Depths of greed: Financial con man murders D.J., dumps body at sea
10/04/2016 11:48 am PDT
This murder mystery stretches from a marina in Los Angeles to a radio station in Denver and an auto dealership in Montana -- and it all started with a grim discovery about six miles out in the ocean.
A used-car salesman winds back the clock, becoming the cop he used to be to help solve the mystery of a murdered disc-jockey and a missing Wall Street stock scoundrel.
Out in the Pacific Ocean, a body was found floating six miles off the California coast near Los Angeles in the spring of 2006. When L.A. County Sheriff's Department helicopters and search boats finally locate the body, it is decomposed beyond recognition. At first, investigators think it is an accidental drowning, but no such mishap had been reported, and it doesn't appear the victim had been sailing alone.
Then the coroner discovers the body had a bullet hole in the back of the head. The case was now a homicide.
But before Sergeant Kenneth Clark of the Sheriff's Homicide Division can even start to look for the murderer he has to identify the victim. Clark gets a lucky break when someone sees a news report about the body being found, and calls to ask if it has three fingers missing from the left hand.
Clark discovers the victim is 64-year-old Steven B. Williams, who had lost the fingers in a wood-shop accident in high school. Clark also learns that Williams is a former disc jockey who hosted a popular drive-time radio show in Denver in the 1980s.
Williams had inherited almost $2 million from his late father, and retired from radio. Williams was excited when he happened to meet a man named Harvey Morrow, a self-proclaimed financial whiz and investment banker. Morrow convinced Williams that he could reduce his tax liability and make his inheritance grow by placing the funds in an offshore account in the British Virgin Islands. But the account was in Morrow's name.
Williams actually moved onto Morrow's luxury yacht docked in Los Angeles Harbor, helping to get it seaworthy so that he, Morrow and Morrow's wife Debra could fulfill a dream of sailing around the world on it together.
Williams eventually found himself so in need of ready cash that one friend told Sgt. Williams he couldn't even pay for his own meals. But Williams finally tells a friend that he's going to put his foot down and demand Morrow return his millions of dollars. Williams suddenly drops off the radar two weeks later.
As the owner of the luxury yacht Williams was living on with him, and as his personal investment banker, Morrow would surely know the whereabouts of their friend. Nobody can get a straight answer out of him.
First he said Williams may have gone to Hawaii, then that he thought he was in Mexico.
And when Williams turns up murdered 15 days after vanishing, everyone, including Sgt. Kenneth Clark, immediately suspect Morrow had something to do with it.
"I started focusing on Harvey as a person of interest," said Clark.
Clark interviews neighbors where the yacht was docked at the San Pedro Yacht Club in Los Angeles Harbor. But someone is conspicuously missing: Harvey Morrow. Clark gets a warrant to search his luxury 69-foot yacht.
Harvey Morrow is declared a fugitive and a warrant is issued for his arrest. Months would pass with no sign of Harvey Morrow, but during that time Clark amasses a huge dossier of evidence against him as he puts together the pieces of Williams' murder.
Among the incriminating evidence are Morrow's cellphone records, which show he never tried to call Williams after he first went missing. Cellphone and GPS records also show that both Morrow and Williams had sailed to nearby Catalina Island the day Williams vanished, and that Morrow had returned alone to San Pedro Yacht Club the following morning.
But perhaps most importantly, Sgt. Clark uncovers a dark secret about Harvey Morrow that would tell him why he killed Steven B. Williams.
Morrow had even conned his second wife Debra, a wealthy banking consultant who married him, convinced he was independently wealthy too. And for their entire eight-year marriage, Debra had no idea Morrow was a career crook.
Morrow had persuaded Debra to sell her house in Texas and invest the money in his beloved yacht. And while Debra remained in Texas while Harvey was in California, she kept giving him even more money.
"Around $12,000 a month I was sending him to work on the boat over a period of years," said Debra. Debra was unaware her flim-flam hubby was using the money to support his own luxury lifestyle, until she was struggling just to get by.
