This report aired Dateline Friday, May 11, 8 p.m.
This is a story about movies. Three of them, actually.
The first—pure, simple; about her, the radiant star.
And then those others, those would-be Sherlocks, chasing the riddle down their strange, opposing paths.
But Jennifer, like the center of any Movieland mystery — as you will see — hides her secret well.
Tom Morgan: It kept me awake at night, just thinking about it and thinking about it. Kept me awake at night, but I found the best relief was physical. I would go to the gym and I would lift weights and I would run and I would do all of these things to just try and exhaust myself in hopes that night I would be able to sleep and not think about ‘God what happened that day?’
His name is Tom Morgan.
His sister Jennifer, 23, tall, attractive, funny, college marketing major, is our star, and the subject of our mystery.
Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: What was the thing that got you obsessed?
Tom Morgan: I felt like we knew who did it.
And so, as this strange tale unspooled, Tom would put his suspicions in his own movie. A fictional tale to point an accusing finger toward truth.
But making movies, someone might have told the man, can be hazardous. Especially when someone else makes the sequel.
So be careful, they should have said.
Morrison: Be careful what you wish for.
Tom Morgan: That’s right.
In our little movie tonight, this will be the opening scene...
Bucolic. Southern sun. A charming college campus in Florence, South Carolina, November 9, 1994.
A mother has been trying to phone her daughter, her daughter Jennifer, at the mobile home park which was her off-campus residence.
Kerry Morgan, mother: I had started calling her the line was busy-busy-busy.
At the very same moment, across town, a woman in the final stages of labor is also trying to reach best friend Jennifer, who’d promised to be with her for the birth:
Dina Berg, friend: The line was busy. And it was busy for the next hour and the next hour…for hours upon hours.
They are calling the one woman, who - outside these few frames of video - you will never meet.
The young woman at the center of this tale.
Because at that very moment, Jennifer Morgan, is lying on her bed.
And she is dead in a house fire.
It was just after 12:30 p.m. By the time the fire department arrived, the intensity of the blaze had roasted one end of the mobile home.
They knocked the fire down, and discovered the body burned beyond recognition, lying face down on the bed.
Summoned to the scene was a young detective named Kenny Boone.
Sheriff Kenny Boone: I can remember it just like it was yesterday. November the 9th, 1994. It was on a Wednesday.
As the grim wheel of investigation began to turn, the news was sent to Jennifer’s family. Her mom, Kerry, and her father, Jim, struggled to come to grips with the worst news parents could ever hear. Their baby, the last of their four children, was dead.
Jim Morgan: It just takes time for it to really sink in and say yea you know it really is true and you know you’re never gonna see her again.
The whole family was all but paralyzed by grief. Jennifer had three siblings, an older sister, a brother near her own age, and Tom, the eldest.
Kerry Morgan: Tom was a protector, Tom always wanted to take the role over his dad; wanted to know who she was seeing what she was doing, taking care of her.
Morrison: So you felt you could go to bed at night if she was out because Tom?
Kerry Morgan: Tom was right there waiting for her...Exactly.
But on that awful day Tom was in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’d just moved there from Michigan and was staying with a friend.
It was late afternoon when Tom’s dad called.
Though at first what he said didn’t seem to make sense.
Tom Morgan: He said don’t come home until tomorrow. And I just sat there and I just said dad what are you talking about?
It took a moment, then he told Tom what that meant.
Tom Morgan: And he said your sister died today in a fire and I don’t want you to come home until tomorrow and he hung up the phone.
And then, said Tom, he virtually collapsed, went numb, cried. And waited until the next morning to make the four-hour drive to his parents home in Myrtle Beach.
On his way, said Tom, he stopped at the trailer park where his sister had died.
Tom Morgan: I had to see that trailer burned. It was still all roped off with caution tape and I just stood outside there for probably 15 or 20 minutes just still in disbelief and just cried.
There was no police presence, said Tom. But then, why would there be. It was an accident, after all.
Time was a blur, as Jenny’s parents planned the funeral.
And then, two days after her death, Kenny Boone called, and they tried to absorb more news: Jennifer’s death was not an accident after all. Whoever set that fire was trying to hide a murder.
Only the method was still unknown.
Kerry Morgan: She hadn’t been stabbed she hadn’t been raped she hadn’t been shot. And at the time they said we’d like you to keep it quiet. We don’t want anything tainted by you telling people because everybody still thought it was an accident.
And now their grief was salted with anger and confusion and impossible questions.
The investigator, Kenny Boone, told them what he knew: that he saw right away the fire was so intense, it had to have had extra fuel, some sort of accelerant. He’d found milk jugs scattered about, which smelled not of milk, but of gasoline.
Kenny Boone: We started taking samples from the carpet. I immediately got those results right back.
Morrison: What’d they say?
Boone: Positive for gasoline.
Boone sent the body to the forensic pathologist.
Kenny Boone: There was no soot, no carbon monoxide in her lungs. We knew she had to be dead prior to the fire.
But who would have wanted to kill Jennifer? And why?
Kerry Morgan: She was very, very loved by a lot of people. She was just that kind of kid, you were just drawn to her.
Tom Morgan was inconsolable, but found some comfort in believing that his sister’s killer would be found.
Tom Morgan, brother: I had complete confidence in our law enforcement. I had complete confidence that they were doing all the right things. And they were gonna bring this thing to some closure for us.
And so did that arson investigator in charge of the case. After all, the murder and the fire to cover it up all happened in broad daylight right in the middle of a mobile home park next to a busy four-lane highway.
Looking back, 13 years later now, Kenny Boone is sheriff of Florence County.
Kenny Boone: I mean I really thought that we was gonna go straight to you know maybe a boyfriend or an acquaintance.
This, he was convinced, would not be so hard to solve.
Of course, things don’t always work out the way we’d like them to.
And that movie idea? It’ll soon be time for that part of the story. There would be two movies, remember— twin parades of hope and folly.
Tom Morgan: Just couldn’t wait to get out of school. Couldn’t wait to be able to make money. Couldn’t wait to kind of go off into the world and do her thing. Very ambitious.
They buried her, or what was left of her after the fire, in this garden-like cemetery, in the finest casket they could find.
Jim Morgan: We were asked by the police department to make sure, in case something did come up in the future, that they could exhume her body, and do DNA testing.
But early on it didn’t look like that precaution would be needed. Days after the murder, a tantalizing lead in the classified section of a local newspaper. A personal advertisement. “Jennifer,” it read, “I hope that you will be able to forgive me. I am truly sorry.”
Sheriff Kenny Boone: And it was signed, Barney. And we didn’t know if the person who’s responsible for this could’ve been sending a message, you know, kinda like, I’m sorry kinda thing.
Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: It was an apology?
Sheriff Boone: An apology. So, we wanted to figure out, you know, could this be related?
Kenny Boone and his investigators swooped hopefully into the newspaper office and discovered the ad had been placed by a local DJ hoping to save his own romance with a different Jennifer altogether.
And so, back to the mobile home park. Boone pieced together a timeline for the day of the killing.
Jennifer attended her first class of the day—Grancis Marion campus around 9:30 a.m.
Sheriff Boone: I think Jenny came home between classes. I think Jenny had gotten something to drink. I think she sat down on the couch had opened a book, set a drink down on top of a coaster on a coffee table.
Morrison: Cause they’re there.
Sheriff Boone: We found those things. And then she winds up face down on her bed.
Face down, and dead. And so the killer...
Kenny Boone: Used the fire to cover up any additional evidence that might have been there.
That included any fibers, hairs or fingerprints that might lead to a suspect.
But what about a motive? The melted television and a few pieces of jewelry left behind, fused by the heat, seemed to rule out robbery.
Jennifer’s autopsy revealed no sign of sexual assault.
