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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Arthur Morgan III: A Narcissistic, Remorseless Child Killer

     By November 2011, Imani Benton, a 26-year-old resident of Lakehurst, New Jersey, had terminated her relationship with Arthur Morgan III, the father of their two-year-old daughter, Tierra. The couple had fought constantly, and on several occasions had taken each other to court. He continued to deny the breakup even after she returned the engagement ring and the other jewelry he had given her. The two of them had also traded accusations of child abuse. As a result of Benton's domestic complaints, state child protection agents conducted four separate investigations that ended up clearing Morgan of these accusations. As a result, he continued to have access to his daughter.

     On November 15, Morgan's boss at Creative Building Supplies Company in Lakewood, New Jersey fired him.

     On November 21, 2011, just eight hours after he had called Imani Benton a bad mother and a whore, Morgan made arrangements with her to take Tierra to see a movie about dancing penguins. Four hours after Morgan promised to return the toddler, the girl's mother called the police to report Tierra missing.

     Police officers from thirteen New Jersey law enforcement agencies looked for the girl and her missing father. The search came to an end when searchers found Tierra's body in Shark River Park twenty miles north of her Lakehurst home.

     Homicide investigators believed that Arthur Morgan had dropped the girl's car seat, with her strapped into it, fifteen feet into a creek that ran below an overpass. The partially submerged car seat had been weighed down by a car jack. The drowned girl, still wearing her Pink Hello Kitty hat, had landed in three feet of water. (According to the father who did not deny throwing his daughter off the bridge, he heard her scream as he got back into his car.)

     After leaving his daughter to drown in the creek beneath the overpass, Arthur Morgan drove to a friend's house where he had a few drinks. The next day, he boarded a train for San Diego, California.

     At four in the afternoon on November 29, 2011, agents with the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Morgan at a house in San Diego. (He was arrested on a federal unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrant. These UFAP warrants are dismissed after the fugitive is returned to the local jurisdiction.)

     Back in New Jersey a few days after his apprehension, Morgan faced the charge of first-degree murder. Over the objection of his court-appointed lawyer, the arraignment judge set Morgan's bond at $10 million. Peter J. Warshaw Jr., the Monmouth County prosecutor in charge of the case, said he would seek the maximum penalty of life without parole. (New Jersey abolished the death penalty.)

     The Arthur Morgan child murder trial got underway in a Freehold, New Jersey Superior Court on March 12, 2014. In his opening remarks to the jury, prosecutor Warshaw accused the defendant of killing his daughter simply because he was angry that Imani Benton had ended their relationship. According to the prosecutor, Morgan killed Tierra to get back at his former girlfriend. Mr. Warshaw called the killing a "knowing and purposeful murder" motivated by pride and revenge.

     The public defender told the jurors that her client was merely guilty of reckless manslaughter, a lesser degree of criminal homicide that carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Given the undisputed facts of this case, that would turn out to be a hard sell.

     The murdered girl's mother, Imani Benton, took the stand as the prosecution's star witness. To the jury, Benton read a letter the defendant had sent her from the San Diego jail shortly after his arrest. In that letter, Morgan, in justifying the murder, accused members of Benton's family of abusing Tierra. He referred to their behavior as "heinous and depraved." Morgan also blamed the girl's mother for her death: "You should have come with us to the movie. It would have been so different, I'm sure. That was the plan, to go as a family."

     Regarding the defendant's self-serving letter, Imani Benton testified that, "If I would have gone to the movie, we wouldn't have gone to the movie. We all would be dead."

     One of the defendant's co-workers at the Lakewood lumber yard testified that Morgan had been paid every Tuesday, and by Friday, he was broke. According to Tulio Bazan, the defendant spent a lot of money on clothes. "He showed me the Gucci sunglasses, a Gucci wallet, and the Gucci shoes." Morgan told the witness that the wallet itself cost him $400.

     In mid-April 2014, the jury in Freehold, New Jersey, following a short period of deliberation, found Arthur Morgan guilty as charged.

     Six weeks after the guilty verdict, at his May 28, 2014 sentence hearing, the convicted murderer apologized to Imani Benton for the breakdown of their relationship. (He didn't apologize for killing their daughter.) "I want to say I'm sorry for the deterioration of what I thought was a beautiful friendship between the two of us that blossomed into a daughter. For anybody that was truly affected by this, I hope we can all heal from the situation, knowing that Tierra is in a better place." (In other words, he was the victim in this story.)

     As one might expect from a narcissistic sociopath with a god-complex, the convicted murderer whined about the media coverage of the trial. He said he didn't like newspaper photographs that depicted him as either angry or inappropriately jolly. He informed the court that had he known that reporters would make negative comments about his designer court room attire, he would have dressed more modestly.

     The complaining sociopath also rambled on about how badly his murder victim had been treated by members of Benton's family. He contrasted that behavior to how, before he murdered his daughter out of wounded pride, he had been such an excellent father.

     Judge Anthony Mellaci, Jr., before handing down Morgan's sentence, lamented that New Jersey no longer imposed the death penalty. "You'd be candidate number one for it's imposition," he said. "Your actions were horrific, unthinkable and appalling. This child was alive when she was placed in the water in pitch darkness. She had to suffer the unthinkable action of having water rush in and fill her lungs while strapped into that car seat. This child suffered before she died."

     Judge Mellaci sentenced the remorseless sociopath to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

     

1 comment:

  1. This is a very difficult case to look at for a number of reasons. First, because the killing of an innocent and precious child such as Tierra, is one of the most evil things that can happen in this world. Secondly, I wonder is there any way to stop parental rights of a man like Morgan before it is too late? Something tells me this guy was one-step away from this for a long time.

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