Suicide or murder? What happened to Morgan Ingram?
10/24/2017 1:02 pm PDT
A father says good night to his daughter. Hours later when he wakes up, she's dead.
Crime Watch Daily has all-new details on the mysterious death of Morgan Ingram and her family's fight for the truth.
A beautiful young woman found dead in her bedroom. The coroner says it's suicide. Her family says it's murder. Her parents want answers. Authorities say case closed. But why?
What happened to Morgan Ingram? And did she use her last moments alive to spell out the name of her killer?
Toni and Steve Ingram say their daughter Morgan was a loving and caring soul. Morgan lived with her parents in their spacious home near idyllic Carbondale, Colorado.
The 20-year-old dancer, photographer and college student had recently overcome some health problems and now had big plans for the future, including one day attending law school.
But on the night of December 1, 2011, all that hope and promise would come to a devastating end. It was around 9 p.m. when Morgan Ingram got home from her friend's. Toni admits she was already on her daughter's case before she even walked in the door
"And as she walked by me, she said under her breath, 'Bitch,' which was completely out of the norm for Morgan," said Toni Ingram. "And so she went into her room and closed the door. And then I told him, and he said 'I'll go talk to her.'"
"So I went in her room and she was lying on her stomach on the bed and she was wearing flannel jammy bottoms and a cami top," said Steve Ingram. "We just talked about life. We did this often. And she was happy. I said goodnight, and she said 'I love you, daddy.' I walked out the door and I thought everything was gonna be fine, and obviously nothing was fine."
Nothing could have prepared them for the horror they'd uncover the next morning.
"I had gotten up and I was in the kitchen, and then Toni got up and went into her bedroom," said Steve Ingram. "And then I heard her coming down the hall, that 'Steve, there's something wrong. I can't wake Morgan up.' And so I went running into her room and I leaned over her bed and you just think everything is gonna be fine, you think, 'OK, she just won't wake up. She's just extra sleepy this morning.' I grabbed her shoulder and I shook it. And then I shook it some more and then I pulled her blankets down and it was so odd. The way that she was positioned, just everything looked wrong. One of her arms was kind of elevated up off of the bed and it was in the air and I pulled her over on her side and now both of her arms were up like this."
"And her knees were bent, so she looked like she was in a semi-fetal position," said Toni Ingram. "Her eyes were wide open and black. I mean it was just the scariest thing. Her hair was all matted. She had blood on her forehead. I mean it was just bad. Her bottom lip was swollen, her nose was smashed. She was on the wrong side of the bed, everything was wrong."
Morgan's parents frantically call 911, move her to the floor and start CPR. Paramedics arrive, but sadly it's too late.
"They tried to revive her, but she was long gone," said Toni.
The Garfield County, Colorado Sheriff's Department deputies begin their investigation, conducting interviews and taking photos of the scene. Coroner Trey Holt brings in forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman to do the autopsy.
Then, 17 days after Morgan was found, Kurtzman determines her manner of death to be from natural causes as a result of acute intermittent porphyria, a genetic metabolic disorder. Her parents are stunned.
"Her doctors jumped in and they started trying to talk to the forensic pathologist, telling them 'You're wrong, this is wrong,' you know. And he didn't want to talk to them," said Toni Ingram.
Then, eight months later, after some further testing, Kurtzman revises the manner of death, changing it from natural causes to suicide by drug overdose. The Ingrams are once again flabbergasted.
"She would never commit suicide," said Toni Ingram. "She wasn't like that."
The Ingrams are now on a mission to prove what they believe is true: that Morgan was murdered.
And they say there's a long list of discrepancies and a short list of who they think is responsible.
The last thing Morgan Ingram posted on her Facebook page was "I love life." Then she was gone.
Beautiful Morgan Ingram was found dead. Officials first ruled the manner of death natural causes. Then it was changed to suicide by drug overdose. No foul play suspected.
"They said there's no investigation needed," said Morgan Ingram's mother Toni.