There was, however, one very curious discovery. Clutched in Jennifer’s hand - not on her wrist, but in her grip was a watch.
Sheriff Boone: Now, and, you know, now, in our mind, you know, I’m thinking, you know, “Jenny, are you trying to send us a message? You know, does this mean something?”
Maybe. The watch, Boone discovered, had been a gift from Scott Snowden.
Scott Snowden: I gave it to her as a gift for Christmas, maybe her birthday. (It was a Fossil watch.)
Back then, Snowden was Jennifer’s special boyfriend. They met through his sister Dina, who was Jennifer’s best friend. And yes, the woman who was having her baby the day Jennifer was killed.
Morrison: She had ideas that maybe she might one day be married to your brother?
Dina Berg: Oh yea they talked about it. Six children; they were going to have a basketball team (laughs)
Morrison: They were in love?
Berg: yeah, they were in love.
But, when Scott and Jennifer enrolled in different colleges many miles apart, their romance was put on hold.
Snowden: We knew the distance would be a strain on the relationship. She started seeing other guys, I started seeing other girls. But we still talked and kept it close.
Morrison: And did you intend to begin a full-time relationship when you graduated?
Snowden: That’s hard to say. That was my opinion at the time.
Investigator Boone confirmed Snowden couldn’t have been the killer. Professors proved he was three hours away at his college the morning of the Jennifer’s death. But, what about that watch? Why would a woman likely fighting for her life hold on to a thing like that?
Snowden: I have no idea why she would’ve been clutching that watch.
But Scott had questions of his own. Like, why was she at home that morning?
Snowden: It was awfully odd for her to leave campus in the middle of the day like that during her classes to come home. Unless there was a break or something.
Morrison: It’s not something she would’ve normally done?
Snowden: It’s not something she normally would’ve done. For it to happen so early in the morning it shows that it must’ve been somebody she knew.
Scott’s sister Dina knew someone, a fraternity boy named Chris. Dina remembers Jennifer complaining that Chris would come over and stay for hours even when she begged him to leave.
Berg: He was one of those guys that wanted to really date her and thought that was someone that he could really spend the rest of his life with, but she did not feel that way towards him at all.
His name was Chris Woodson, a science major Jennifer met at her college campus. Scott had met him too, in fact. It was the last night Scott saw Jennifer, at her trailer, when Chris showed up. It was two nights before she died.
Snowden: I was there for five, maybe ten minutes. I could see it on him that he was jealous but…
Morrison: What do you mean you could see it on him?
Snowden: He’s like, “What are you doing here?” and he’s just jealous, doesn’t like another guy over at this girlfriend’s house.
Morrison: He looked territorial, sort of?
Snowden: Yeah. He went in and we got to the door and I blew her a kiss and she winked at me and smiled real big and we said, “I’ll talk to you later” and that was it.
The Morgan family also knew about Chris Woodson. And you know what they say about first impressions.
Jim Morgan: Before we ever met him, he would call 25-30 times on a Saturday when she came home from college.
Kerry Morgan: Clingy, protective, stalky like he just stalked her.
Morrison: How long did this go on?
Jim Morgan: Six months, yeah probably six months.
It was still going on, they said, the weekend before Jennifer’s death as the family gathered for an early Thanksgiving.
Tom Morgan: That last weekend that I saw her, the phone rang at least 10 times. Where is she? What is she doing? She’s at work, she’s at work... I would pick up the phone to the point that it was annoying.
I said you’ve got to do something about this relationship. She just said it’s a friend of mine. We had a couple of dates. He’s just a friend.
Morrison: Yeah? Did you say what’s this guy stalking you?
Tom Morgan: She just acted like it was annoying.
Before long Investigator Boone had heard about Chris Woodson, too. And when he brought the young man in for questioning, his suspicions only intensified.
Sheriff Boone: I remember Chris. He was crying and he was, his emotions and stuff thy way he was acting, you know, it kinda led me to believe that you this could be our man.
Kinda, indeed. Boone was so suspicious, he put a polygrapher on standby, then started his interrogation.
Chris readily admitted he loved Jennifer, and knew she did not love him the same way. He said they had sex the day before she died at his apartment here on campus and he did her laundry for her too. That was the day he said he admitted his deepest feelings for her, even though she didn’t want to hear them.
Here’s a quote from the transcript of the interrogation:
“I said Jennifer promise me one thing. She was like what? I said promise me you that you know I love you. I want you to know that I do care in case anything ever happens. She was like, you know, quit nothing ain’t gonna never happen to me.....And it did.”
One more thing. Chris told Boone he argued with Jennifer about their relationship and left her trailer about 10:30 the night before her death.
Sheriff Boone: I felt like this could be it because the motive could be there because of his jealousy or anger.
Investigator Boone alerted the polygrapher. It was time to take that test.
Kenny Boone put his suspect, Chris Woodson, into a car, and drove him the 90 miles from Florence, S. C. , to Columbia, where a polygrapher was waiting at the headquarters of the state police, or sled as they are called.
Less than a week after the murder, Boone felt sure he had his man.
And then, the test result.
Sheriff Boone: But at the time the polygraph examination came back inconclusive which coulda went either way. You know that was a red flag and we just weren’t sure.
Boone says Chris Woodson claimed that the morning of the murder, he’d been paying college fees and played racquetball, too, before going to engineering class.
Was he telling the truth?
Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: Still suspicious but not enough to take him in?
Sheriff Boone: Right.
But the Morgan family was convinced that Kenny Boone had, in fact, found the murderer. Chris Woodson.
Morrison: When you heard that it was a murder, did your mind go to suspicions?
Kerry Morgan: Yes.
Jim Morgan: My mind went right to who did it.
Why Woodson? A whole list of suspicions... for one thing, his obsessive phone calls, almost like a stalker, they felt. And they believed Jennifer must have been attacked by someone she knew.
Tom Morgan: She was 5’10” and 130 pounds. She was not a small girl. She would’ve fought back if it was someone who came to her trailer that she didn’t know. She’d of fought back.
And their suspicion grew. One of the weirdest things happened the day after the incident in the trailer park. This boy, Chris, and one of his fraternity brothers came over to the Morgan house. And, out of the blue, unsolicited — offered a bizarre theory as to how Jennifer may have been killed before the fire got to her.
Tom Morgan: That what probably a lamp fell over and probably ignited the carpet, the chemicals in the carpets made the fumes and these fumes probably killed Jennifer before the fire ever got to her.
The thing that made the story suspicious, said the Morgans, was that when Chris told it, just one day after Jennifer’s death - no one knew she was dead before the fire.
Tom Morgan: We all looked at each other like how odd is that? This person who was so in love with her would come and instead of shedding one tear or even saying I’m so sorry. He sat there with a fraternity brother and described what probably happened that day.
In fact, Kenny Boone didn’t tell them somebody killed Jennifer and tried to hide the crime with a fire until the day after Chris offered his explanation. Later that same week, the Morgans saw Chris again at the funeral.
Morrison: Did you watch him?
Tom Morgan: Chris’ reaction was very stoic, really expressionless, and as I would speak to my relatives he would walk over to where we were all standing and get close to where we were almost trying to overhear conversation.
That struck me immediately.
Morrison: What did it seem like he was doing?
Kerry Morgan: Wanted to know if anybody thought he did it. Does anybody suspect me? Is anybody saying anything?
And even when Detective Kenny Boone decided not to arrest Chris Woodson, the Morgans remained deeply suspicious.
Partly because the odd things didn’t stop, even after Jennifer was buried and the months began to turn into years.
Tom Morgan: Around her birthday or the date of her death we would come out and find flowers that were laid here. And we would always ask the people who were close friends of hers, oh did you lay the flowers, and we could never account for who had put them there over and over again.
