Crime Watch Daily investigates death of Martha Morgan
05/12/2017 5:03 pm PDT
It is the ultimate horror. Walking in to find your loved one shot to death. And it's what Dennis Morgan says he witnessed.
However, instead of grieving with their father, now two of his children are raising serious questions about what really happened inside that bedroom.
A mortal mystery down in Dixie: A woman found dead, covered in blood. Did she commit suicide?
One daughter's mission to reveal what she believes really happened. She says she's been told to keep her mouth shut. But will that stop her?
Martha Morgan was a warm and loving bayou beauty. The Southern belle was young when she met and married Dennis Morgan. Soon after, they started a family, three kids in all. But the relationship between Martha and Dennis was not the stuff of fairy tales.
According to daughter Dennisa Morgan, Martha's and Dennis's relationship was volatile. And it was violent.
"My father would take my mom by the hair, sling her to the wall, rip her clothes off, hit her in the face," said Dennisa. "He would take objects like a belt, a vase, whatever he could find and he would hit her with it.
Martha's son, Dennison, who spoke with Crime Watch Daily by phone, says growing up, no one in the home could escape his father's alleged brutality.
"My sisters and mother and I, all of us were in fear of him," said Dennison Morgan. "He broke my nose, broke my jaw, broke my ribs. My father would say he would kill us, kill my mother if she ever tried to leave, different ways that he could do it so they wouldn't suspect him of killing us."
According to Dennisa, on at least two occasions, Shreveport Police were called to the house. For both alleged incidents, Dennisa's says her father, a Shreveport city worker, was sentenced to probation.
It's a February afternoon, and what's behind closed doors at the Morgans' house, is downright gruesome. Dennis Morgan calls 911 to report his wife has committed suicide.
Shreveport police officers arrive to find 63-year-old Martha lying on her stomach in their bedroom with a gunshot wound to the chest and a gash in her head.
"I got a phone call from my father and he told us my mom was dead, that she killed herself," said Dennisa Morgan. "My sister and I raced to the scene."
"I told the police I pointed my finger at my father and I told them 'He did it,'" said Dennisa. "I just knew he did it."
That is one chilling accusation, one Dennis has always denied.
Dennis Morgan has never been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with Martha's death. When cops talk to a distraught husband at the scene, he says he left the house at around 9 and went to the library and an ATM. He got back home around noon and went outside to do yard work.
Then at around 2:30, he says he tried to open the bedroom door but noticed that something was blocking it. When he pushed the door open, he says, he discovered Martha on the floor.
"[The medical examiner] put the time of death as the same time that my father called 911, yet my mom had rigor mortis. So there are things that are not adding up," said Dennisa.
Dennison says he also got suspicious right off the bat.
"He told me my mother had died at 10 o'clock that morning," said Dennison. "I said 'How did you know that she died at 10 a.m.?' And he couldn't answer my question."
Cops finish up with Dennis, take some photos of the scene, then leave. Within a couple of days, Martha's death is ruled a suicide. Case closed.
The investigation's done, but Dennisa is just getting started.
Dennis Morgan has never been charged with any wrongdoing in connection to his wife's death. But Dennisa believes that day in February, her father hit her mother in the head with the butt of her .38-caliber gun then shot her in the chest, staging it to look self-inflicted. He then continued the ruse by planting the suicide seed in the 911 call.
"He had over two and a half hours in the house to plan what he was going to say," said Dennisa.
Caddo Parish Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma adamantly disagrees.
"She had a single gunshot wound under her left breast, a close-range shot," said Dr. Thoma. "The shirt was covered in blood but there was no bullet hole in the shirt, which tells me that she lifted her shirt, and she lifted her breast and shot herself. And that's not unusual if a woman with large breasts was going to commit suicide."
Thoma says Martha Morgan shot herself while sitting on the bed. There was no exit wound.
"As she bled out the blood, pooled on her legs, rolled down her legs," said Dr. Thoma. "She eventually would have gotten woozy, lost consciousness and fell down to the ground next to the bed, which was perfectly consistent with the way that we found her."