But Morgan's parents Toni and Steve Ingram say an investigation is needed. They believe she was murdered.
"First of all, she was dressed in clothes that she would go out in, jeans and a shirt and a bra, that she wasn't wearing the night before, but her pants were unbuttoned and unzipped," said Steve. "There were so many things missing out of her room, her sheets are missing. The pajamas that I saw her in the night before are missing."
"Never found them," said Toni.
"All of her jewelry of value in her jewelry box, my wife's bracelet that was in her room, it's gone," said Steve.
And Toni and Steve noticed some other suspicious things in the room.
"Her puppy and her kitty were in her bathroom. The light was on her bathroom. She never left the light on, ever. They were sitting next to each other. The cat and the puppy never got along. They never sat, and they were like in shock," said Toni.
And strangely, Morgan's phone was found under the bathroom door. But her parents claim the most damning evidence of all was the obvious signs of trauma on her body.
"There was blood on her forehead. There was blood coming out the side of her mouth. Her lips were fat. There was blood across her teeth. Her nose looks like it had been smashed," said Steve Ingram.
"Her neck was all purple. It looked like somebody had tried to strangle her," said Toni.
The autopsy showed no indication of any trauma.
The Ingrams say there's more. They believe the scene was compromised.
"Somebody tried to close her eyes. They were no longer wide open and black. That's number one," said Toni. "Number two, somebody had picked up all the clothes and all the stuff. And they piled them up exactly where we showed those sheriffs that we found her body on the bed. I mean, they were all piled up. It was crazy."
"Oh, I think without a doubt they're incompetent," said Steve.
Morgan's parents say because of that incompetence, they contacted 27 outside experts to take a look at Morgan's case. One of those 27 was Dr. Michael J Dobersen.
What is his opinion of Dr. Kurtzman's initial report?
"After reviewing all the information that I had for the case, I was really surprised, especially in the face of having lethal levels of amitriptyline in her blood," said Dobersen. "I just found it very, very confusing."
Massive amounts of amitriptyline, a drug usually prescribed for abdominal pain and headaches, was found in Morgan's system.
Dr. Kurtzman had first concluded Morgan died of natural causes due to porphryia, then months later, he changed it to suicide by drug overdose.
"Normally if someone was taking amitriptyline as prescribed, the level would be 50 to 250," said Dobersen. "Toxic levels are usually considered anything over 500, and now consider that she's almost got 8,000 nanograms per ML in her blood, which is extremely high," said Dr. Dobersen.
Safe to say that was a lethal dose of amitriptyline?
"Yes," said Dobersen.
In addition to the amitriptyline, there were also high levels of a muscle relaxer found in her stomach.
"They had initially collected gastric contents but did not test it," said Dobersen. "So later on, and this is about six months later, they tested it and found the presence of Flexeril, which is a muscle relaxant. That's a drug that she was not prescribed. It's been sometimes used as a date-rape drug."
Her parents say that's further proof someone else was involved in her death.
"How did they get in her stomach and they're not absorbed into her blood. She was dead when they were put there, how does that happen? How can you commit suicide and put drugs in your stomach after you're dead? It defies credulity," said Steve.
Reportedly, no rape kit on Morgan was performed, but the autopsy revealed no evidence of trauma.
And there is one more thing, something that deeply puzzled Steve and Toni: it was the strange position of Morgan's fingers.
"There was an investigator years later who called and said 'Did your daughter know sign language?'" said Steve. "And we said 'Yes, she taught herself, but you know, what does that mean?' They said 'She is signing two letters. She is signing a 'K' and an 'N.'"
"So we looked up the thing and it's exactly," said Toni.
So they think she was sending a message with "K" and "N."
"Most obvious," said Steve.
"Just like writing something in your blood," said Toni. "I mean, I'm getting chills."
Morgan Ingram had a passion for photography and art. But her family says the 20-year-old was living in constant fear of a stalker.
Her death was ruled a suicide. Morgan's parents say there is one very specific reason they believe she was murdered.
