Authorities believe a businessman’s death was suicide, while others believe he tried to buy his way out of contract killing and failed.

Chuck Morgan

Was Chuck murdered or was it suicide?

CASE DETAILS

Arizona became a hub for mafia activity

On March 22, 1977, in Tucson, Arizona, escrow company owner Chuck Morgan left his home as usual, and then disappeared. Morgan was a potential witness in a state land fraud case involving a known organized crime boss. On March 25, three days later, Chuck stumbled back home at two in the morning. Chuck’s wife, Ruth Morgan, woke up to a thump at the back door:

“I was in bed and the dog started barking. I got up, went to the door and opened it and there was Chuck.  He was missing a shoe and had one plastic handcuff around one ankle and a set around his hands. When he motioned to his throat, and didn’t say a word, I asked him, ‘Can you talk? Can you write?’ He shook his head, ‘yes,’ so I went and got a tablet and a pen. He wrote that his throat had been painted with a hallucinogenic drug and that the drug could drive him irrevocably insane or destroy his nervous system and kill him. I wanted to call a doctor and the police, but he was adamant that that would be signing a death warrant for the entire family.”

Over the next week, Ruth nursed her husband back to health. Before his voice returned, he began to hint to her that he had a secret identity as an agent for the federal government:

“He wrote, ‘They took my Treasury identification.’ That was the first I’d heard of it. Then he told me he had been working for them for about two or three years. And that was it.”

Sunglasses at the scene were not Chuck’s

Was Chuck Morgan really a Treasury agent, secretly fighting organized crime? And who was it that abducted him?

In the 1970’s, the mafia established Arizona as a narcotics pipeline and a haven for money laundering. More than 500 racketeers set up shop there. What made Arizona attractive to crime syndicates was a state law which allowed anyone to buy up land through numbered blind trust accounts. This meant they could launder money and it couldn’t be traced.

Chuck Morgan had done real estate escrow work for at least one mafia family, and possibly helped with the purchase of gold bullion and platinum, a more convenient way to launder money. Journalist Don Devereux investigated Chuck’s story:

“He was around the edges of a couple of very large organized crime groups in Arizona at that time.  It was very easy to get in over your head, and I suspect that over the years, Mr. Morgan was in that kind of situation. He was doing, perhaps, upwards of a billion dollars of escrow work in bullion and platinum.  These were transactions that only existed on paper. He was a straight businessman that probably got a little a too close to the flame.”

Coded messages were found on a $2 bill

Ruth knew little of her husband’s work:

“Chuck mentioned to me once that there was money laundering going on, but nothing that he himself was involved in. He told me, ‘The less the girls and you know, the better off you will be.’”

After his kidnapping, Chuck took no chances. He wore a bulletproof vest and made sure he was the only one who drove his daughters to and from school.  But two months after his first disappearance, Chuck vanished again.  Nine days later, Ruth Morgan received a mysterious phone call. An unidentified woman gave her a reference from the Bible:

“This woman said, ‘Ruthie?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Chuck is all right. Ecclesiastics 12, 1 through 8’. And then she hung up.”

The passage reads, in part:

“Men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road.  Remember him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”

A map was drawn on the back of the bill

Two days later, Chuck’s body was discovered. He was wearing his bulletproof vest and had died from a single bullet fired at close range into the back of his head. The bullet came from his own .357 magnum, which was lying beside him. The investigators also found a piece of paper with directions to the murder site written in Chuck’s handwriting, and a pair of sunglasses which definitely did not belong to him.

The police made one additional discovery. Chuck had clipped a $2 bill inside his underwear. Written on the bill were seven Spanish names, beginning with the letters A through G. Above them was the notation, “Ecclesiastes 12,” with the verses one through eight marked by arrows drawn on the bill’s serial number. This was the same Bible verse the mysterious female caller had given to Chuck’s wife. On the back of the bill, the signers of the Declaration of Independence were numbered one through seven, and there was a roughly-drawn map. The map led to an area between Tucson and Mexico, to the towns of Robles Junction and Salacity, both known for smuggling.

Despite the unusual evidence, many in the sheriff’s department believed Chuck’s death was a suicide. They claimed he had shot himself in the back of the head. Ruth believed otherwise:

“There is no way Chuck would’ve committed suicide, and if he had even contemplated suicide, he would’ve left a letter for his girls and for me.”

Don Devereux has his doubts as well:

“I’ve never seen, in all my years as a journalist, a fellow take himself out in the desert wearing a bulletproof vest and shoot himself in the back of the head.”

Two days after Chuck’s death, a woman called the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.  She said Chuck had come to meet her at a local motel just before he died. The woman called herself “Green Eyes” and said she was the same person who had called Chuck’s wife, quoting the Bible passage.  Green Eyes said that in the motel, Chuck had showed her a briefcase containing thousands of dollars in cash. He told her that the money would buy him out of a contract the mob had put on his life.

The theory goes that organized crime put the word out that they wanted Chuck dead. The hit man then told Chuck, who came up with money to buy off the hit man.  But when the two of them met in the desert, the hit man killed Chuck anyway, and took his money.   Don Devereux believes Chuck might have not fully realized who he was involved with:

“There is a great likelihood that Mr. Morgan was, in fact, doing something with the government. I think this was a guy who was extremely naïve about a lot of things. I think somebody blew his cover and he got killed.”

