACTED) Alabama in reference to an unresponsive female later identified as Martha Jones White who was laying on the floor suffering from an apparent gunshot wound to the face. White was pronounced deceased at the scene. During the investigation, Ross Jonathan McFarland was developed as a suspect. White was currently engaged to Ross’s father, John McFarland. While interviewing John McFarland it was discovered that there was a missing Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun from the residence. A witness, a close friend of Ross McFarland, was later located and advised they were in the residence earlier and she 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. The witness also stated that Ross harbored animosity towards White for being engaged to his father in such a short time after his mother’s death.”

Meanwhile, a Lee County Judge ordered the teen suspect to be held without bond due to public safety concerns, on behalf of the Lee Co. District Attorney’s Office

“I requested an extraordinary bond in this case as a result of evidence obtained during the investigation. I presented this information to the court in support of my public safety concerns and the judge ordered the defendant to be held without bond,” shared Lee Co. District Attorney Brandon Hughes.

Prosecutors declined to comment specifically on why McFarland’s release would cause them to be concerned for the safety of the public.

Coroner Bill Harris says White appears to have been killed by a single gunshot based on a preliminary exam. News 3 has reached out to White’s family and are respecting their request for privacy during this difficult name.

Auburn police arrested the 16-year-old early Friday morning on Murder charges after the Thursday night homicide along Burke Place.

“On Oct. 18, 2019, at approximately 6:30 a.m., Auburn Police along with the assistance of members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force and Tallapoosa County Drug Task Force arrested Ross Jonathan McFarland, 16, of Auburn, on a warrant for Murder,” said Auburn Police Captain Lorenzo Dorsey.

Suspect Ross McFarland
Courtesy: Auburn Police Dept.

Investigators say analysis of the scene resulted in McFarland, who resides at the residence on Burke Place, being developed as a suspect in the death.

“The Police Division obtained an arrest warrant and enlisted the aid of the US Marshals Fugitive Task Force; McFarland, a truck missing from the residence and what is believed to be the weapon used in the homicide, was located in the 10,000 block of Highway 50 near Dadeville and taken into custody,” said Dorsey.

Ross Jonathan McFarland has been charged with Murder, transported to the Lee County jail and was held under a $150,000 bond until a no bond was issued on a Friday afternoon hearing. This means McFarland will be held until a possible trial unless a bond is set in the case.

A Preliminary Hearing has been scheduled for a later date to determine if the case will go to a grand jury for them to consider an official indictment.

Meanwhile, the case remains under investigation. Anyone with additional information regarding this crime is urged to contact the Auburn Police Division Detective Section at 334-501-3140 or the anonymous tip line at 334-246-1391.

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