Freight Dawgs Rule
- Dec 17, 2003
"Morgan said he “went into a fog.” During that period, he shot his wife."
Former pilot convicted in ’85 shooting of his wife
By JON FRANK, The Virginian-Pilot
© May 20, 2005
A former airline pilot and Navy commander who is now 69 years old, accused of shooting his wife eight times almost 20 years ago, was convicted Thursday of malicious wounding and a weapons charge.
The jury recommended that he serve 15 years in prison.
The defendant, William A. Morgan sat emotionless next to his attorney as the verdict was read in Circuit Court.
Outside the courtroom, his estranged family celebrated, but expressed concern that Morgan did not get the maximum penalty of 22 years behind bars.
“God bless the jury,” said Keith Morgan, William Morgan’s 37-year-old son. “My mom won’t have to look over her shoulder anymore.”
The victim, Doris Morgan, 62, attended the trial in a wheelchair and testified on the first day. After Thursday’s proceedings, she said she was too exhausted to comment.
In a legal quirk, William Morgan may already be eligible for parole consideration.
Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but the shooting occurred in 1985, so Morgan’s prison time will be governed by the law of 1985. Under that law, a first-time felon such as Morgan is eligible for parole consideration after serving one-sixth of his sentence.
Morgan was in jail for about three years awaiting trial, so he has already served more than one-sixth of his sentence. Defense attorney Andrew M. Sacks said he expects Morgan will get parole consideration “in the not-too-distant future.”
Doris Morgan was shot on Sept. 24, 1985, in the parking lot of Independence Junior High School while she prepared for work as a school bus driver.
She survived the assault by curling up in the back seat of her car as her enraged husband broke out the car windows with the butt of his .22-caliber Beretta handgun and begin firing at point-blank range.
Horrified teenagers at a nearby bus stop watched the shooting. Later, they said, William Morgan calmly got into his car and slowly drove away from the scene, cautiously stopping at an intersection to check traffic before continuing.
Morgan then disappeared for 16 years, living in Florida under several aliases and Social Security numbers.
A former pilot, he worked on fishing trawlers and managed rental properties. Meanwhile, his criminal case in Virginia grew cold.
More than a decade later, an observant financial consultant in the Midwest noticed money being transferred between accounts controlled by Morgan. Morgan was arrested at his apartment in 2002.
Morgan had served 23 years in the Navy, and was honored for an international rescue operation that he organized in Antarctica, saving the lives of stranded Russians. He was described as the finest navigator in the history of the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.
Later, Morgan became a jet pilot for Hughes Aircraft in Texas.
But his personal life was troubled. His son and daughter testified that Morgan was seldom at their five-bedroom home in Thoroughgood, especially after he retired from the Navy. Usually, he stayed in Dallas.
When he was home in Virginia Beach, the atmosphere in the family home “was not good,” testified his daughter, Carole Stewart, 40.
Doris Morgan testified last week that her former husband had a history of domestic violence. He beat her in 1975 and police were called, but she declined to press charges.
Morgan quit his job in Texas soon after his wife filed for divorce in 1984. He testified that he did so to return to Virginia to try to save his marriage.
After a judge ordered him out of his home, Morgan testified, he began to fall apart. He sought psychiatric help and was given a prescription for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
When the drug was mixed with his alcoholism – he drank a case of beer a day –Morgan said he “went into a fog.” During that period, he shot his wife.
Morgan never denied the shooting, but said he couldn’t remember it. Two expert witnesses for the defense testified that such a reaction is possible if Xanax and alcohol are mixed, and that doctors in the 1980s did not know of these dangers.
Morgan’s attorney argued that Morgan committed the crime during an involuntary intoxication.
“In a sea of neurochemical short circuitry, he did the unthinkable,” Sacks told the jury. “It was a classic example of somebody who was out of his mind.”
But Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey L. Bryant III, who prosecuted the case, told jurors that Morgan displayed audacity by committing the cold-blooded crime in daylight.
Morgan was “calculating, organized and conniving” in shooting his wife and staying undetected for almost 17 years, Bryant said: “He was a smart, smart man, but he wasn’t insane.”