Michael Marin was the very image of a powerhouse lawyer: a Yale Law School graduate who went on to find success as a Wall Street trader who climbed Mount Everest, collected valuable art works and supported charities. The bon vivant seemed to be living the life of legend until he was charged with burning down his own Biltmore Estates mansion in Arizona. Shortly after being convicted of arson in court, Marin was seen putting something in his mouth. He promptly collapsed and died.
The terrible scene was the end of a bizarre downward spiral that prosecutors insist was caused by Marin’s growing debts. Marin was in the news when he made a remarkable escape from his burning mansion by donning scuba gear to avoid smoke inhalation and climbing down a rope ladder. Investigators were suspicious and eventually accused him of setting numerous fires before setting up the daring exit.
Marin denied that allegations and insisted “One, you don’t set fire to something that you’re in and then go trap yourself upstairs to make a more dramatic exit. The second thing, if you bore into my finances, this was the worst thing that could have happened to me. Not only did I not have any incentive personally, I totally had a counter-incentive. The Phoenix Fire Department people will figure out what they figure out.”
The fire destroyed the 10,766 square foot property, including a four-car garage and about 6,600 square feet of living space. Marin, 53, was the father of four and grandfather of two (with a third on the way).
Marin often discussed his adventures in jungles and mountains, saying “I’m very calm under pressure, and I’ve certainly been tested in that way.” Marin often discussed how he scaled six of the world’s seven tallest mountains. He also was an art collector who had original Picassos.
He certainly showed remarkable composure in the process of poisoning himself — hiding the fact of his poisoning to the last minute.
It is a remarkably sad end to someone who had obvious talent and success in life. His finances had clearly evaporated. In 2008, he had $900,000 in the bank. A year later he had only $50 left in the account with a monthly mortgage payment on the mansion of $17,250 and an upcoming balloon payment of $2.3 million. He also owed another $2,500 a month on a different home — bringing the total to roughly $20,000 a month just in mortgage with another $34,000 owed in taxes.
The fire investigator was suspicious by how readily available the scuba equipment was at the time of the fire.
Here is the video of the courtroom scene: