“Kathy died on May 6, 2012. The cause of death was carbon monoxide toxicity or poisoning. The challenge was, of course, how it got into her system… It took me nine months to carry her, and then there were nine months that she went through hell with an abusive person that led to the end of her life.”

“Loving, blessed, and kind”: The Unsolved Death of Katherine Morris (Part 1)

 


 

Everyone’s story matters. While the overarching story of humanity is a long, messy, beautiful one that deserves to be shared, it is the billions of individual stories throughout history that create the threads in the tapestry of human history – stories that are often too short and will never have the resolution they deserve.

This interview tells the story of Katherine Sarah Morris, a vibrant and loving young woman studying Family Sciences at the University of Maryland. Katherine, or “Kathy,” was born on March 11, 1990 to Rev. Marguerite Morris and her husband, Rev. Willie Morris. She grew up in Maryland and became a foundational member of many of her parents’ ministries. She always had a heart for children, and would offer her skills to anyone in need (and she had a lot of skills!).

Tragically, Kathy’s story ended abruptly and mysteriously on May 6, 2012, when she was found dead in her car at the Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, MD. 

Her death was quickly ruled a “Suicide” by the Anne Arundel County Police Department (on the very same day of Kathy’s death, in fact). For a time, Rev. Morris and Kathy’s family accepted this conclusion… until they gathered evidence that suggested otherwise. It was possible that Kathy’s death was not a suicide at all, but an event associated with Kathy’s boyfriend, who victimized her as part of a marriage scam. The police never investigated or even considered this avenue, but Rev. Morris and her family sure did. The military police did too, even charging his mistress Latoya King with lying to investigators less than 24 hours after Kathy’s body was found.

Rev. Morris spent a decade fighting to have the manner of Kathy’s death be changed from “Suicide” to “Undetermined” to allow for the possibility of a new investigation. She recruited forensics experts and investigators at great personal expense to assist her. 

In 2021, an administrative law judge ruled that the Anne Arundel County Police Dept. had made serious errors in not following up after the revelation of the additional evidence, and that her manner of death should be ruled “Undetermined”.

Despite this ruling, the Anne Arundel County Police Dept. refuses to put Kathy on their public list of unsolved cases.

Today, Rev. Morris continues to fight for police accountability throughout Maryland. She is the founder of several nonprofits and one of the founding members of the Anne Arundel Police Accountability Coalition. Kathy’s story stays alive because of the work and love of her mother, an eternal bond that not even death can break. In all that she does, Rev. Morris keeps Kathy close to her heart. 

The Foundation hopes that this story on Kathy can be just one small way to keep her story alive; and that maybe, just maybe, someone will come forward with something they saw the night of her death that could give Kathy’s family closure.

To Rev. Morris and all others whose loved ones were impacted by police violence and misconduct: your stories matter, the stories of your loved ones matter, and we are here to listen.

If you have been impacted by police misconduct in Maryland, please reach out to thecastaac@gmail.com to share your experience.

Part 2 will be coming to you soon!

*This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.*

 


 

Emma Buchman (Digital Content Director & Blog Editor, MO Foundation):

Thank you for sitting down with me; welcome back to the March On Foundation blog! For those who didn’t read your interview with us last year: who are you and what do you do?

Rev. Marguerite Morris (Founder, For Kathy’s Sake & the C.A.S.T. of Anne Arundel County):

I am Reverend Marguerite Morris. I’ve been in ministry for 25+ years in and around the state of Maryland. I’ve worked with various populations [of] impacted persons – I’ve worked with the homeless, I’ve worked with women in crisis.

I am formerly the wife of Willie Morris, we worked in ministry together. I’m the mother of Katherine Morris. 

I was raised around Anne Arundel County in what you would call marginalized or poor communities… (and when I say impacted, impacted by the things of life)… For Instance, when we moved into Meade Village, it was actually a step up because it was the first time we had running water… From my memories, that was something pretty amazing…

A couple of volunteers that came in, they were actually a couple of white women that were Girl Scout leaders. They took us out of the community, took us camping, exposed me to things that were outside of the walls of which I saw. And those two women, I would say, had more impact on my volunteering than anyone else that I can recall. And that’s kind of who I am. 