"Morgan was so scared at that point," said Toni. "She was terrorized."
Terrorized by what they claim had been happening for the four months leading up to her death: Morgan was being stalked.
"She started hearing tapping on her window," said Toni.
"We went out, walked around the house, and I'll never forget that moment walking up because we were expecting to see a branch that was rubbing against the house, and there was nothing within 10 feet of her windows," said Steve.
Two days later it happened again, this time when Morgan was about to take a shower.
"We had a small, obscure window, crank-out windows which are very secure, and it was cranked out like an inch," said Toni. "So she took off her clothes and then she looked up and she got a creepy feeling and she said she tried to crank it closed and a fist hit the window. And you can imagine, and she had no clothes on so she grabbed the towel and came running down the hall into our bedroom to tell us. So of course, Steve went running out the front door to see who it was, circled the house, investigated."
"Oh, I spent hours chasing around the neighborhood trying to imagine how I could catch this person," said Steve.
"She was so shook up, she slept in our closet that night and that was the beginning. She slept in our closet for almost a month on the floor," said Toni.
Morgan had grown increasingly afraid of a suspected stalker, so her dad installed several security cameras at their home in hopes of catching the man in action. Then, they say, they did.
"When we caught the first picture of the stalker and our neighbor saw it and recognized the body type and told us that this guy had just moved into the neighborhood, a couple houses down from us, Morgan turned white as a ghost. Then she knew, then she knew who it was," said Toni Ingram.
"She was pretty confident it was Keenan Vanginkel," said Steve Ingram.
Keenan Vanginkel was allegedly living just three houses down with his then-girlfriend Brooke Harris. The Ingrams knew of Brooke Harris. They believed she had keyed Toni's car when Morgan borrowed it six months before.
"Her car had been keyed from the very front of the car to the back of the car down to the metal with the words 'bitch' written on it," said Toni. "Once the stalking started and she realized who it was and this person was living with this girl that she believed did that to her car, then she was really scared because she was scared of that girl and she was really scared of this guy."
Brooke Harris has denied these claims and there's no evidence proving she did it Toni and Steve turned to the local authorities for help.
How would they describe the Garfield County Sheriff's Department investigation?
"Oh, in one word, it was absolutely incompetence," said Steve Ingram.
Deputies did meet with the family more than a dozen times, but the Ingrams say it took too long for their concerns to be taken seriously.
"It was 55 days of us calling them. On the 55th day, they called and said that we have a detective assigned to the case and it's a felony stalking case," said Toni.
It's finally classified a felony stalking case, but the stalker keeps upping his game.
"Two days before this happened, the sheriff had come to our house and told me that he believed the stalking was going to escalate," said Toni. "And I said, 'What does that mean?' And he said 'Well don't worry, I'm putting extra patrols on your house.'
"It was like the perfect storm. It was so bad, we did everything wrong. He turned off the motion detector by the front door because they put extra patrols on and it was setting off," said Toni.
"They had extra patrols and the bigger cars, so the alarm was constantly going off. So I repositioned the alarm at the front door," said Steve.
"That was bad," said Toni.
Then that awful night. Morgan's parents say they've discovered even more evidence pointing to foul play.
"Probably a month or six weeks before she was murdered, we put in a 'panic button,'" said Steve. "Real simple, it was on the side of her bed. All she had to do was tap it and a loud bell went off in our room and I would come running with a baseball bat. But it was gone. It had been torn off from where it was mounted and we found it later in the corner of the room under clothes."
And in the room next to Morgan's...
"Right alongside Morgan's bedroom was the laundry room, and the first-responders, when they came, they asked 'Could this have been carbon monoxide?' And I know about carbon monoxide. Morgan was exposed to when she was younger. So we had a carbon monoxide detector," said Steve. "So when they asked me, I said 'Let me go see,' and it was a super-high reading. Usually it's 0 or 1 or 2, and it was in the hundreds. And I researched this later. If someone was to prepare a chloroform rag there on the counter top, the fumes from the chloroform could easily cause this reading on a carbon monoxide detector."