And it wasn’t just flowers the family found but couldn’t explain.
Jim Morgan: We found a bracelet at Jennie’s grave.
Kerry Morgan: String bracelet, made with beads laying on her.
Morrison: Right on the stone?
Kerry Morgan: Yes. I had gone to the caretaker and I said has anyone come and inquired about Jennifer’s grave? And he said yes, and he described Chris.
Surely this was significant, thought the Morgans, and perhaps would trigger law enforcement to take a second look at Chris.
Morrison: When you called them, what was the response?
Tom Morgan: I had called the lead investigator at the time and he would always assure me we were working on this, not a day goes by that I don’t think about the case.
Years went by, and Tom Morgan and his family heard less and less from investigators, growing more and more pessimistic that anybody would ever be charged.
Mind you, Jennifer’s father had been feeling that way since two days after the fire when he came here to the trailer park to pick up her car.
Jim Morgan: I could tell at the time that in my mind that there was not an accidental death. I’ll just say that.
Morrison: Was there a guard around the place?
Jim Morgan: No, I was told they would be guarding and watching the property, but there was no one around. The premise was destroyed. I figured that there would absolutely be no resolve.
Morrison: So that the investigation was what?
Jim Morgan: It was botched.
What of the evidence investigators did have? At least they had that watch—the old boyfriend’s gift—found in Jennifer’s hand. Tom thought the killer might have put it there as a message of some sort.
Tom Morgan: Now that’s strange to me that that watch would be in her hand. And both the guys were there on Monday night. Both knew who gave her that watch.
It seemed to Tom that the watch must be important evidence. Did the wanna-be boyfriend, Chris, plant the watch in her hand just to make boyfriend Scott look guilty? Surely an interesting question. And yet authorities simply sent the watch to Jennifer’s mother.
Tom Morgan: That’s not evidence, apparently. So if that’s the way that evidence, potential evidence was treated, I’m sure there’s not much.
Now, nearly a year after Jennifer’s death, Tom felt frantic about evidence that might have been missed and opportunities lost. The wait, he said, was driving him crazy.
Tom Morgan: I went to the church. I went to this seminar on forgiveness and on all these things and how do I not stay angry? How do I not feel like this? I just didn’t want to feel like that anymore.
But even as Tom says he tried to dampen the anger that was eating him up, he kept finding what looked like evidence.
Jennifer’s grave itself seemed to be throwing up strange, tantalizing clues.
Kerry Morgan: Almost as if she was down there tossing it to us.
Nine years after Jennifer’s death, her father, Jim, was tending her grave, clearing away weeds.
Tom Morgan: He was edging around the back of the headstone and was down here with just a little edger to clear the grass away and he popped out a fraternity ring.
Odd that after that long a period of time that someone would come and obviously felt this tremendous remorse, or whatever their feelings were, would have to come back to the gravesite and put this under their headstone. So we took pictures of it and we sent it to Florence County.
But not before they searched the Internet to identify the fraternity that issued such a distinctive ring.
And soon they had their answer: “Tau Kappa Epsilon,” a new and small fraternity then at Francis Marion.
And one of its founders on Marion Campus—number 26 here on the roster of members—was Chris Woodson.
Tom Morgan: I just kept thinking how long is it gonna take before they arrest this person, how long is this gonna take? And why wasn’t it today? Is it gonna be tomorrow?
All the old impatience, the frustration, the crazy feeling, came flooding back the minute Tom’s parents found that fraternity ring at Jennifer’s grave.
Tom had sent it to lead investigator Kenney Boone, hoping Boone could trace it back to the jealous would-be boyfriend and thus solve the case!
And well... dream on.
Tom Morgan: Finally when I did talk to him his response was, it’s not illegal to put a ring under a headstone.
So he took his frustration to the next level of law enforcement, the state police. But, says Tom, the dismissive response there was...
Tom Morgan: Yeah, we’re working on it. Working on it. Working on it.
Working on it? Angry now, Tom fired off a legal request - a demand, really - to see whatever evidence the state police had. And he received a letter instead. Here it is. It says, the “file could not be located,” but that the agency would “continue to search for these missing records.”
Tom Morgan: When I got that letter, I called him that day. And said, “How are you possibly working on this case when you don’t even have any of the information?
He was, he was irate.
Tom Morgan: How dare I—how dare I insinuate they’re not working on this case. How dare I be upset or be mad about it? You know, question his authority? No way.
And that, strange though it may sound, was the birth of the movie; it came out of anger and frustration.
Tom Morgan: There are only so many weights you can lift and so many miles you can run and so many things you can do to try and get rid of that anger and that energy and then it comes to a point where you just have to deal with it.
He had no idea, of course, where that would lead. He just began to scribble.
Tom Morgan: I started writing a stream of consciousness.
It wasn’t even that hard, even though he was a real estate broker, not a writer, the words just fell to page.
Tom Morgan: Here’s a guy that I think potentially did it and what would that conversation be like?
He wrote imagined conversations, pent up thoughts and feelings, about his own belief that Chris, the fraternity boy, killed Jennifer. Tom’s theory? That Chris, in a jealous rage about Jennifer’s old boyfriend, lost his temper, killed her — without meaning to — then got his frat brothers to help him hide the crime with the fire.
Gradually what emerged was a screenplay about one young man’s terrible, deadly, mistake.
Tom Morgan: And for my closure, as strange as this may sound, I didn’t want him to be a bad guy. This is something that happened that wasn’t premeditated because in my mind that’s the only way I can forgive him.
Morrison: Why wouldn’t you want to hate and seek out and see justice done to this person?
Tom Morgan: Because I gotta live with myself every day.
And then a decision that would come back to haunt him: Tom wrote himself into his screenplay.
Since he was writing fiction, he says, he wanted to make a change. He didn’t want it to seem like his beloved sister had a steady stream of men visiting her trailer.
So he put himself in the place of Scott Snowden, that other boyfriend Chris encountered just before Jennifer’s murder.
Tom Morgan: This is someone I protect in my life. I made her pure for my family. I made her pure for my parents. I made her pure because she was a good person.
Of course, Tom wasn’t really here at the trailer park any more than he knew for certain that Chris was really here. This was a fictional story, based on real events, yes, but spun together with altered names and faces and speculations and shifted timelines. And at the heart of it, a brother’s regret that he hadn’t paid more attention that last weekend to the incessant calls of that fraternity boy.
Tom Morgan: I had my chance that weekend when that kid called that many times. I felt like I should have protected her. I wish I had that chance again.
Morrison: You never get those chances again do you?
Tom Morgan: Nope you don’t. Just a lifetime to think about them.
Morrison: Every time you talk about it your eyes go red and they start to water
Tom Morgan: Cause I just remember how alive she was that weekend. I just remember how excited she was that weekend, and I just remember my little sister, and I miss her. I miss her.
Tom rattled off the script and threw it into a drawer. It didn’t make him feel better of course. Besides, all Tom knew about making movies is that he didn’t know anything about making movies. So it was exciting when a friend said he knew someone who could make the film.
This was that someone. His name was Pat Moug. He agreed to read his script and said he liked it.
Tom Morgan: And he, oh, by the way, happened to be a police detective in Michigan. That was his—that was his background.
Morrison: The acting detective?
Tom Morgan: Yeah, he worked on the SWAT team. And he was still—he was still actively involved with the police force. And this sidelight what he really was passion was for acting and for making film.
Morrison: SWAT team by day, thespian by night, huh?
Tom Morgan: Yeah. And then he came down and said he really wanted to direct this film. He’d read the script and really, you know, seemed like a nice guy. A great guy.
Yes, and somehow larger than life. Pat Moug, the Livonia, Mich., acting cop, looked like a cross between “Mr. Clean”and Kojak. A big, friendly bundle of gung ho.
