That conversation with Marshall, according to Kraushaar, took place in
December 1983 or January 1984. Maria Marshall was slain Sept. 7, 1984, at a picnic area along the Garden State Parkway.
Kraushaar, a former high school vice principal, testified for more than three hours in Superior Court yesterday in the murder trial of Marshall, 46, of Toms River, Ocean County, and Larry N. Thompson, 42, of Fairview-Alpha, La.
Marshall, who owned an insurance and estate-planning business, is accused of hiring Thompson and Billy Wayne McKinnon, 43, of Greenwood, La., to murder his wife. Thompson is accused of firing the two .45-caliber bullets that killed Maria Marshall.
Kraushaar said yesterday that she broke off her relationship with Marshall on Sept. 25, 1984, after originally having accepted his explanation that his wife had been killed during a robbery at a picnic area along the parkway in Lacey Township, Ocean County.
"I had to face what I was trying to avoid," Kraushaar said.
Kraushaar said that when Marshall first mentioned getting rid of his wife, she dismissed the conversation as "outrageous and absurd."
"I didn't think he was serious," Kraushaar said. "I told him the idea was absurd and out of the question."
The state alleges that Marshall hired Thompson and McKinnon to murder his wife so that he could collect $1.5 million in life insurance and continue his affair with Kraushaar.
McKinnon, who has become a prosecution witness, said Marshall agreed to pay him $65,000 to arrange the murder of his wife. McKinnon has testified that he brought Thompson to New Jersey and that Thompson staged the robbery and murdered Maria Marshall.
The prosecution has contended that Robert Marshall was more than $300,000 in debt at the time of his wife's death.
Kraushaar did not mention any dollar figure yesterday, but she said that during their relationship, she and Marshall had "many discussions about the debts that he had."
Kraushaar, the wife of a Toms River automobile dealer and the mother of two, was composed and at times almost clinical in detailing events surrounding her relationship with Marshall.
Kraushaar said that she and Marshall had known each other for about 15 years before they began an affair. She and her husband and Marshall and his wife had been "members of the Toms River Country Club and moved in the same circles," Kraushaar said.
According to Kraushaar's testimony, she and Marshall began their affair in July 1983. At one point, she said, they decided to leave their spouses and live together. Marshall had begun making arrangements to rent an apartment and intended to leave his wife before she was slain, Kraushaar said.
Only after Marshall told her of a connection between him and two Louisiana men whose names were mentioned early in the murder investigation did she begin to doubt his account of his wife's death, Kraushaar said.
At that point, about Sept. 25, 1984, Kraushaar said, "I had to face what I was trying to avoid."
Through most of Kraushaar's testimony yesterday, Marshall sat attentively and on several occasions shook his head as if in disagreement with something she said.
Marshall's two oldest sons, Robert Jr. and Christopher, sat in the packed courtroom during the testimony. Robert and Maria Marshall, who were married for 20 years, had three sons. All three, including the youngest, John, have appeared at the trial at different times and have embraced their father and shown him other signs of support.
Kraushaar is expected to return to the witness stand Tuesday. The trial is to resume today with testimony expected from insurance company officials.
Kraushaar was not permitted to testify yesterday about a conversation she said she had with Marshall after they visited Marshall's attorney Sept. 22, 1984. While driving home from that meeting, she told prosecutors, Marshall told her that a private investigator was going to Louisiana to "come up with alternate reasons" for Marshall having been in contact with McKinnon.
Judge Manuel H. Greenberg ruled yesterday that the prosecution could not question Kraushaar about that conversation because it had not told defense attorneys in advance that it intended to introduce that information into the case. The rules of discovery in a trial, Greenberg said, require such disclosures.
Kraushaar did testify about how publicity about the case and her involvement in it have affected her, but she denied under questioning by defense attorney Glenn A. Zeitz that she was "bitter."
Kraushaar said that she and her husband have moved from Toms River and that in May she resigned as vice principal of Pineland Regional High School. She said she had opened a business selling exercise clothing and had not tried to get another job in education.
"My perception," Kraushaar said, "is that I would not be a welcome addition to most educational staffs."