Like I said, I’m an activist. I currently serve and I’ve always had a heart for impacted persons: persons in crisis, the homeless, people needing help. I’ve always tried to step outside of myself, [connect] resources. I also try to motivate individuals to believe that they can be more than who they are, than the walls of which they’re exposed to. 

I came from a poor community, I came up raised in challenging circumstances; but I was able to overcome that through education, through working with others. I currently have my Masters in Formational Children and Youth Ministries. I’ve done a lot of things by the grace and mercy of God that have impacted people. But all that work I do attribute to the doors that He’s opened and being able to serve others and connecting and partnering with the right people.

(From left to right) Rev. Willie Morris, Katherine Morris, and Rev. Marguerite Morris in a family portrait.

Emma:

So today you’re here telling the unfinished story of your daughter, Katherine Sarah Morris. How did Katherine’s story begin and how did it end?

Rev. Morris:

Thank you Emma, for the questions; and thank you for allotting me this time to be interviewed and keeping her memory alive. 

Katherine was my only birth daughter. I married Willie Morris back in 1987. It took us three years to conceive Katherine Sarah Morris; and so Katherine was a happy time. Matter of fact, I was just thinking the other day as I rode past the now vacant doctors’ office building, that when the doctor told me that I was pregnant, I started to cry. He wanted to know, “Why are you crying? Why are you crying?” Well, it was because it had taken me three years to conceive this child <laugh>! It was indeed a good time. We’d been married for three years and conceived our child back then. 

Katherine came into this world on a Sunday, and she actually left this world on a Sunday. When Katherine was born, even at birth, there were things that they said they would need to do to speed things along… But Katherine did everything on her own. Everything that she needed to do. Like they said they thought she needed to turn, she turned on her own at the right time to be born the way that she needed to be born. So even then, she was doing the things that she needed to do. 

Katherine was a very bright and beautiful young lady, and I’m not just saying that because she was my daughter. My spouse was previously married, so she had five older sisters and brothers. She was a blessing and a gift to everybody she encountered. We never even had to set a curfew… we weren’t challenged with her breaking rules.

She was very much a loving and impactful young person, highly intelligent. She was so intelligent. As a matter of fact, she used to find what I called “strange ways of doing things” to make them interesting <laugh>; like Kathy would put jigsaw puzzles together upside down, or with the picture on the bottom side. She did stuff like that. She had this inquisitiveness about her that would make her go above and beyond and finding another way, or a very highly intelligent way of doing it, because [it] seemed like she got bored with the minor things.

Emma:

Just for my own interest, when was Kathy born and when did she die?

Rev. Morris:

Kathy was born Sunday, March 11, 1990, and she died May 6, 2012. 

For those that didn’t see the first blog: she was two weeks from graduating University of Maryland with honors. She came out of St. Mary’s Ryken with honors; I think it was over a 4.0 that she came out of there with. Even in elementary school… teachers thought we were writing her papers, I think when she was in first grade or something, it was just crazy. And I says, “No, she writes her own papers, <laugh> mom and dad don’t write them for her.” 

She loved to read. I always believed that reading increases your intelligence levels. She loved to read, and she made friends easily. 

But she was a junk bunny, let me say this. She wasn’t dirty, but she was the junkiest kid you ever wanted to see. I mean, her room looked like she was just too intelligent to make her bed… That’s one of the things about her. She was a junk bunny.

Emma:

While we’re talking about Kathy as a kid, what was she like as a kid and a teenager? What were her favorite things?

Rev. Morris:

Well, like I said, she liked to read. She made friends easily. I think she wanted to make people happy. Like in her later years, she loved to cook. As a teenager, as a college student, she really got into cooking. She would cook meals for mom and dad, special meals. 

In her younger years she helped us a lot in ministry. We were the family that started one of the storefront churches, and Kathy did the bookkeeping, the accounting, actually. Kathy was what I even call a faithful tither <laugh>… I actually put that in her obituary: “…she was a faithful tither,” she believed in that.

When she was a kid, she took things like, or at least my insistence: tap dancing, ballet, the violin, you know, those sorts of things. Again, she was very friendly and loving. She loved to write as well, and she loved dogs. She loved dressing dogs in clothes… she loved her pets… She absolutely loved her dogs, and we have recordings of her interacting with the dogs at Christmas or dressing a poor dog, <laugh> in clothing. So she was very thoughtful. You know, she was just a loving and thoughtful kid.