And Moug had already done it. He had made an independent film, directed and starred in it himself—a movie called “The Ugly One.”
The fact Moug was a detective was a bonus, Tom figured. Another experienced set of eyes to consider the evidence.
Pat Moug: I felt that being a police officer, someone that was a detective in sex crimes, that I thought I’d be able to bring something to Jennifer’s story that other filmmakers might not be able to do.
Plus, Moug had a great idea. Why not make a promotional video about Tom’s project? Neither one of them had the money to make Tom’s movie. A good video, suggested Pat, could attract investors.
Tom Morgan: Sounded good with me. You know this—I was okay with it. I thought it was great.
So Moug traveled down to South Carolina, interviewed Jennifer’s friends. He took some footage on her college campus.
And he even interviewed Tom about the murder itself, about the movie project and about fundraising.
(from ‘Bold as a Lion’)
Tom: That’s the kind of person she was.
Tom: We need money for a movie. (both laughing) Send money. Fifty Thousand Dollars to share.
Tom Morgan: Then were sitting and waiting for funding. You know, basically trying to figure out how we were gonna be able to pay for this thing. And as many independent films do, you know, never came. Just never came.
So the project languished for a couple of years until, again, a happy accident. A banker from Charlotte, N.C., named John Schwert heard about the script, loved it, and offered to finance Tom’s film. If, and this was a condition, if he, the banker, could direct it.
Tom Morgan: Takes a second mortgage out on his house to pay for a film and resigns from the bank and says I’m going for it and it’s like, God, I got the right guy. The guy’s perfect.
Of course Tom now had to call Pat Moug up at the Livonia, Mich., police department and tell him the news. The movie about Jennifer’s death now had financing, and would be made. But Pat would not be directing.
Tom Morgan: He said at that time I was gonna be sorry. I thought he meant cinematically. As a—his ideas for the film or whatever. That’s what I meant by I was gonna be sorry.
It was the fall of 2004. It happened on makeshift sound stages around Charlotte, N.C.
The false start with the film-making cop from Michigan was forgotten now.
Tom Morgan watched a local production team piece together his story - Tom’s fictional imagining - of the murder of his little sister Jennifer. Part art, part desperate effort to prod the police to reviving the investigation.
It was a shoestring budget. Tom’s screenplay was shot in a fast and furious 24 days.
Tom Morgan: I just want the story to be told, told over and over again until maybe somebody says hey I know something about that.
And finally, here it was: 11 years after her death, Jennifer’s story, flickered to life on the screen.
(from the movie) Ethan: I’m Ethan by the way.
Jennifer: I’m Tiger Woods.
Ethan: You are definitely NOT Tiger Woods.
Jennifer: I’m Jennifer.
In the audience, her parents and older sister.
The story was based on fact, but Tom had made some significant changes to real events and added lots of speculation. And then the director took over, and made some more changes. So this certainly wasn’t a non-fiction movie.
Jennifer: Ethan what are you doing?
Ethan: What does it look like?
Jennifer: We’re here as friends.
Ethan: (faintly) okay
Still, Tom’s suspicion of what really happened to his sister did come true.
Ethan: Wondering if you wanted to see a movie or something with me tomorrow:
Jennifer: Ethan, that’s really sweat but, like I said I just wanna ..
Ethan: Please stop, before you use the ‘f’ word again
“Among Brothers” was set in a college fraternity. Chris Woodson’s real-life identity was never revealed in the movie. Still, if you knew him it wasn’t hard to see that the “Ethan” character was based on him.
Jennifer: Doing what, working?
Brother: something you wouldn’t know much about right?
The audience saw that character hide in the bushes, growing jealous as Jennifer character’s meets a male visitor. In the film the visitor is her brother; in real life it was Chris Woodson’s rival, Scott Snowden.
Ethan: I thought you had plans to see your family tomorrow. You’re boyfriend is he your family?
Ethan: I saw the guy outside.
Jennifer: get out
Ethan: (flashbacks—cannot hear what he says)
As the story progresses, the fraternity boy has an argument with Jennifer. That part is true; it came right from Chris Woodson’s statement to police.
But then Ethan loses his temper and accidentally kills her, and that part is Tom’s speculation.
Fraternity brothers help him cover up the crime by setting fire to the scene—again, the circumstances of the fire—something Tom imagined.
And here is a version of the awkward true scene the Morgan’s remembered so vividly the day after Jennifer died when the real fraternity boy, Chris, came by their house and offered that theory that sounded more to the family like a cover-up.
“I was thinking about it in the car, on the way over here....and what probably happened.” Several synthetic fibers in the sofa ulpostery are highly flammable. What probably happened was the lamp fell over...”
The film ends with some wishful thinking by Tom. A cop zeroes in...
“Ethan I’m gonna catch the person who did this. And when I do, the district attorney is gonaa seek the death penalty and probably get it.”
And the Ethan character is left tortured by what he’s done, but unwilling to turn himself in.
“I mean you’re just cruisin through life, living life, everything’s fine. You have your friends, your health, and then you make one bad decision, one. You’re screwed.
Not in the audience that night was, of course, the very person Tom hoped would be compelled to admit what really happened....the real fraternity boy, Chris Woodson.
Morrison: You hope it does what to him?
Tom Morgan: I hope he looks and thinks to himself, “Man this guy is not givin’ up.”
Still, the screening of the film was a moment of triumph. At least now in this unconventional way, Tom had put all of his suspicions and the evidence he thought had been overlooked out there in public for all to see.
“How often do you get updates?"
“I mean, how do the police keep you informed of anything new”
“Yeah, um we don’t often get updates.
For a start-up independent, the film did pretty well; it broke even. Fifteen international film festivals asked to screen “Among Brothers” and in the end, the little independent made with the director’s second mortgage got a distribution deal.
Tom Morgan: I mean just the momentum kind of got behind this thing. I think partly because it’s based on a true story and partly because it’s a pretty good film.
So now, the waiting game started up again. Would someone come forward? Well, yes, in fact, someone did— the South Carolina State Police.
Tom Morgan: And they said we’ve got a cold case unit and we wanna reopen your sister’s case.
Morrison: Cold case unit?
Tom Morgan: I was really excited. Finally. Finally I had gotten someone’s attention.
Of course Tom had not forgotten this was the same state police agency which once admitted it lost the file on the murder years before.
Tom Morgan: One of the first questions to them was why’d you pick this why’d you pick this case now? They made it sound like it was just luck. We were the lucky lottery winner that they’d pulled up our case.
So Tom packed his years’ worth of notes into his car and drove over to state police headquarters in Columbia, and there, for two and a half hours with investigators, he reviewed every detail, everything he knew about the case.
Tom Morgan: They were very good at putting me at ease, talking about the fact that we know that you know a lot about this case, we know that you know probably more than anybody about this case.
And then came, quite suddenly, another one of those moments. The air seems different. Right then and there, the complexion of Tom’s world changed. The detective asked one simple question:
Tom Morgan: You know, “Any problem taking a polygraph?” No, no problem. Hooked me all up.
Morrison: That day?
Tom Morgan: Right then.
Morrison: What does that feel like?
Tom Morgan: I felt ok, good check me off the list. I got nothing to hide.
But there it was. It was all different now.
He waited for the polygrapher, and an awful feeling washed over him.
He was no longer the brother campaigning for justice, the nagging critic of the police investigation.
Now he was Tom Morgan, murder suspect.
Morrison: What were the questions?
Tom Morgan: Were you there when Jennifer Morgan’s trailer caught fire. Did you kill Jennifer Morgan?
Jarring questions, said Tom. But ridiculous. And when they were finished he sat waiting, somewhat impatiently, to be dismissed.
