CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Both legs amputated at the knee, confined to a wheelchair, Laura Lee Morgan, 48, has claimed she was only defending herself when she killed her long-term, live-in boyfriend, James 'Jimmy Masingill, with blows from a crowbar.
But she would barely raise her head as she listened to Chattanooga Police Detective Lucas Fuller describe what investigators found after answering her 911 call to their home on Orchard Knob Avenue January 26.
"His face was mangled," Det. Fuller testifies. "Large amounts of blood were casting, as we call it, across the ceiling and walls."
Morgan is charged with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery in Masingill's death.
"The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head," Det. Fuller reads from the Medical Examiner's investigative report.
Further, Det. Fuller testifies, the Medical Examiner has determined that Masingill was struck at least 17 times, including the defensive wounds on both forearms.
"Were you advised of any injuries to her (Morgan's) person," asks Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston.
"No," Det. Fuller replies.
Investigators say Morgan's own words point to a motive for murder; she was angry that he was spending money on scratch-off lottery tickets, so she bought $80 worth of crack cocaine from her drug dealer.
Masingill complied with Morgan's demand that he give her $20, half of his latest lottery winnings, Det. Fuller testifies, but became angry when Morgan admitted she was using crack again.
"She stated that he allegedly came at her with a crowbar while she was in her wheelchair and swung it at her " Det. Fuller testifies.
"She (says she) caught it, then threw him into the (rocking) chair and beat him with the crowbar until he was deceased."
But the location of Masingill's body, and the condition of the living room, Fuller explains, raised doubts almost immediately to Morgan's claim that Masingill had grabbed the crowbar right after he walked through the front door.
"The position that he would have walked to her, where he retrieved the crowbar, is on the opposite side of the room where the rocker was," he says.
The implication: Morgan cold-cocked her boyfriend while he was watching TV.
"She emptied his pockets, removed his wallet, and took $200," Fuller testifies. "Called the dope man again and bought over $200 worth of crack cocaine."
"She smoked that crack cocaine, and then called police and told dispatch that she murdered her husband."
Fuller says Morgan also admitted that she waited two hours before calling 911 to report the incident.
Police played neither Morgan's 911 call, nor the recording of her January 26 interrogation, at her preliminary hearing Tuesday morning.
Morgan said not one audible word in open court.
Public Defender David Barrow questioned Det. Fuller briefly regarding his level of experience as a homicide and major case investigator. Fuller testifies he will mark one year as a detective this month, after five years on patrol.
Barrow also disputes whether Fuller can posit Morgan's disclosures during questioning, as a 'confession.'
Neither line of questioning appears persuasive to Sessions Judge Christie Sell.
"The court finds that there is probable cause and the case will be bound over to the Grand Jury," Judge Sell rules.