Morgan's parents believe chloroform could have been used on Morgan, even though there is no mention of chloroform found at the scene or in any of the official reports. So what exactly do the Ingrams think happened to Morgan that night?
"We believe when we were gone from the house between 6 and 8, that someone came into the house and probably disabled her panic button at that time," said Steve. "And I'm not sure if somebody hid in the house or not. That's a question I've gone both ways. They could have easily been in the house, they could have easily set up some way to get in the house."
"The dogs were locked up in the laundry room, which was completely unusual," said Toni.
Toni and Steve believe after everyone went to bed, Morgan's assailant put a rag doused in chloroform over her face. Morgan tried to fight back, but was injected with the lethal dose of amitriptyline. She was sexually assaulted, then the perpetrator staged the scene to look like a suicide, giving her the muscle relaxer post-mortem and dressing her in different clothes. He then took her expensive jewelry, sheets, and the pajamas she had been wearing and left.
"And they could sit there and tell us that she committed suicide with all this evidence. It's just crazy. It's just insane," said Toni.
Detectives investigated these claims and none could be substantiated.
So who do the Ingrams think perpetrated this horror on their daughter? Remember the odd position in which her fingers were found? They believe Morgan tried to tell them herself.
"She is signing two letters, she is signing a 'K' and an 'N' for Keenan," said Steve.
But this may not be an open and shut case.
Toni and Steve Ingram are on a mission to prove their daughter Morgan did not commit suicide. And they're getting support from Robert Wells, a victims' advocate and former federal agent who believes the coroner got the manner of death wrong.
Morgan's parents believe she was being stalked, and that her stalker killed her.
"It looks like Keenan," Toni said about a video surveillance image. "I mean we've compared his pictures exactly and it looks like Keenan. And the detective believed it too."
Garfield County Sheriff's detectives had previously talked to their stalking suspect, Keenan Vanginkel. Then five months after Morgan was found dead, they sit down to talk again in a recorded interrogation.
Keenan continues to maintain his innocence to this day. But we wanted to see if he'd set the record straight about the Ingrams continued accusations against him.
Crime Watch Daily went to Keenan's address to see if he wants to talk.
Suddenly two men appear out on the street in front of Keenan's address and make it abundantly clear they want us to leave.
After the confrontation at the home of Keenan's family, I received a text from him that reads in part: "I apologize for what you experienced, I didn't want that and I'm not an aggressive person." We then spoke on the phone and Keenan said he would consider telling us his side of the story, but we haven't heard from him since.
So Keenan didn't sit down with us, but he did share his story with Showtime's "Dark Net," where he vehemently denied stalking or killing Morgan. And he says he's got proof.
Keenan Vanginkel was never named a suspect, never arrested, and never charged, in connection with Morgan Ingram's death.
We reached out to the Garfield County Sheriff's Department for an interview. They responded in part: "The Garfield County Sheriff's Office will not engage in further conversations regarding the Morgan Ingram case. That case is closed, pending any new credible evidence being brought forward. There was no credible evidence of 'stalking' and the case was ruled a suicide by the Garfield County Coroner's Office, not the Garfield County Sheriff's Office, per Colorado state law. Our hearts go out to the Ingrams and we are sorry for their loss. -- Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario."
Robert Glassmire, the former detective assigned to the stalking case, is now the current Garfield County coroner. He also declined our request for an interview.
So it's case closed. But some think it deserves a second look.
"I think part of the problem is that we have egos in law enforcement oftentimes, and turfs that we try to protect," said victim advocate Robert Wells. "So I can't tell you exactly what happened to Morgan but I can say that I believe there can be more, that there's more to be done."
"There's some serious unanswered questions," said Dr. Michael Dobersen. "There are some circumstances here in this case that warrant further investigation."
For Toni and Steve, they vow even through their pain to never give up the fight.
"I believe that there are people out there that know what happened," said Toni Ingram. "Please say something, come forward. Even if it's a little bit of information, it can help. We need answers."