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Beloved Auburn teacher’s family finds justice in teen killer’s guilty plea

AUBURN, Alabama (WRBL) – The family of Marti White, 66, feels some comfort and justice as an Auburn teenager was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to White’s murder in a county courtroom of Lee.

On May 26, 2022, 19-year-old Ross McFarland pleaded 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 teenager’s mother died. During sentencing, Ross admitted to thinking about killing his father, Dr. John McFarland, a prominent east Alabama physician, and White for several months before the shooting took place at the home of the family along Burke Place in Auburn.

With the teenager’s guilty plea, White’s family discuss what she meant to those who love her and to the Auburn community. She spent 35 years as an elementary educator in Auburn city schools, had two beautiful daughters and five grandchildren.

One of White’s daughters, Elizabeth Chaisson, shared the following words on behalf of the family following Thursday’s guilty plea.

“Today we have come one step 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 young students to her beloved family, her children and precious grandchildren. She dedicated her life to loving and showing compassion to those who needed it most. Until the end of her life, she sacrificed herself to help children in the need. Although we know this is a step towards earthly justice, we will never know true peace and justice until we meet again,” Chaisson said.

Ross was 16 at the time of the murder; the teenager applied for young offender status, which was denied ahead of Thursday’s plea and sentencing.

According to Auburn investigators, on October 17, 2019, Auburn police located White inside the house, suffering a gunshot wound to the face. During the investigation, Ross was identified as a suspect and a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun was found missing from the residence. A witness, a close friend of Ross McFarland, was located and informed that they had been in the house earlier and saw Ross shoot the victim when she turned her head to look away from Ross. According to the witness, Ross picked up the casing and they left the scene.

After Ross was arrested, a Lee County judge ordered the teen be held without bond due to public safety concerns. Investigators said Ross admitted to fantasizing about killing other people in the community, including children, in a statement to police after the teenager was arrested.

McFarland was found fit 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 everyone involved.


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Sara Adm

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