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 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 his 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.

With the teen’s guilty plea, White’s family discusses what she meant to those who love her and the Auburn community.  She spent 35 years as an elementary educator with 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 after Thursday’s guilty plea.

“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.

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.