"I didn't even own a car because I thought I was going to be on a boat," said Debra. It was only after Steven B. Williams was murdered that she learned the terrible truth.
To her horror, Debra discovered that even the diamond wedding ring Morrow had given her, which she believed to be outrageously expensive, was in fact a cheap fake. Debra has since divorced Morrow.
Sgt. Clark would obtain bank records showing Morrow had ripped off Steven B. Williams just as badly, stealing the nearly $2 million the retired D.J. had entrusted to him.
"And that money is all being invested in that yacht," said Clark. "Harvey's own ledger shows he put $1.7 million of refurbishing that yacht of Steven's $2.1 million. Basically Steven is living on a yacht being refurbished with his own money, but he had no knowledge his money was being used. None whatsoever."
Until it was too late.
"And here we are now where Steven says 'I want my money,' and Harvey decides to kill him to keep from having to give him the money he stole," said Sgt. Clark.
Morrow shoots Williams in the back of the head while they are out on the yacht and throws his body overboard.
"Harvey Morrow is nothing but a con man and a killer -- a stone-cold killer with no remorse," said Sgt. Clark.
And ex-wife Debra believes he had planned to kill her too while sailing the world, if Williams had not confronted Morrow first.
Now Sgt. Clark has to find Morrow before he cons and kills someone else.
Morrow had been on the lam for six months since taking Williams out on his luxury yacht, shooting him in the back of the head and throwing his body overboard six miles off the California coast.
A break comes courtesy of Joe Parsetich, a former cop now working as a sales representative and finance manager at a small used-car dealership in the northern border town of Great Falls, Montana. Parsetich had just hired a new salesman by the name of Harvey Morrow.
"The other salesmen thought Harvey was just a smooth operator," said Parsetich.
But something about Harvey Morrow just didn't ring true with Parsetich.
"A little bit too slick to be for real," said Parsetich. "He came across phony for this type of a community."
Morrow had told Parsetich a wild story of how he was a rich and successful investment banker who decided to start a new life after his wife drowned in a tragic boating accident during a raging storm.
"And consequently it was really difficult for him to be around large bodies of water anymore because the thought of him losing his wife and seeing the water he couldn't bear the thought, so he wanted to get as far away from that kind of lifestyle as possible," said Parsetich.
But it wasn't until Morrow made some basic accounting errors that Parsetich became genuinely suspicious of him.
"When Harvey presented himself as a person who deals with that much wealth of other individuals, that type of individual would have to be very detailed and very precise when it comes to every facet of the job, and to make mistakes and get caught in those mistakes are not only red flags, but big bells and whistles going off," said Parsetich.
The former cop put his policeman's hat back on and began doing some snooping around and discovered that Morrow had lied to him about where he was living. Parsetich found Morrow's car parked at a cheap motel.
"So it didn't make any sense to me why he would lie to where he was staying and it just added more fuel to the fire," said Parsetich.
Then Parsetich dug a little deeper. Parsetich learned that Morrow was a person of interest in the murder of Steven B. Williams and had the local sheriff tip off Seargent Kenneth Clarke of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Homicide Division.
An excited Sgt. Clark called Parsetich to say he was heading up to Great Falls immediately, and asked him to help keep Morrow "on ice" until he got there.
Once Clark arrived in Great Falls, Parsetich notified him when Morrow was at the car yard, and Clark, local sheriff's deputies and a U.S. Marshal swooped in and arrested him.
Harvey Morrow was convicted of the first-degree murder with special circumstances that it was carried out for financial gain and sentenced to life without parole.
"He will die in prison," said Clark.
Thanks to the one man on Earth Harvey Morrow couldn't con: A used-car salesman.
And even at the end, Morrow continued his life of lies, telling the court that Williams committed suicide on that boat. This time, however, nobody believed the story he was selling. And even in jail, Morrow continues to punish his victims. The money that the con man spent was from a joint account that Williams shared with his disabled sister. At one point she was forced out of her apartment and ended up homeless.