Tom Morgan: I’m sitting there checking my voicemail messages thinking I gotta get out of here and the guy walks back in and says, “You failed the test.”
Tom Morgan: Failed the test.
Tom Morgan left state police headquarters in a daze.
He had gone in there - a brother looking for justice for his sister. As a man who’d gone to the media to criticize the police, who’d written a script and made a movie in an effort to re-start an investigation.
He had left, he says, feeling like a suspect but not knowing why.
Tom Morgan: I said some not so flattering things in the past in the media about the case. Nothing that wasn’t true but i brought up several times that this file’s been lost.
So, had the state police decided to teach him a lesson?
Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: How would you describe the way they’re treating you?
Tom Morgan: From where I grew up you would call it being slapped around.
Tom Morgan: yeah
Morrison: What motivation would they have to bully you except to find the truth?
Tom Morgan: Maybe this is where the rubber meets the road and they think you know what? Now he sees he’s got something to lose and now he’ll leave us alone.
But as it turned out, Tom was wrong.
It wasn’t his harping about the police that had him in a polygrapher’s clutches.
It wasn’t payback. It wasn’t even political.
No. The reason Tom was hauled in for questioning was because somebody had offered new evidence that suggested the real suspect all along should have been Tom Morgan.
And who might that mysterious suspicious somebody have been?
Well, you’ve heard about him already. It was Pat Moug, the filmmaker and policeman Tom had first chosen to direct his film.
Morrison: That was what initially tweaked your suspicion?
Moug: Yes. When I read his script.
Pat, remember, had been replaced as the movie director when a new man was brought aboard. But Pat persuaded Tom to let him use the video he’d already shot... as part of a documentary about the making of the movie.
What Tom did not know is that Pat was only pretending to make a documentary. He’d reverted from filmmaker to cop. Why?
Because, says Pat, of something he saw in Tom’s fictional movie script.
Pat Moug: And all of a sudden in the middle of the script I get to the murder scene. And the person who he told me in real life that he based the script on, this fraternity brother—he goes to the trailer and when he gets there there’s a man already there and he listens from underneath the window and the man leaves. This makes him jealous. He goes in and he kills her. Well the man that’s there is Tom Morgan.
Morrison: In the script that he sent you.
Pat Moug: When I read that it was like somebody slugged me in the chest. I was just like this isn’t right. It just didn’t make sense. There’s no reason to put yourself at a murder scene of an unsolved homicide.
Pat instantly thought back to his police training... in part, to acourse in criminal psychology he’d once attended.
Pat Moug: “The narcissistic sociopath will find a way of placing themselves near the crime scene of the victim.” And that’s exactly what he does in his script. He places himself at the crime scene.
Morrison: And emotionally what does that do to ya?
Pat Moug: It’s not a good feeling in your gut because you’re thinking what happened to the girl? And now here’s this person that you’re talking to that you’re thinking, “This may be the person that murdered this girl, his sister, and then set her on fire.”
Morrison: There’s a pretty terrible thing to say.
Pat Moug: Yes it is.
At first, said Pat, he wanted to back out of the project.
But then, with his investigator’s instinct engaged, he came up with his plan to follow his suspicions.
Pat Moug: Why don’t we don’t we make an investors packet. Or a DVD. Whatever.
Behind the Scenes. Where we can interview you. And we can show it to people. Maybe they’ll get interested in your project.—he went along with the idea. And he said, we can arrange to—interview some people that knew my sister too.
Morrison: So he was keen on being interviewed.
Pat Moug: Yes.
And, it worked. Tom had no idea the whole thing was a ruse. Investors would never see this tape, but Pat had every intention of ensuring that investigators did.
Pat Moug: I knew the road I was about to go down.
The undercover road. The old policeman’s trick of using a lie to get at the truth.
First, Pat looked through the interviews he’d shot before he was dropped from the movie project.
For example, the conversation with Tom. Back when they were making that investor’s video. This, it seemed to Pat, justified his suspicions.
As the interview continued, Pat heard other suspicious statements. For one thing, that odd story of the way Tom’s dad told him about Jennifer’s death.
Tom Morgan: I remember that day. I was at a friend’s house in Charlotte. My dad called and I remember his exact words, his exact words: “And just do me a favor and don’t come down tonight.”
To Tom, it showed how deeply shocked his dad was by Jennifer’s death.
But to Pat, Tom’s story about the way he was told took on a completely different meaning.
Pat Moug: See that’s what shocking to him is what his dad said, “don’t come home tonight.” It seemed like he was just glossing over what shoulda been the shocking moment to him is that he called me and said my sister’s dead.”
Over the months they worked together, Pat says he discovered other worrisome discrepancies.
Pat showed his tapes to some of his fellow cops in Livonia, Michigan.
Pat Moug: Then I showed it to a criminal profiler, a lieutenant from the Michigan State Police, a criminal psychologist who worked with Michigan State Police—and some FBI agents.
Pat says his colleagues agreed he was right to be suspicious.
And so surely, that investigator down in Florence county, South Carolina, Kenny Boone, would jump all over what Pat had learned.
Pat Moug: The detective from Florence county would not return any of my calls. Then I faxed him a request from my detective bureau this was solely 100 per cent as a police officer, a fellow police officer and he never responded.
Morrison: He doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious. I’ll forget about it you could have done that why didn’t you?
Pat Moug: I firmly believed that Tom was a suspect. While this homicide did not happen in my jurisdiction, I can’t walk away. If someone’s been killed and set on fire. And I might know who did it. I’m gonna work on the case.
And what did Pat Moug do? Why, he followed in the very footsteps of his quarry, Tom Morgan. He went over the head of the florence county sheriff and marched right on over to state police headquarters.
Unannounced. With his tapes. And his story.
Pat Moug: The assistant director of SLED, he told me straight up front he said, “We’re only assisting jurisdiction and—but we’ll see what we can do.”
And that is how Tom Morgan found himself attached to the state police poligraphy machine.
In the summer of 2005, Tom Morgan’s movie about the killing of his sister, showed up here and there in independent film festivals.
It was an apparent success. And all the while, though Tom was utterly unaware of it, the man once pegged to direct his movie was now working against him.
Pat Moug: I believe that a police officer from another state should be able to work with police officers in other states to take a murderer off the street. And that’s just how I am. I’m not going—I’m not going to go away.
Now, it looked as if Pat Moug’s policeman’s passion had paid off.
Tom Morgan, the brother who’d been pestering investigators for years to solve his sister’s murder, had been hauled in for questioning, and now seemed to be a suspect himself.
Pat waited for word of an arrest.
Pat Moug: Right now if he was in our state, I believe I have enough evidence for probable cause to arrest him.
Well, there was no arrest. And now the state police also stopped returning Pat’s calls. But he was a fellow officer. Surely, he thought, somebody at least owed him an explanation.
Pat Moug: If you knew information about a murder and no one wanted to help you, you should get up on a podium in Central Park...
Morrison: Should go to the local police department and say “I have info which could help you resolve this crime”?
Pat Moug: And then what do you do when they won’t listen to you?
What do you do? If you’re Pat Moug, you make a movie.
Just as Tom Morgan had done.
Remember, as a complete ruse, Pat had shot some interviews with Tom. And now he decided he really would make a documentary.
He called it “Bold as a Lion.” But it certainly wasn’t to raise money, as his fake undercover alibi had suggested…
But to lay out his case, piece by piece, that Tom Morgan should be a prime suspect in the murder of his sister Jennifer.
All along, something Tom told Pat had made him very suspicious. Tom said he’d been living in Michigan when Jennifer was murdered, when in fact, a few weeks before she died, Tom moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. And Charlotte was just a 2 and a half hour drive from the scene of the crime. If Tom lied about where he lived on the day of the crime, was he lying about his actions that day, too?