After her husband’s death, Ruth Morgan was visited by two men claiming to be from the FBI:

“They opened and closed their identification very fast. They said they wanted to come in and look through the house. They never said what they were looking for. And to this day, I don’t even know what they were looking for.”

The men tore the house apart, looking for something that they never found. Ruth was so upset she didn’t write down their names. No one knows for sure if the men really were from the FBI. Don Devereux contacted the FBI to get more information on the Morgan case:

“When I made a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI, they had never heard of Mr. Morgan, despite the fact that they obviously opened an investigation, despite the fact the FBI interviewed Mr. Morgan’s attorney. They were all over this thing like a blanket for a while. But now they’ve never heard of the guy. He never existed.  No card, no file, no nothing.”

If Chuck Morgan was doing undercover work for the government, Don Devereux believes the clues he wrote on the two dollar bill might have been an attempt to pass coded messages to the FBI:

“I think the $2 bill provided the basis for some kind of a code. What seemed to be missing, however, was the document that the $2 bill would unlock. If he was quietly providing assistance to the U.S. government and monitoring the activities of one or more major organized crime families, then he wasn’t a villain. He was a good guy. And they need to know that.”


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season six with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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24 Comments

  1. Baker 53

    I recently saw a episode of hamil ton where they took frog poison and scrapped it on the back of the throat. It was a wild trip and i wonder if this is what Chuck had?

    Reply

  2. asier

    la numeracion del billete de 2 $ con el giro segun las flechas y el orden del alfabeto dice: hacabado

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    “She said, ‘Chuck is all right. Ecclesiastics 12, 1 through 8’” Is this a direct quote or an editing oversight? Ecclesiastics are members of the clergy, not the book of the Bible. I wonder what the verse was referencing, since I doubt it actually means the verses themselves.

    The ‘painting the throat’ reminds me of Martha Rendell of Australia.

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      You’re almost certainly Australian. I would be incredibly–INCREDIBLY–impressed to find out otherwise, considering your knowledge of Martha Rendell.

      Reply

    • Debs

      What part of any of this did you pay attention to?. None in my opinion, it didn’t say painting it said pointing!. Also there is a part of the Bible called Ecclesiastes, you just aren’t as I said before listening!. Unless you’re actually making fun of this man’s murder?. Hmm?

      Reply

  4. Anonymous

    It was a set up, just like they are clamping down on me.

    Reply

  5. Anonymous

    Wow that’s amazing, did they ever solve this case?

    Reply

  6. Angel Bernardo Gonzalez

    I came up with a theory: if the case that chuck was not baptized, maybe someone in the family who was too religious, and he was not baptized, he looked for a way to kill him. I am Chilean, for if they want to answer me, I copy it from google translator.

    Reply

  7. Anonymous

    The Bible verse references death when you read the rest in context.

    Reply

  8. LUIS FREEH

    ACTUALY A VICE & A STRING WOULD SHOOT U IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD! “I” DOUBT HE HAD A PROBLEM WITH HIS VOICE. HE WAS CHEATING ON HIS WIFE AND MADE UP THE ECUSE. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WE AIN’T SPY. WHAT DID HIS BREATH STINK OF? THE WOMAN WHO CALLED KILLED HIM FOR NOT GETTING RID OF HIS WIFE! THE BIBLE IS SATANIC. THOSE VERSES ARE SATANIC & TO SEE SPANISH NAMES WITH THE VERSED MEANS THEY WANT A PURE SATANIC ENTITY BACK ON EARTH. CHUCK “MORGAN” & MR.MORGAN” WOULD BE THE SAME GUY.

    Reply

    • Common Sense

      You don’t think they would have found the vice and the string laying by his corpse? Or some evidence of pressure on his forehead? All caps lock doesn’t help you either. Stop yelling at the internet.

      Reply

  9. Anon

    This guy’s wife was very gullible. He wanted to commit suicide but didn’t want his wife or daughters to think badly of him so he made up the elaborate story. He wanted to go out a hero to them instead of being guilty of criminal activities and money laundering for which he ultimately would have been convicted. He was apparently intelligent with a vivid imagination as he created such a detailed ruse that many believed. Sad story.

    Reply

  10. Taylor

    I understand there is a windy road up to Mount Lemmon which is where I used to work and it relates to the Bible quote. A lot of college kids have died on it. Maybe Chuck was attempting to wire money? I know some people understand throat targeted ailments to be a rather unusual, cryptic injury. Why or how would they do this.

    Reply

  11. herald

    The names on the bill are all law enforcement names of officers in Nogales Arizona at the time, one of them owns a ranch in Sasabe Arizona.
    .11

    Reply

    • Fred

      Do you have sources for this?

      Reply

    • anonymous

      The 8 agents just happened to have last names that started with the first 8 letters of the alphabet? sounds unlikely

      Reply

    • Debs

      You know how stupid that sounds?. If there were cops by all those names in nogales you sure as hell wouldn’t tell it on the net. For that most of these comments are so ignorant!. Especially the one calling the Bible satanic, and the suicide theory when Mr.Morgan was shot execution style. also the unbaptized truck..that was really crazy. The Mr.Morgan really being the Mr.Morgan theory? I mean come on already what does THAT even mean?. Most of these “theories” come from total crack pots,the types that tie up the police with silly “leads” when maybe someone with REAL evidence is trying to get through on the phone, but crackpots tie up the lines!.

      Reply

  12. grahamclayton

    Very weird and bizarre.

    Reply