 

Katherine was a very bright and beautiful young lady, and I’m not just saying that because she was my daughter… She was a blessing and a gift to everybody she encountered.

 

I can’t think of anything… major. She was moody in her later years. But as far as being a kid, she was just a typical kid. We didn’t keep her from going to dances; even though we were in ministry, we didn’t restrict her from things. We always wanted to instill in her enough to make the right choices when they were presented to her. Does it always work? No, but that’s [the] kind of things that we tried to do. 

We did a lot of fostering of other kids, so she came up as a child in a house that had a lot of foster sisters and brothers during her years with us.

Again, we were active in the church – Kathy played the drums in the church. In high school, Kathy went out for basketball. She was the smallest thing out there, but she was determined, at St. Mary’s Ryken, that she was gonna make [the] team, you know? I’m not saying she made it, but boy, she worked hard in trying to do it. I think she set that as a challenge before her to do that. And it was really difficult because she wasn’t a tall person. 

But again, sports, playing the drums. She actually seemed like she was quiet, but when put in leadership roles, she came out as a leader. We had a youth group called Positive Reinforcement of our Future, and Kathy actually led that group. So she was quiet, but spoke when she needed to speak.

Emma:

What’s one memory of Kathy from her childhood that you still think of frequently?

Rev. Morris:

Wow, I have to think on that one… I know what it was: when we moved to Odenton, we had a sleepover and I was amazed… there were 22 girls at the sleepover! The reason I remember it [was] because parents didn’t even know us in the neighborhood, and they were just dropping their kids off at the curb, <laughing>. I remember she had that huge party and the sleepover thing. 

Of course, we never denied her anything reasonable. We had family traditions, and that grew into every time she had a birthday… she kind of figured it out, that she could invite 10 or more friends that she wanted. We [would] always go to whatever restaurant they wanted to go to. So those are some of the things that we remember. 

Maybe one more was when she turned 21 and she could drink legally at her birthday, she made sure she ordered <laugh>! We thought that was really her flexing her wings as a young adult – to order a drink with her mom and dad present, because she was now 21 and could do it <laugh>…

Emma:

You referenced this earlier about her going to college, but what did Kathy decide to do after high school and what was she hoping to do after that?

Rev. Morris:

Well, Kathy went immediately from high school into college. She graduated in May, and September, we took her off to University of Maryland. That became the ritual – moving her in and moving her out, as most parents when her kids are in school. 

What came out initially, though, with Kathy was… she was feeling confused ‘cause she felt like she had to declare a major. In high school, she kept saying she wanted to do African American studies. That’s what she was gonna be, do something with that. And I was like, okay, that’s like teaching or something, you know? <Laugh> it just didn’t equate, and we didn’t know what kind of job she was gonna get, but we didn’t say anything to her. 

 

[Kathy] came out of St. Mary’s Ryken with honors; I think it was over a 4.0 that she came out of there with. Even in elementary school… teachers thought we were writing her papers, I think when she was in first grade or something, it was just crazy.

 

But I think that she felt that because she was in St. Mary’s Ryken, and there wasn’t a lot of identification for Black kids, there wasn’t a lot of identifying things that were being taught… Her sensitivity level for African-American history drew her to African-American studies. 

But once she got into college she finally declared a major, and I think it was Family Sciences. And that’s what her degree that was awarded after her death was in [Family Sciences].

Emma:

If you could describe Kathy in three words, what would they be?

Rev. Morris:

Wow. First three that came out were, I don’t know where they’re coming from, but loving, blessed, and kind. She was loving, she was very blessed, and she was kind. She loved children. Two more words, but she loved children.

Emma:

That counts as loving. If there’s a point you need to take a break or anything, let me know ‘cause we’re starting to get into the questions about how she died. 

So how did Kathy die? What happened to interrupt her story?

Rev. Morris:

Well, Kathy died on May 6, 2012. The cause of death was carbon monoxide toxicity or poisoning. The challenge was, of course, how it got into her system

If I were to say about the day of her death – it took me nine months to carry her, and then there were nine months that she went through hell with an abusive person that led to the end of her life. It’s about the same time. 