(scenes from "Bold as a Lion") Tom Morgan: I remember that day I was at a friends house in Charlotte...
I flew in to Charlotte and then I drove on the way down to my parents house at the beach.
Here, Pat seems to have caught Tom, as he tries not to reveal that he’s been lying about his moving date from Michigan.
Pat Moug: Were you already back in Michigan? Did you fly into Charlotte?
Tom Morgan: Well, actually I was in Charlotte, believe it or not. I was in Charlotte visiting friends and just drove the rest of the way down.
Pat was very suspicious of that fudging.
Also, there was the way Tom talked about the weather on the day of the murder
Tom Morgan: Knowing that this is what it was like that day eight years ago.
...as if he was actually right there when it happened.
Pat Moug: He does not use the wording that this was the “weather in Charlotte” or “this was the weather in Michigan” or that “he was told that this was the weather like that day.”
And remember that watch police found in Jennifer’s hand after the fire? And the bracelet and ring Tom said his father found at the grave?
Tom suggested those were left by his suspect, Chris Woodson. But Pat came to a different conclusion.
Morrison: It’s your suspicion that Tom is staging—
Pat Moug: My suspicion is that it’s connected. That this staged event at the murder scene is—and the ring is possibly staged.
Morrison: Did you ever ask Tom about that?
Pat Moug: No.
Then there was Pat’s suspicion that Tom knew too much about the murder if he wasn’t around to witness it.
Tom Morgan: They took all of the sweaters out of the car, put them all underneath her bed, and doused those with gasoline—in addition to dousing her body.
Pat Moug:I spoke with the Florence County coroner and discussed these items. He indicated to me that he did not remember telling Tom Morgan any of these facts.
That’s about the point Pat’s theories took a turn toward something way out there, something no one else had ever even imagined... some sort of sexual dysfunction between Tom and his sister.
Pat Moug: In the one telephone conversation I had with the Florence County Detective, he informed me that, after Jennifer Morgan was murdered, there was an unknown milky white substance in her vagina.
What set it off was that phrase. Pat recalled that the Florence county investigator, Kenny Boone told him that an unidentified substance may have been found in Jennifer’s body.
Pat Moug: Was this milky white substance placed there as a result of an assault including oral sex?
What could the substance have been? Well how about ice cream?
In his fictional movie script, Tom had put himself at his sister’s home just before the murder bringing ice cream.
That became part of Pat’s evidence—that Tom may have sexually assaulted and killed his sister.
Morrison: So, what do you think happened?
Pat Moug: He had an unhealthy relationship with his sister. Whether it was perceived or acted on, I don’t know.
Morrison: What do you mean unhealthy?
Pat Moug: Well, that’s as far as I’m gonna go. That’s—
Morrison: You mean an incestuous relationship?
Pat Moug: I have—I don’t know. I’m just telling you that—
Morrison: You don’t know.
Pat Moug: It might a been perceived in his mind.
But remarkably, Pat had even darker suspicions. If Tom killed his sister, then according to Pat, Jennifer’s own father and her other brother may have helped cover up the murder by dousing her body in gasoline and setting it on fire.
All these years, Pat suggested, Jennifer’s whole family may have been involved in a massive cover up.
The documentary ended with what Pat intended as the climactic interview.
Pat Moug: I’m on your side, but there’s people out there that are telling me stuff.
Here Tom has no idea that a microphone and two cameras are placed in the room.
Pat is moving in for the kill for what he hopes will be Tom’s confession.
Pat Moug: Tom, I know you were at your sister’s accident—Jen’s accident.
Tom Morgan: No, I wasn’t.
Pat Moug: Tom, I know you were.
Tom Morgan: No, I wasn’t....
Pat Moug: Tom, listen. Listen, Tom.
Tom Morgan: No.
Pat Moug: No, no, no, no, no.
Tom Morgan: No, listen to me. I wasn’t there.
Pat Moug: For two years you’ve been telling me things that put you at your sister’s accident...
Tom Morgan: Pat, this is what I’m telling you. Listen to me, what I’m telling you. I was not at my sister’s. I had—I, I loved my sister.
Hardly a confession. Pat did get Tom to admit, however, that he had lied when he told Pat he lived in Michigan at the time Jennifer was killed.
Pat Moug: You lied to me about that day.
How else should I act?
Tom Morgan: I told everybody I moved down here after my sister died. I moved down here after she died, guess what I didn’t, I moved down here in ‘f... in’ October.
Pat Moug: Then why’d you—why’d you tell me -- ?
Tom Morgan: Because I was embarrassed.
Embarrassed, Tom told Pat, about running away from some financial and romantic mistakes he’d made up in Michigan.
Pat wasn’t buying it. Instead, his interview clips and charts and speculations boiled down to this:
Pat Moug: I think he went there. And, I think they got in some form of an argument. Over what, I’m not exactly sure. And, I think that he caused her death possibly.
Morrison: And you think Tom did it.
Pat Moug: I think there’s a distinct possibility that Tom did it, absolutely.
Pat Moug is a 4th generation policeman. He believes, he says, that his is an effort to right a wrong.
Pat Moug: After three to four years of me asking nicely, I’m tired of asking nicely. I’m demanding justice for Jennifer Morgan.
And so, here it was, on a winter-frigid night in Livonia, Michigan, in a donated theater in a giant suburban multiplex—the premiere of Pat Moug’s “Bold as a Lion.”
Its a big crowd; Pat has invited his many friends, many of them from law enforcement.
Finally, they’ll get to see the work that’s consumed three years of his life.
Pat Moug: I wanna thank everybody for coming out. Ah, hopefully we’re start a campaign to finally get justice for a girl you are about to meet.
The audience knows virtually nothing about the story, beyond the selectively-prepared case that Pat is presenting to them.
And yet, there is not much doubt: these are friends, and they’re hugely supportive.
And many of them are puzzled why S.C. law enforcement hadn’t welcomed Pat into the investigation.
Question: Why do you think they’re so reluctant?
Pat Moug: I don’t know if it’s because I’m an outsider perceived outsider as opposed to perceived fellow police officer. I don’t know.
Pat’s movie audience is eating out of his hand. “Bold as a Lion” had raised some very serious questions... but were they legitimate?
It was a friendly crowd for the premiere screening of Pat Moug’s film “Bold as a Lion” offered enthusiastic praise for Pat’s efforts.
Many, though they’d never met Tom Morgan were now deeply suspicious.
After all, Pat had put together material that implied without much subtlety that Tom had killed his sister and that Tom’s father and brother helped cover up the crime by burning her body.
The allegations had been couched words like ‘suspicion,’ avoiding direct accusations. But only an idiot would miss the obvious message.
But, we wondered, was any of it built on actual evidence? How had Pat come to the conclusion that Tom could be a sociopath?
Why did he suspect that, behind Tom’s very public crusade for justice, lurked a killer?
Well, Pat told us he taken some special training in criminal psychology that has enabled him to detect possible guilt based on what people say — and how they say it.
Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: How long were you at this Reed Institute.
Pat Moug: Well, it’s a weeklong—I think it’s a weeklong training for the first class. And then the second the advanced class is like a two-day seminar.
Morrison: Then what? Does a diploma or something, at the end of it?
Pat Moug: Ah, a certificate.
But if Pat wasn’t a exactly trained psychologist, he was—and is—an experienced policeman. He has bee on the force for 18 years.
So what about that milky white substance he says the sheriff told him was found in Jennifer’s body, which was at the heart of Pat’s suggestion that Jennifer’s death could have been caused by some inappropriate sexual event involving Tom?
Pat Moug: How does he know by coincidence he writes this script where he’s bringing ice cream to the murder scene. And lo and behold the detective has this milky white substance in the vagina.
