Two women, both named Mary Morris, are murdered in the same town within 72 hours.
Mary Lou Morris & Mary McGinnis Morris
Both were found dead in their cars
In a remote area outside Houston, Texas, a passerby made a gruesome discovery. Inside a smoldering car, he found a body burned beyond recognition. The C.S.I. unit was called and began searching for clues.
Who called the newspaper?
The car belonged to 48-year-old Mary Morris, who lived only three miles away. Her husband, Jay Morris, had not been able to reach her since she left for work early that morning:
“I called a supervisor and found out she wasn’t at work. That’s when I knew immediately that there was something wrong, ’cause she didn’t miss work.”
Within a few hours, detectives delivered the news that the victim in the car was Mary Morris. The condition of the body made it impossible to determine how she was killed. Nor could police determine the motive. According to Marilyn Blalock, Mary had many friends, a successful career, and no known enemies:
“There was no reason for it whatsoever. She was just a really good person, you know? Never did anything bad to anybody. They asked about everything from gambling to drugs to affairs to anything, and all the answers were no.”
A suspicious call was made to Mary’s cell phone
Just three days after Mary Morris’ death, the case took a very strange turn. Not far from where Mary’s body had been found, another woman was viciously murdered. She, too, was killed in her car. And, incredibly, her name was also Mary Morris.
Two women named Mary Morris, both found murdered in their cars in the Houston area just three days apart, and both with similar physical descriptions. Coincidence? To find a possible link, detectives tried to piece together the events leading up to the death of the second victim.
Mary McGinnis Morris was 39 years old, and, like Mary Lou Morris, she was a successful professional with a lot of friends. She worked as a nurse practitioner in charge of several clinics for a major industrial corporation. Her sister, Stephanie Loar, described Mary as happy and dedicated:
“Mary was like an angel. She was very joyful, always happy, making people laugh. Not enough words, really, to describe her. I mean, she was just really loved by everybody.
At work, anything a doctor would do, Mary did. She would work 14 hours a day and not think twice, go back in the evening, weekends, whenever she was needed.”
Were the murders a bizarre coincidence?
According to friend Laurie Gemmell, Mary got along well with everyone on her staff, except for one new employee, a male nurse:
“She told me that she was afraid of this person that she worked with. And I said, ‘Do you really think he could hurt you?’ And she said, ‘Yes, I do, and I think he could do worse.’”
Soon after that conversation, Mary stopped by her office one evening to pick up some papers and became frightened by what she found there. According to Laurie Gemmell:
“She found things out of place on her desk, pictures turned to face the wrong direction. On his desk was written the words “death to her” which she assumed was written about her.”
Mary’s husband, Mike Morris, recalled talking to Mary that day:
“She made a phone call to me on her way home and I could tell that she was shaken. She got home and she asked me if I would provide her with a gun to carry with her for her own protection. She asked me to go over the handling and use of the gun. When we were finished, she asked me to place the gun in her car under the driver’s seat.”
A few weekends later, Mary met her friend, Laurie, at the clinic to give her a flu shot:
“Mary seemed fine that Sunday and she was only going to stay a couple of hours and then she was going to go home.”
Laurie said that she later received a call from Mary, who sounded panicked:
“When she was in the drug store, she saw somebody that gave her the creeps. She said, ‘I’m just gonna run across the bridge and turn off my computer and sign out of the building and go home.’”
According to Det. Wayne Kuhlman of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, 12 minutes after saying good-bye to Laurie, Mary McGinnis Morris made a frantic call to 911:
“We’re not releasing the content of the tape. It covers the attack that happened to Mary. And anybody that’s ever heard that tape has just had their blood chilled listening to it. It’s a very chilling, disturbing call.”
The medical examiner’s report revealed that Mary was viciously beaten, then shot in the head.
Investigators focused first on Mary’s co-worker at the clinic. He had quit his job after allegedly trying to discredit Mary. Detectives claim to have evidence linking him to the crime, so he remains a suspect.
