FOREST PARK, Ga. — A Forest Park teen's diary found more than a year after her slaying helped lead police to her accused killer.
Clayton County police charged Marshae O'Brian Hickman last month with murder in the slaying of 15-year-old Candice Parchment after, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he confessed during an interview with investigators to choking the girl to death.
Hickman, 19, remains in the Clayton County jail, and recently withdrew his request for bond.
Candice, described as a friendly and funny but quiet girl, disappeared last year in April. Her body was found in Jonesboro seven months later, the day after Thanksgiving.
This past October, nearly a year after police found Candice's body hidden beneath a mattress in a wooded area, her mother Caffian Hyatt discovered the girl's diary. In it, Candice said Hickman and another male had attempted to rape her three months before her death, according to an account of the diary in the affidavit.
Hyatt turned the diary over to police, who charged Hickman with Candice's death based on the diary and a subsequent confession. Hyatt, in an interview, said her daughter told her of the attempted assault but had for months refused to identify her assailants.
"I told her, 'If you don't go to the police and tell them, [the would-be rapists] will probably try to do it to somebody else, or do it to you,'" Hyatt said. "And they'll probably kill someone."
Just weeks after Hyatt's warning, Candice went missing in the middle of the night.
"I need to know what [Hickman] said to her to make her leave her warm bed, and to make her go out to meet him," Hyatt said.
Late one January night last year Hyatt said she returned home from work and Candice, who was usually home, was not there.
Hyatt said she called Candice multiple times, but she never answered her cellphone.
"Then, on one call, she did pick up the phone, and it sounded like somebody tried to wrestle the phone from her," Hyatt said.
Hyatt said she and her fiance drove around the neighborhood looking for Candice, stopping in front of an abandoned house where Hyatt thought she saw someone inside.
Within minutes, Candice appeared from behind the car and told her mother two boys had tried to rape her, Hyatt said. No matter how insistent Hyatt was, she said Candice refused to talk to her mother about the incident or to tell police.
Hyatt said she gave Candice a note pad and told her youngest daughter to write down the boys' names when she felt comfortable doing.
Janeen Johnson, Candice's older sister who lives in Kingston, Jamaica, thought it was odd that her mother wasn't able to elicit more information about the January night.
"The relationship wasn't one where she couldn't talk to Mommy," Johnson said by phone.
Candice would eventually leave the boys' first names for her mother. But Candice would disappear before she could offer more.
"I wish that I had pressed more," Hyatt said. "She never did tell me everything that happened. I only found out when I found her diary."
In October, while packing to move, Hyatt discovered the diary she never knew her daughter kept. She took it to police.
The diary's Jan. 5, 2010, entry, as spelled out in the affidavit, details a frightening scene inside an abandoned house.
Hickman, described in police warrants as 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, and another male trapped Candice in a dark room. They tried to remove her pants, the diary said.
"[The other male] hit her in the head with a rake and Marshae [Hickman] blocked the door," the affidavit said.
"[The other male] grabbed her and choked her. She begged for him to let her go but he would not," the affidavit said. "They unzipped her pants and her phone rang. She was able to answer the phone and spoke to her mother."
Candice put up a fight when the boys tried to take away the phone, the affidavit said.
"I had to find her," Hyatt said, recalling her desperation that night. "And when we drove past that abandoned home, I thought I saw somebody inside."
The affidavit said the assailants panicked when Hyatt pulled up outside the house, and Candice was able to get away.
The other male with Hickman, who recently admitted to police a role in the January 2010 incident, has not been charged. Police have not identified him as a suspect in the murder.
Court records provide a startling account of what happened after Candice disappeared, but the relationship between the victim and the accused is unclear.
They were together at some point on a wooded trail behind the apartment complex at 482 Sylvia Drive in Forest Park — just two blocks from where Candice lived and where her body would be discovered.
An autopsy reported in the police affidavit cited evidence that Candice had been stabbed. But Hickman admitted only to having strangled the petite girl, the affidavit said. Public defender Neil Smith, who is representing Hickman, declined to discuss the case.
Police records show that someone tried to mislead Hyatt about Candice's whereabouts when she went missing.
Text messages were sent to Hyatt from Candice's cellphone within days of the disappearance, telling Hyatt that Candice had left the state, according to the affidavit.
"I'm in Tennessee," Hyatt said one text message read about 3 p.m., the Wednesday she went missing. "And the Thursday night after she disappeared, I got a text again that said, 'am OK.'"
'All cursed out'
Asked if she thought her daughter had some kind of relationship with Hickman or the other male who police said was present at the attempted rape, Hyatt was adamant.
"Absolutely not," she said.
Hyatt finds herself asking why her daughter would leave the house the night she disappeared.
Candice was strong-willed, but not rebellious; soft-spoken, but not a pushover, her mother and sister said.
The Forest Park High School freshman was an artist who dreamed of being a fashion designer and a jokester whose worse transgression was once sending more than 10,000 texts in a month.
"I told her she shouldn't spend so much time on that cellphone," Hyatt said of the incident. "We took the phone, and she ended up on the dean's list."
Johnson recalled much of her relationship with her younger sister as being like a surrogate parent, watching over Candice while Hyatt was away at work. But Candice, who is 11 years younger than Johnson, blossomed into a close friend in the summer of 2009.
"I can't remember feeling more like a sister," Johnson said. "I was very proud of the young lady she was becoming."
Both Johnson and Hyatt worried that the teen was too trusting, however.
"She was a regular Ms. Sunshine," Hyatt said. "But she was naive."
Hyatt said after more than a year of wondering, worrying, hoping, then finally resolving that her daughter is dead, it's difficult to find a silver lining.
"I'm all cursed out," Hyatt said. "There will never be closure. I would have loved to see her dreams come true."