Wesleyan murder suspect surrenders

May 7, 2009 9:18:47 PM PDT
Wesleyan murder suspect Stephen Morgan has surrendered to police. Authorities told Eyewitness News that Morgan, 29, called Meriden police at 9:30 p.m. from a Cumberland Farms market.

Sonya Rodriguez, a clerk at a Cumberland Farms convenience store in nearby Meriden, says 2Morgan asked her to call the police when he stopped in the store Thursday night.

Rodriguez said that she didn't recognize Morgan and thought he was having car trouble. When police arrived, they told her the man she had been talking to was wanted for Wednesday's fatal shooting of 21-year-old Johanna Justin-Jinich in Middletown.

Rodriguez says she started crying and was nervous.

Investigators took him into custody there, then transported him back to their headquarters in Middletown, about ten miles away.

Morgan is being held on $10 million bond and is due in court Friday morning.

Justin-Jinich was shot several times Wednesday by a gunman wearing a wig at her job inside Broad Street Books, a popular student bookstore. Two years ago, she complained to police Morgan stalked and threatened her.

According to the complaint that she filed with the NYPD in May 2007, for seven days Morgan used the telephone and the internet to threaten her in calls and emails.

"You're going to have a lot more problems down the road if you can't take any F---in- criticism," was one of the threats he made, she told police.

A week later, the police report noted, she declined to pursue the complaint. At that time she told police from the Sixth Precinct in Greenwich Village that she just wanted to have an official record of the threats.

Investigators may have talked to Morgan following the shooting on Wednesday.

According to the Hartford Courant, an officer asked Morgan for his name and phone number in case they needed to contact him later on and let him go.

The paper, citing anonymous law enforcement sources, reports that police didn't realize until they spoke to the victim's family that Stephen Morgan was the person they should be looking for.

Police and the mayor are declining to comment on the report.

A $10,000 reward was being offer for the capture of Morgan by the U.S. Marshal's Service and Wesleyan University President Roth has authorized an additional $5,000 reward for relevant information leading to his capture.

Police told the university that Morgan expressed threats in his personal journals toward Wesleyan and its Jewish students, the school said.

"Investigators have been in contact with Wesleyan University and leaders of the Jewish community, urging both to be extra vigilant," Middletown Police Chief Lynn Baldoni said.

Justin-Jinich, of Timnath, Colo., came from a Jewish family, said her former stepmother. Morgan's brother told The Associated Press he wasn't anti-Semitic. His family issued a statement urging Morgan to turn himself in "to avoid any further bloodshed."

University officials told students to stay indoors and staff members to stay home. The spring semester ended Tuesday and finals are scheduled for next week.

Most buildings on campus, including cafeterias and the library, were locked. Normally bustling sidewalks were empty and police cruisers patrolled the campus. In dorms, students dressed in flip-flops, gym shorts and pajama pants shuffled downstairs to pick up box lunches of roasted vegetable, tuna fish or cheese sandwiches.

"We're supposed to do some work, but really I just keep checking my e-mail and checking on friends and letting people from home know that I'm OK," said freshman Christina Yow, of China. "Anything to distract."

Brenna Galvin, a sophomore from Amherst, N.H., said her family was considering bringing her home.

"It's hard to know what to do," she said. "Really, we're just trying to keep in touch with people at home."

Morgan's last known address was Swampscott, Mass. His brother, Greg Morgan, told the AP that the family is distraught over the shooting. He said they have not spoken to Morgan in several weeks.

"I am devastated by what happened to this young girl at Wesleyan," he said. "We're just absolutely distraught over everything that's gone on. We're just hoping that they find my brother and no one else gets hurt."

Greg Morgan said his brother has not shown anti-Semitism in the past. "My brother was a very sweet person and had a big heart and I hope he's OK," he said.

Diana Morgan, his youngest sister, read the statement to reporters outside the family's home in Marblehead, Mass., but did not take questions.

"We are shocked and sickened by the tragedy in Middletown and our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim. We have been cooperating in every way possible with the authorities who are searching for Steve. We don't know where Steve is or where he might go.

"We would like to send him this message via the media: Steve turn yourself in right now to any law enforcement agency wherever you are to avoid any further bloodshed. We love you. We will support you in every way and we don't want anyone else to get hurt."

Middletown's only synagogue, Congregation Adath Israel, is across the street from the bookstore. It was closed Thursday and congregants were considering canceling Sabbath services Friday night and Saturday.

Synagogue president Eliot Meadow said police didn't offer details about the threats.

"It was a no-brainer to close the building until we knew more information," he said. "We didn't know if he was planning something. We're hoping that they catch him before tomorrow night."

Wednesday's shooting and manhunt was the day of Wesleyan's Spring Fling concert, held annually to allow students to blow off steam before spring semester finals. Several hundred students were already gathered early Wednesday afternoon when police warned them to take shelter from a possible shooter.

Police gave the all-clear late Wednesday afternoon and said there was no danger, but did an about-face two hours later, warning students to take immediate shelter.

Police said evidence uncovered at the scene prompted the renewed warnings, but they offered no details. Later Wednesday, they released a surveillance photo of the gunman and said they were looking for Morgan, a former Navy man who university authorities said had no connection to Wesleyan.

A panel that investigated the April 16, 2007, massacre at Virginia Tech concluded that university officials erred by not acting more quickly to warn students because police prematurely concluded that the first two victims were shot as a result of a domestic dispute.

Justin-Jinich would have graduated next year from Wesleyan, an elite private liberal arts school with about 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. She was a 2006 graduate of the Westtown School, a private Quaker boarding school in rural southeastern Pennsylvania, about 25 miles west-southwest of Philadelphia.

Contains information from The Associated Press.