I know that you haven’t asked this question, but… she married him, I think it was August 3rd, 2011 or something like that. Kathy had gone away to college like our young people do. When she went to college, she had a nice boyfriend… I won’t call his name so we won’t see his name in the blog <laugh>. But we were very happy with that. They made certain choices about the way they were gonna live their lives. That’s their own business, but they made certain choices. Somewhere in college, first and second year, I think things were fine. 

Then at some point they broke up. We never really knew what happened, but she met this other person named Isaac [Goodwin] (I don’t mind naming him <laugh>). And it was… like a world that I don’t think she was really experienced with. Seemed like she was trying to fit in sometimes as… She was a good girl, trying to fit in with other ways of living… 

But anyway, this eventually led to her body being found on May 6th and originally being ruled a suicide. Now, initially, we believed it to be a suicide because that’s what we were told. We do know that the last nine months of her life were very difficult for Kathy. We were wondering what was going on with our daughter. We thought she just had a bad boyfriend. 

We met him on or around July 31, 2011. But… from the moment I met him my radar was going off. His story didn’t click. He sounded like he was restricted to the base and or wasn’t being allowed off the base. He didn’t say it directly. It’s just the way he said a few things. Mommy’s radar was going off, but I had no idea that this was actually the weekend that he would order my daughter to marry him, and I say “order” because we now know from subsequent death things that she posted or put in her texts and messages to herself that he had told her to marry him. He hadn’t asked her to marry him. (In actuality and just as a side note he had been court-martialed and the financial penalties had just hit his pockets that July).  

So, all these things are leading up to her death. That last nine months of her life, she was deeply troubled. We’re hearing things that, again, as a woman, they didn’t sound right. Like he was at a base in North Carolina where her grandmother lived, and Kathy had gone down to visit her boyfriend, but yet she was with family. We thought that was really strange. And it just became those kinds of things that caused mommy’s spider senses to [tingle]. 

We also noticed that she began to lose weight. We knew she was deeply troubled. We didn’t know she was married, but I think that was the internalness that was going on: he’d ordered her to do something, she loved this guy, she did it. Now she’s gotta tell her parents, and from what her writings were, he promised to be with her when she would tell her parents.

 

She was very much a loving and impactful young person, highly intelligent. She was so intelligentShe had this inquisitiveness about her that would make her go above and beyond.

 

Yet he left her on her own. He stopped coming around her immediately. He was not a husband at all. There was never an exchange of rings. There was never an exchange of names. There were never any benefits. They never cohabitated. He simply took a piece of paper and went and began to draw financial benefits for it. 

So, there was a lot of stuff that went on during that time, and we were worried. We were like, is she on drugs? Is she drinking? She was really sad. So there were a number of things that were troubling to us leading up to the time of her death.

But we’d also seen a turnaround in Kathy. She was initially depressed, but during the last few months of her life she began to make plans for the future about what she was gonna do after she got out of school. She was going to join the military. She was in the process of filling out [an] application for going to the military as an officer. So I think that if you talk about suicidal tendencies, those were the things, as we got into her writings and then what was happening with her, that told us that she wasn’t suicidal at the time of her death. She was making plans for the future, [that included divorcing Isaac]. 

We don’t see anywhere even where, you know, it says if you’re planning suicide, you usually give away all these things that are precious to you… All of the actions were not that of a suicidal person (in our opinion). You know, there didn’t seem to be a plan for the hereafter. 

They talk about even a couple of suicide notes – those didn’t seem to really jive with Kathy having written them. I’m going on and on, but even with the suicide notes, we noticed that there was a paper and pencil that were inside her pocketbook, but she didn’t use them to write notes. The notes or whatever that we found were typed, and they just seemed to conflict with one another. 

So, it’s a lot of stuff, Emma. It’s hard to pinpoint anything without losing the listeners to this. But it was just a lot.

So again, her body was found at Arundel Mills Mall in her car. She died from carbon monoxide, from

grills lit in her car. Even now, 11 years later, somebody notices something else about the death scene or her actions that doesn’t seem right or that we didn’t notice 10 years ago.

Emma:

…Did you wanna go more into that confusion with the grills? And… is Kathy’s death resolved, essentially?

Rev. Morris:

No, it’s not resolved. This is a girl that’s found in her car, the carbon monoxide grills lit in her car. She died from carbon monoxide poisoning. But the challenge is, how did that carbon monoxide get into her system? And that remains a challenge…

 


 

Check back for Part 2 later this month!

 

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