Morrison: But aren’t you taking two and two and coming up with five?
Pat Moug: No, I don’t think so.
Morrison: He’s fictionally writing about him being there with ice cream.
Pat Moug: And you think it’s a coincidence that he shows up in his script that he places himself at the murder scene minutes before his sister’s murder and he’s bringing a substance that after fire could be melted down and be a milky white substance. Do you think that’s a coincidence? I don’t.
Morrison: Why would it be white? Maybe it’s chocolate ice cream.
Pat Moug: Well they didn’t say that.
Morrison: Well you don’t know do you?
So what about that substance? For Pat it was crucial. It was the only evidence he offered to imply an incestuous relationship between Tom and Jennifer.
But... did it even exist?
Pat Moug says he got the story from Florence County Sheriff Kenny Boone, who said he learned about it from the forensic pathologist.
But she told us simply this: As far as she remembers, there never was any milky white substance.
Here is her autopsy report.
“I put everything I found in here,” she told us. “If it wasn’t in the report - and it isn’t - it didn’t exist.”
(from ‘Bold as a Lion’)
Pat Moug: Tom I know you were at your sister’s accident, Jen’s accident.
Tom Morgan: No I wasn’t.
Pat Moug: Tom I know you were at your sister’s accident, Jen’s accident
Tom Morgan: No I wasn’t.
And, remember how Pat ferreted out Tom Morgan’s fudging about his movements around the time his sister was killed?
Tom Morgan: Well then I lied to you.
Now, in his film, Pat offered a whole new set of locations, and timelines. Pat speculates that Tom lingered at his parents house in Myrtle Beach for several days after a family reunion ended, and then - on his drive home to Charlotte, stopped off to kill his sister.
But Pat offers no evidence that this actually happened—no receipts, or eyewitnesses along the way that can place Tom anywhere on this route.
In fact, in that hidden camera interview, Tom tells Pat he was at work in North Carolina, 170 miles away, on the day of the fire.
Later, at his movie premiere, Pat admits he never did check out the alibi.
Audience member: Were you able to verify any of his so-called alibis?
Pat Moug: Well, the last—well, the last alibi—I did not. At that point it just seemed like I’d be chasing another one of his lies anyway.
Morrison: You set up a high tech sting operation—
Pat Moug: Yes I did.
Morrison: --this hotel room.
Pat Moug: Absolutely.
Morrison: Because you wanted to trap him and because you wanted to get him to confess to you that he had killed his sister.
Pat Moug: Yes.
Morrison: And you were terribly upset when he didn’t confess to it. When he said, “No you’ve got it all wrong. You’ve got it all wrong. I’m insulted.”
Pat Moug: I was disappointed that we didn’t get to—the bottom of the matter. You might believe that—
Morrison: In fact you’ve got nothing...
Pat Moug: I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with that.
But remember, one of Pat’s insinuations went way beyond all the others. And that was this: Based on nothing more than his own analysis of a fictionalized story, Pat surmised in his very public film… that Jennifer’s father and brother helped Tom get away with her murder.
Pat Moug: If I step on somebody’s toes, so be it.
Morrison: If you ruin their reputation, so be it?
Pat Moug: Well, there’s a lot of people in prison whose reputations I ruined, and I don’t care.
Morrison: Yeah, but if they’re innocent—
Pat Moug: Well, you’re saying if. The only way you’re gonna find out if they’re innocent, if you clear Tom Morgan as a suspect—he’s a suspect right now.
Is he? Some people down in South Carolina have suggested this is all payback because Tom dropped Pat from the movie project.
Nothing to do with it, responds Pat. Though he does claim Tom didn’t even have the courtesy to tell him he was dumped. He says he found out about it after the movie was made.
Pat Moug: They can say whatever they want to me. They can say that I’m doing this because I didn’t direct Tom’s film. Everything in this documentary is Tom saying it and I’m just putting it together. If it takes everybody in this country being mad at me to get justice for this girl, so be it.
For Pat, this was the way to justice… a film crammed with insinuation, accusation and an angry challenge to the sheriff of Florence county.
We could hardly wait to get back to South Carolina to confront with Pat Moug’s theories the two men he’d spent most of his film attacking:
Florence county sheriff Kenny Boone.
And Tom Morgan. By now, Tom had spent well over a decade trying to get police to investigate his sister’s 1994 killing. Had even made his own movie pointing at a particular suspect.
And we had - for years - been asking some, well, difficult questions.
This, just after he failed that polygraph.
Keith Morrison, Dateline correspondent: This is really hard and it comes through in your eyes. I can see it is. Is part of the reason it’s hard for you because you actually did it?
Tom Morgan: No.
Morrison: --your sister? Some terrible accident but you killed her.
Tom Morgan: No. I did not kill my sister.
Now, suddenly, 13 years after the murder, Tom was very publicly accused. He didn’t seem thrilled to be in front of our camera... again.
Morrison: In your circumstances, this new wrinkle has entered the scene. What is it your mom said? About your 15 minutes?
Tom Morgan: Yeah, yeah. How do you like your 15 minutes of fame.
Morrison: So far. It ain’t over yet.
Tom Morgan: Yeah.
Morrison: What does that do to you inside?
Tom Morgan: (pause) It tears me up. This whole thing tears me up. (emotional)
Morrison: You didn’t really wanna come and do this today, did you?
Tom Morgan: No. We have worked so hard (emotional) to try and keep this in the forefront of people’s minds. And to try and keep this investigation going for her sake. (emotional). And, in rebuilding our lives.
We watched “Bold as a Lion” together, with frequent stops when Tom objected to Pat’s allegations.
Those apparent contradictions for example, about where he was when his sister was killed.
Morrison: To clear it up.
Tom Morgan: Let me just clear this up. And I would have said, “Pat, listen. I told a lot of people—I moved to Michigan after my sister passed away. I told a lot of people that. You know why? It’s an easy way to say you left Michigan as opposed to I was having sex with a married woman and—I was doing other things that I wasn’t too proud of and so I left.”
We stopped again during the scene at Jennifer’s old trailer park. That’s the time when Pat suggested Tom knew too much about the killing—that he knew things only the murderer would know.
Morrison: Wait one second though. Where did you get the information you’re using there?
Tom Morgan: We were all speculating at the time. What’s interesting about his interview is that we’d all had conversation, and Pat as a police officer says, “Well what do you think about this? Or how could this have happened?” Or whatever.
Morrison: He was speculating, too.
Tom Morgan: Everybody was. You know it’s like these bits and pieces of conversation that he’s just drawn out to make this into a co—well—
Morrison: To make it look like a lie?
Tom Morgan: To make it look—yeah. To make it contradict itself.
Then a few minutes later, the most damning — or outrageous — part of Pat’s theory. First Pat implies Tom may have launched some sort of sexual attack on his sister....
Then, because a couple of accomplices to the crime in Tom’s fictional movie script seemed to resemble Tom’s father and brother, Pat suggests that the real father and brother may have helped burn Jennifer’s body.
Tom Morgan: It’s surreal. This whole thing is surreal. We loved my sister. Our family is very tight, we are very close knit. We would do anything to bring her back.
Morrison: The key argument that Pat Moug makes is—you put yourself in this movie—maybe because you’re a narcissistic sociopath who needs to get to taunt people—to get as close as you can to the crime. And that maybe your family has done the same thing. Or maybe that you’ve done the same thing with them.
Tom Morgan: He had so many opportunities to sit down with us and say, “Hey, I’m gonna make this little documentary or whatever. I’d like to get everybody’s”—
Morrison: Tell us everything you know.
Tom Morgan: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Go through the whole thing.
Morrison: He didn’t do those things?
Tom Morgan: I don’t think he’s never spoke to my family. And that is absolutely despicable—because at that point, he has slandered our family’s name.