And the blood cast-off tells him the door was closed when she did it.
"This was low-velocity, medium-velocity cast-off of blood, probably from her bloody hands as she laid there bleeding to death, and that pattern went all the way across the wall and the door, which means the door was shut at the time this happened," said Thoma.
Which brings him to the gash in Martha's head. Dennis Morgan had said he had a hard time getting the door open.
"Her head was in a position where she obstructed the opening of the door," said Dr. Thoma. "The door would have had to have been forced open and the corner of the door would have hit her forehead. The wound on her forehead was a postmortem injury. She would have had blood dripping down her face. There was no blood on her face."
Thoma says they've re-evaluated the evidence three times, always coming to the same conclusion: This is no murder. Martha Morgan committed suicide.
"Her father could have very easily driven her mother to commit suicide. He just wasn't in that room. He didn't pull the trigger," said Dr. Thoma.
But Dennisa is on a mission to expose what she really believes happened to her mother. In her quest for answers, she reached out Anita Zannin, a bloodstain pattern analysis expert, to get her professional opinion.
"We've got patterns on the legs that show that she changed positions, at least in two different positions," said Zannin. "She either moved, or was moved.
"I think if it is a suicide, it is an atypical suicide," said Zannin.
"Dennisa Morgan deserves to know the truth," said Louisiana State Senator John Milkovich.
All of the questions being raised have Milkovich wondering if authorities got it right.
"It's difficult to look at the evidence in this case objectively and avoid the conclusion that this case needs to be reopened for a real investigation," said Milkovich.
Part of Dennisa's own personal investigation involves Peter Massey, a retired 20-year veteran police officer and professor at the University of New Haven Forensic Science Department. Massey and his second-year graduate students are taking a closer look at Martha Morgan's case.
"We've come to the conclusion that the facts, the photographs, the evidence, the information provided to us is inconsistent with what the coroner has determined as the manner of death, suicide," said Massey.
"There was a whole bunch of inconsistencies, location of the body, some of the injuries, the patterns of the blood found on the body, the bed, the wall, but more glaring is the fatal injury to Mrs. Morgan," Massey said.
Massey says the way the coroner concluded Martha shot herself defies logic.
"The interesting thing is she took the time to lift her shirt up to shoot herself, if that's what happened," said Massey.
And what about the trajectory? The autopsy report says it was "straight and slightly from top to bottom."
"People who commit suicide, it's not typical to see a perfectly straight shot coming from the top to the bottom," said Massey.
What does he believe could have caused the injury on Martha's head?
"There could be a variety of things, anything from a fist to a rock -- some object other than the door," said Massey.
Ultimately, Massey, his students and Anita Zannin agree: Investigators didn't document the scene as protocol would dictate, and they also believe investigators made a rush to judgment.
"Even in the death investigators' report, when they were originally gathering the body they noted it was a suicide," said one of Massey's students.
"We try to teach the students and law enforcement that every case is a homicide until proven otherwise," said Massey. "In this case not a whole lot of photographs translates back to the police department not properly documenting the scene."
"You only have one chance to collect the evidence and to do it right. And that didn't seem to really happen here," said Anita Zannin.
For Dennisa and her brother Dennison, they say there are many unanswered questions they believe point to murder.
Like, why weren't Dennis's hands tested for gunpowder residue? The autopsy report makes no mention of gunpowder residue on Martha's hands. Were her hands not tested either? And there were no fingerprints found on the gun, not even Martha's, who supposedly pulled the trigger.
The coroner says Martha shot herself while sitting up, then she fell to the floor.
"Which was perfectly consistent with the way we found her," Dr. Todd Thoma.
But the autopsy report stated: "Lividity present over the posterolateral aspect of the body..." meaning in layman's terms that she died with the blood pooling in her back.
Though she was found face-down, could this be another piece of evidence that her body was moved?
And Dennison says his mom had some suspicious bruises. It's unclear when they happened, but he believes:
"She had what I would call defensive wounds on the top of her hands from her knuckles to her wrists," said Dennison Morgan.
