Family of crowbar murder suspect speaks out
CHATTANOOGA, TN. (WRCB) - Police say 48-year-old Laura Morgan called 911 Saturday night, two hours after she beat her elderly roommate in the head while he begged for help.
Police charged Morgan with first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. Neighbors told us the victim was trying to help Morgan turn her life around. Her family tells a different story.
Channel 3 talked to Morgan's niece, who says she's really more like a daughter to her. She says Morgan called from jail, saying she wants her side of the story told. She's claiming she killed James Masingill, her long-time boyfriend, in self-defense.
Police say when they arrived to their East Lake home Saturday night, Laura Morgan was waiting on the porch. James Masingill was lying dead in the living room. Detectives say Morgan admitted to beating him to death with a crowbar as he begged for help.
"She doesn't feel like she's done anything wrong, because she was protecting herself," Morgan's niece, Carisa Holewinski says.
Morgan's niece says they've been dating for 17 years.
"Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Laura were always together," Holewinski says.
But, she says their relationship has been rocky ever since Morgan had both legs amputated.
Neighbors say they're also aware of problems.
"He told me, Sheila, she's driving me crazy," neighbor, Sheila Brown says.
Channel 3 obtained an incident report from last June in which Masingill claimed Morgan threatened to "get him while he was sleeping." She said she didn't mean it and was just mad at him, for nagging her over cooking. It says Masingill had police take a ball bat and machete with them for his safety.
Morgan's family claims it's always been Masingill going after her, and that was the case Saturday.
"She told me they had been arguing and he came after her with a crowbar and swung at her and hit her in the hand with it and she was able to push him down and grab the crowbar, and that she hit him in the head and killed him," Holewinski says.
Detectives say Morgan admitted to stealing $200 out of his wallet once he was dead and bought crack cocaine with it.
"I know in my heart she didn't do it for the money. She didn't do it for drugs. She's not a drug head. That's not her anymore," Holewinski says.
Morgan has a criminal record that includes several prostitution and drug arrests, but her family says she's cleaned up and that wasn't her motive.
"I hope that we can fight it and get it for self-defense, considering he's gone after her before. And, I hope that we can get her out," Holewinski says.
Still, both are upset that what's done is done forever.
"Every time I talk to her she usually breaks down crying. He shouldn't have done what he did, but I still do feel bad because I love him," Holewinski says.
Laura Morgan is charged with first degree murder and especially aggravated assault.
She's due in court February 5.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.