Morrison: He must have had a motivation to to that.
Tom Morgan: All I can do is go back to the day that he told me when i said that he wasn’t gonna make the film that I’d be sorry.
Tom’s mother says she could scarcely believe Pat Moug could imply such an awful lie about her family.
Kerry Morgan: I am totally a mother hen, I will fight tooth and nail, I will go to the wall for this. There is no way anyone will come down and ruin my son’s reputation, without an awful lot of hardcore facts. And I don’t think they can give me one.
Morrison: You’re pretty angry about this.
Kerry Morgan: Angry that my son will be hurt, yeah.
And angry, said Tom’s dad, that police would consider his son a suspect based on what Jim Morgan claimed were Pat’s lies.
Morrison: What are you worried about now?
Jim Morgan: I worry about Tom—law enforcement can really turn the screws down if they want to.
And wouldn’t the police want to, in light of Pat Moug’s allegations?
And didn’t Florence County Sheriff Kenny Boone appreciate all of Pat Moug’s suggestions about what happened on that warm November day back in 1994?
Well, actually... no. He would... and did not.
Morrison: You cut him off.
Sheriff Boone: Not give him anything, no sir.
Sheriff Boone: You know, he’s come to a conclusion that Tom is responsible for this, not knowing any of the other information and stuff like we have on our case file. And you know, it bothered me. I take offense to it.
It wasn’t at all surprising, said Boone, that Tom seemed to know things about the crime that perhaps only the killer would have known.
Sheriff Boone: Tom could’ve been gettin’ that information from the family ‘cause at that point, you know, I tried to keep the family kind of up to date on what was going on, what was taking place, kind of where we were going.
As for Pat’s conclusion… that Tom is the suspect in his sister’s murder, and that his father and brother may be complicit?
Tom Morgan: That tells you what kind of investigator he is to come to that conclusion without having the preponderance of the evidence, not all the evidence.
But what about that failed lie detector test? Well, said both Boone and the state police, it was all the available evidence that made them decide that the polygraph result was simply an error. And that neither Tom Morgan nor any member of his family had anything to do with Jennifer Morgan’s death.
But Pat Moug was right about one thing: Kenny Boone did not cooperate with a fellow police officer—the one from Livonia, Michigan.
Sheriff Boone: You know somebody can sit in Michigan—and armchair quarterback this thing. But I take great offense to it. He didn’t work night and day on this case like we did. But I think you’ve got a patrolman with a rookie attitude wanting to make a name for himself.
But the fact is, Tom Morgan and Pat Moug may both have missed the real story.
In the almost 13 years since Jennifer Morgan was murdered, her family has grown. Tom is now happily married and father to three members of the new generation.
It’s a family just as close as it says it’s always been.
And able to laugh again, though the gaping hole left by Jennifer’s death is, they tell us, just as painful as ever, along with the newer wound that comes from being accused.
And though his days as a suspect are apparently over, Tom Morgan still worries that a cop might someday come knocking at his door.
It seems unlikely, however, that Sheriff Boone would want to arrest him. Why?
Because, says Boone, both Tom Morgan and his nemesis Pat Moug have likely been looking in all the wrong places from the very beginning.
Sheriff Boone: Well, you know, it’s one of my only unsolved homicides. And I’d love to be able to solve it today.
But far from being botched, as both the Morgans and Pat Moug seemed to think, The sheriff says his investigation was quite thorough… and that he looked pretty carefully at the suspect Tom Morgan made into a character in his fictional movie, the real-life frat boy, Chris Woodson, who seemed to be obsessed with Jennifer.
But, it turned out, there was an alibi, said Boone, and a pretty solid one.
Sheriff Boone: We were trying to base it on timeline, if he had the opportunity to be able to do something like this. At that point, you know, we—his alibi was clear. But you know, to me, until someone’s convicted, everyone’s still a suspect.
Do you remember that possible evidence the family found at the grave?
Somebody had left a bracelet, and a fraternity ring at the headstone. To Tom, they were evidence that his suspect, Chris, had left them there out of his continuing remorse…
To Pat Moug, they were evidence that Tom Morgan had staged those items to direct attention away from his own guilt.
Well, as it turns out, they were both wrong....
Dateline found another of Jennifer’s college buddies. His name is David Deitz.
David Deitz: Just spending time around her was an uplifting thing.
And guess what? It was he, said David, who left the bracelet and the ring at the grave, as tributes to a good friend.
Deitz: I guess that’s one of life’s little lessons I’ve learned from her death is you never know whether you’ll have an opportunity to express to a them how you feel about them.
David showed how he tucked the ring into the ground beside the headstone.
Deitz: I stuck it right there at the front right beside her first name.
Just where Jennifer’s father found it.
And one more piece of evidence that had seemed to point at Chris or Tom suddenly vanished.
These days Chris, the one-time fraternity boy, owns a radio station here in union, South Carolina. He has repeatedly declined our attempts to see him and hear his side of the story. As for the business of not yet being fully eliminated as a suspect, Chris is reported to have told a friend... "I’m tough, I can take it. The people I care about know I didn’t do it, and that’s good enough for me.”
As for Kenny Boone, he says he’s determined still that someone will be charged with the murder of Jennifer Morgan.
What evidence there is, or most of it, anyway, is still in the sheriff’s issue cardboard box.
There’s that ring... and here the burned bits that once looked like clues.
But, as we took a stroll through Jennifer’s woodsy trailer park, the sheriff gave us some graphic reasoning for his view that the murderer was none of the suspects you’ve heard about, but someone else altogether.
Sheriff Boone: But, one of the suspects that we had was right here.
Morrison: In that one right there? That window is his bedroom? So, he could see outside right over to her trailer?
Sheriff Boone: Right.
Morrison: And see that she was home alone.
Sheriff Boone: We can put him leaving this mobile home, walking in front of this mobile home right here, and walking down four mobile homes on the right to use the telephone to call his girlfriend.
Morrison: What? Right—right—
Sheriff Boone: At the time I think the fire was set, right before it was called in at 12:28.
Morrison: So, if that was a deliberately set fire, you can put him right here—
Sheriff Boone: I can put him in this street. But, I can’t put him in that trailer yet.
Morrison: What do you mean, yet?
Sheriff Boone: You never know. With technology and stuff like it is today, you never know. I mean, there’s still a possibility. And, you know, it’s not over.
Though there is no particular rush to find the man. At this very moment in fact he is sitting in prison for a breaking and sex crime which, according to Sheriff Boone, followed a similar pattern to the attack on Jennifer Morgan.
So, case closed?
Well, not exactly... because now, on they go, these three contending investigators, down their opposing paths.
Pat Moug, the actor-cop from Livonia, Michigan is out there with his own cinematic point of view— that Tom may have killed his sweet sister, helped out by his own father and brother.
Tom, the budding screenwriter, still doesn’t believe the sheriff… and still suspects the fraternity boyfriend.
And Sheriff Boone thinks they’re both wrong—that quite possibly the neighbor did it.
And so, the pictures yellow, the memory of her smile dances still across the aging family films... and all the possibilities that never were.
And at the glacial pace the investigation has moved, the new generation of the Morgan family may be in college themselves before Tom can finally let it go.
But not yet, in spite of all that’s happened, not yet.
Tom Morgan: I just had an interesting conversation with my father the other night. He said, “You know, no matter what happens even if you solve it Tom, even if you find somebody who can solve this case doesn’t bring her back.”
Morrison: Then why don’t you just drop it?
Tom Morgan: And that’s when I looked at him and I said, “But somethin’ just won’t let me let go of it. The only thing I can say is when I go to that grave site, when I see her headstone there she wouldn’t have let go of it. She wouldn’t’ve let it just go by the wayside.”
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