Mel Evans/AP
February 23, 2015 03:15 PM

Convicted killer Robert O. Marshall, whose life inspired the best-selling true-crime book Blind Faith and whose upcoming parole hearing divided his sons over whether he was innocent or guilty of the 1984 murder-for-hire of their mother, has died in prison, his son says.

Christopher Marshall, speaking to the Asbury Park Press, says his father died Saturday after more than 30 years behind bars in New Jersey.

Christopher, 48, and his brother Roby, 49, firmly opposed their father’s possible release after he was convicted of the contract killing of his wife Maria, then 42, allegedly to collect a $1.5 million insurance policy. Their youngest brother, John, 44, has always supported their father’s claim of innocence.

Robert Marshall, 75, was due to meet for the first time with the New Jersey State Parole Board next month.

Written by author Joe McGinnis, the 1989 book Blind Faith – and a subsequent NBC miniseries of the same name starring Robert Urich – portrayed Marshall as a once-prominent insurance broker charged with the arranged murder of his wife to collect insurance money that would rescue him from his gambling debts.

Testimony at the trial also showed that at the time Maria Marshall was shot at a dark picnic rest stop on the Garden State Parkway, her husband had fallen in love with another woman and was planning to move in with her.

In 1986 Marshall was sentenced to die. That sentence was changed in 2006 to 30 years to life after Marshall successfully challenged the merits of his defense. New Jersey later abolished the death penalty.

“My father wanted money, he wanted it fast,” Roby Marshall told PEOPLE in 1990, four years after the original verdict, “and to get it, he’d do anything.”

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