And there seems to be a discrepancy about how far away the gun was from Martha's body when the fatal shot was fired.
The coroner told us the gun was very close to her skin.
"About one inch away from her chest when she fired the shot," said Thoma.
But that is not consistent when he wrote in a report: "The gun was fired somewhere between 4 and 5 inches" away from her body.
Which is it?
"Suicides are normally contact -- they're not a few inches away," said Dennisa.
And on the day of Martha's death, Dennis told cops he was running errands, then when he returned home, he was out doing yard work. But the police report says his clothes were "relatively clean."
"I spoke to the neighbors and they said that his truck was there all morning, and no one ever saw him doing any yard work. They said they don't recall seeing him doing any type of yard work all the time he lived there," said Dennison Morgan.
And Dennis Morgan has never been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with Martha's death. But for Dennisa and Dennison there is one thing that points to a motive for murder, a bombshell of a secret: Dennis Morgan was allegedly having an affair.
"After [Martha] was shot and killed he remarried one day shy of four months later," said Dennisa.
But the coroner says there is one glaring question that could point to suicide, debunking Dennisa and Dennison's theory.
"Two months before she committed suicide, Danissa called my office and claimed that her mother was suicidal," said Dr. Todd Thoma. "She was admitted overnight to the psychiatric service. She convinced them she really didn't mean it, her daughter must have misunderstood her. Dennis agreed to remove the gun from the house.
"How she got the gun, again, I am not certain, but two months later she actually committed suicide," said Thoma.
We had to take that back to Dennisa.
"She did not. Let me clarify: My father and her were fighting and she made a statement about using a gun on herself," said Dennisa. "But she never attempted suicide. She was evaluated at the hospital and they found her not to be suicidal, that it was from stress from being in a domestic violence situation. She never meant it or ever said anything about it ever again," said Dennisa.
"I don't have any doubt that Mrs. Morgan was in an abusive relationship. I have no doubt Dennis Morgan is not a saint," said Dr. Todd Thoma. "In order for Dennis Morgan to have committed this murder, Mr. Morgan would have to be a criminal mastermind, and from what I have seen of Mr. Morgan, he is not a criminal mastermind."
It was time to talk to the man at the center of it all, the father with two kids who believe he's a killer: Dennis Morgan.
Dennis Morgan is not a suspect, he's not even a person of interest, but we want him to know that Crime Watch Daily is taking a much closer look into this case.
"It's definitely, it's definitely a suicide, there's nothing else to say," Dennis Morgan told Crime Watch Daily. "I have no further comment."
Crime Watch Daily requested an interview with the Shreveport Police. They responded in part with: "We offer our sincerest condolences to the family of Mrs. Morgan; however, our agency has chosen not to engage in any dialogue regarding this matter."
We also reached out to the Shreveport District Attorney's Office, but they declined to comment.
But almost two years after Martha died, Charles Rex Scott, the District Attorney at the time, wrote Dennisa, in part: "The investigating agencies have ruled it a suicide and they cannot prosecute based on speculation."
"My heart goes out to her," said Dr. Todd Thoma. "She has not been able to accept her mother's suicide. But we have gone above and beyond the call of duty and have met with her several times -- homicide investigators, the D.A.'s office, the mayor of Shreveport, myself, and my investigators to go over all the forensic evidence with her. And we keep coming to the same conclusion. Martha Ann Morgan committed suicide.
But despite that unwavering declaration, many believe this case should be re-evaluated.
"There are claims made from officials that I don't believe are scientifically defensible," said Anita Zannin.
"I think that the case needs to be looked at through fresh eyes," said Peter Massey.
"Dennisa is and has been courageous in fighting for the truth about the death of her mother. Getting to the truth is vital to getting justice," said Louisiana State Senator John Milkovich.
If the case were to be reopened, and the same conclusion is reached -- suicide -- would Milkovich accept that?
"No, I won't accept that because I've seen the evidence and I know the abuse that was in the home, and I know it's not a suicide," said Milkovich.
For Dennisa, she's just getting started, pledging to never give up the fight, vowing to get justice for her mother.