However, when investigators tried to question Mary’s husband, Mike Morris, his behavior aroused suspicion. According to Det. Wayn Kuhlman, Mike refused to meet with them without an attorney:
“Witnesses don’t need attorneys. Suspects generally have attorneys.”
Mike Morris says he was only following the advice of some trusted friends:
“Several of these people suggested that I take an attorney with me, not because I had anything to hide, but just to have somebody with me that was familiar with the procedures.”
When detectives asked Mike to take a polygraph test, he refused:
“I was on anti-anxiety medications, I was on anti-depressants. I wasn’t really sure that the polygraph examination that they were talking about could adequately compensate for all of those conditions.”
Authorities had also learned that Mike and Mary Morris were having serious problems with their marriage. When Mike heard rumors of an alleged affair between Mary and a family friend, he confronted them head on:
“They both looked me in the eye and they both told me that there had been nothing inappropriate in their relationship. And I didn’t see any betrayal in their eyes.”
Then, there was the question of motive. Det. Kuhlman said that Mary had a life insurance policy worth $700,000:
“There was a large amount of life insurance on Mary Morris and Mike Morris was the beneficiary. There were a lot of reasons, right there, in the way of a motive for Mike.”
But to police, the most curious evidence against Mike Morris was a call he made to Mary’s cell phone two hours after Mary had made her desperate call to 911. According to Det. Kuhlman, the call lasted four minutes:
“This was, by all indications of the cellular telephone company, a completed call. What you have to wonder is, what did that phone call either set in motion or end?”
Mike Morris couldn’t explain the call:
“Normally, the cellular service would have kicked in and said that the party you were calling was unavailable. I didn’t get that. I don’t know why I didn’t get that. But as long as the phone was ringing and I thought that there was a possibility that she would answer it, I let it ring.”
But that raised yet another question. Det. Kuhlman wondered why the call showed up on Mary’s cell phone bill if no one answered:
“I don’t accept that Mike made this phone call and that the phone rang for four minutes. It’s not possible. The question is: Who answered the phone on the other end? That’s what the big question is. And what did they talk about for the four minutes?”
Mike Morris firmly denies any involvement in Mary’s death:
“I had absolutely nothing to do with the arrangement of Mary’s murder. It’s a hurtful insinuation. It’s absolutely untrue.”
The questions remains: Why were Mary McGinnis Morris and Mary Lou Morris murdered and who killed them? Some think that a contract killer was hired to murder the second Mary Morris and killed the first Mary Morris by mistake. That theory is supported by a call allegedly made to a Houston newspaper. According to Laurie Gemmell:
“A call came in to the Houston Chronicle, and I verified this with somebody at the Chronicle, between the time the first Mary Morris was killed and the time my friend was killed, saying something to the effect that they got the wrong Mary Morris the first time.”
The “hit gone wrong” theory is also supported by the fact that the wedding ring of the first Mary Morris was missing from the crime scene. Marilyn Blalock said she had heard that this is how a hit man proves he’s completed his job:
“If someone had put a hit out on a person, that’s what they’d take back to show that they actually killed that person.”
Detectives also looked at the possibility that the two murders were connected. Det. Robert Torry:
“Well, with the remoteness of the location where the victim was found, as well as the effort that was taken to destroy the evidence and the vehicle, that would be consistent with a contract killing. But with the background of the victim, that doesn’t seem likely.”
Det. Wayne Kuhlman:
“That the first Mary Morris was a mistake, a missed hit, a botched hit, something like that, there’s not anything that we found that would support that.”
Detectives continued to search for any clues that might connect the two Mary Morrises, but came up empty. They later concluded that the murders were a bizarre coincidence. However, many others, including Jay Morris, think that’s virtually impossible:
“The astronomical odds that two Mary Morrises were killed three days apart, very similar in looks, to me, that’s what it is. Astronomical odds that they’re not connected.”
Laurie Gemmell agreed:
“I can’t help but think they have to be related. I can’t imagine that two women with the same name would be murdered within three days of each other, both found in their cars, and not have that be related.”
According to police, both the co-worker of Mary McGinnis Morris and her husband, Mike, have not been ruled out as suspects.
Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eleven with Robert Stack and in season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.
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