Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Three Co-Defendants, Four Wasted Lives

As reported in the Sentinel on September 14, 2007....

Morgan Willis may have died because he wouldn't get off the phone.

His nephew and a nephew's friend beat, kicked and stabbed him, cut his throat, then urinated on him -- all because he was tying up the line when the nephew was waiting for a call from his girlfriend, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Jerry Allen Henry, age 22, was sentenced today in the 2007 murder of his uncle, Morgan Willis (age 37), to 40 years in prison as part of a plea that involved two other cases (a felony battery and a violation of probation for a theft charge).

When Assistant State Attorney Les Hess gave the factual basis for the plea, he indicated that Henry and his two co-defendants beat Willis to death after their initial attack on him because they feared going to jail for having assaulted him.

In addition to being stabbed and having his neck slashed, the victims beat Willis' head with an axe handle wrapped in a bicycle chain. His body was buried near his home in a shallow grave and was undiscovered for several months.

Mr. Hess did not seem as on top of things with this case as we usually see him in the courtroom. The sentencing scoresheet needed two corrections (in fact, a driver's license offense that was incorrectly attributed to the defendant was deleted because he was 10 years old at the time). Mr. Hess also had to ask Judge Bob LeBlanc to repeat the sentence on the Violation of Probation case before him.

The soonest Mr. Henry will be able to leave prison (with gain time for good behavior) will be after he has served 34 years. That's a long time for someone who feared going to jail.


Co-defendant James Hollriegel, age 19, (pictured here) is expected to testify against the third co-defendant, Francis Fowler, who is awaiting extradition from Canada.

Three young lives lost to incarceration. And a fourth life to the grave.

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