Remembering Morgan’s Last 24 Hours of Life

December 1, 2011

Just after midnight, the motion light on the corner of the garage (by Morgan’s windows) is almost constantly on.  Once it is triggered it stays on for one minute, and then goes off unless it is triggered again.  Heat and motion, in combination, are the triggers.  It is re-triggered every minute, and blinking off for just an instant.  Steve thinks it is malfunctioning at first when he watches the replay of the morning.  Except, at 12:47 AM a deputy in his truck is patrolling, not our neighborhood, not even really our house, but specifically Morgan’s side of the house. He drives up the street and stops right between our house and our next door neighbor Rhonda’s house.  There, he uses a searchlight to comb the side yard, right outside Morgan’s window.

The truck drives on and a minute later returns from the end of the street toward Brooke Harris’ father and Brooke’s mother’s houses, and returns to our house, then stops again. The searchlight is on again, and it is quite clearly not aimed at the house or the ground as usual, but it is aimed higher, at the roof – why?  Steve assumes that the light has about a 20’ spread after it covers the distance from the deputie’s truck to the house and the lower edge of the light is just hitting the wood trim above Morgan’s window.  From that point to the roof is about 4’ and as the roof climbs from the edge Steve assumes that the center of the light is trained about two feet above the roof.  It does not travel up or down from this elevation, but goes from side to side.  It is immediately obvious to Steve that whoever is aiming that light is looking for something on the roof, and once he points out what he is observing to me I am certain he is correct.  We roll back days on the cameras watching for anything like this and find nothing similar.  What is going on this particular night that we are not privy to?

The neighborhood is quiet until 1:41 AM when another sheriff’s truck follows almost the same pattern with one big difference, there is no searchlight turned on this time.  Once the truck passes our driveway on the way out of our street it speeds up.

At 2:31 AM it is almost the exact pattern of the deputy at 12:47 AM right down to the searchlight.  On replay of the tapes starting with the first deputy, and continuing until a while after this patrol, the motion light on the corner of the garage, which was being triggered constantly had now remained off.

Mark, also our next door neighbor came home at 4:21 AM, he was keeping a close eye on our house whenever he left or came home, and we were very thankful for that.  Our transformer had gone out one night in the middle of all this and was quite a cause for concern.  Mark stopped as he saw something going on, just to make sure all was well – friends looking out for other friends is quite priceless at times like this.  

Morning was lighting up, as another neighbor left at 7:12 AM, and a small flow of neighborhood cars came and went, sunlight took away the last traces of darkness.  Morgan sent a text to Calder at 8:11 AM wondering if he was in school yet.  She ran out to the car in her big fluffy pink robe to grab her ballet things from the back seat and brought them in for a load of wash I was starting.

Morgan and Nathan left at 8:56 AM, and she made a deposit at the bank in Carbondale for Steve at 9:08 AM.  She texted her friend with an excuse that she would not be at ballet, as she sat in line at the bank.  I sent a text to her to let her know that I was able to speak with the mother of a witness the detective wanted to talk to – Morgan sends me a text back, “You rock!”  She then goes to her dad’s shop to help pack up his office.

Steve was beginning to pack everything for the move, and Morgan somehow thought it was her fault, and insisted on helping him.  I told her she could not think like that, and he would have lots of help packing up, but she was after all a “Leo,” and very stubborn.  And it meant a lot to her to help Steve get the move under way.  She had walked out that morning looking like she was ready for a job in the coal mines. but then had a great time talking with her brother at the shop, she had not seen him in a few weeks.

Nathan was there to help and was catching up with his friends on Morgan’s phone at the same time.  It’s hard to believe we used to turn the big dial with our fingers on phones that were screwed to the wall growing up, but I had given up long ago trying to explain what that was like to Morgan and her friends.

At 10:36 AM I sent Detective Glassmire a text explaining that, “Calder told Morgan in the morning that he is not comfortable giving her Gracie’s number until he speaks with Gracie tomorrow.”  I made a few calls to find Gracie myself, after all Carbondale is not that big, and for some reason Detective Glassmire also jumped right into this issue of Keenan and a mystery girlfriend named Morgan.

By noon I had a call back from Gracie’s mom and told Morgan.  She was headed home for lunch with Nathan and Steve and seemed very happy to be able to send a text to her friend Calder that problem was solved and he shouldn’t worry about it another second.  They were all home at 12:18 PM and Morgan made lunch for us all.

When Steve and Nathan go back to the shop after lunch, Morgan went to take a shower.  She has invitations for the afternoon, but instead she has decided to help a friend find a job.  If he does not find job he will have to go back to Denver, and Morgan knows that will be bad for him.  He has worked hard to get where he is right now, and slipping back into old surroundings could create a great pressure on him to not maintain what he has accomplished.

She gets out of the shower and goes to her room.  She has the music playing, while she puts on make-up, does her hair, and dresses at her leisure.  I take a break from work and go into her room to chat while she is getting ready.  We talk about the Etsy dragonfly ID tag she found online, and wants to purchase for Wylah – I told her I could just order it for her when I sit back down to work at my computer.  Morgan said she didn’t have enough money yet, and would have to wait until after her babysitting job over the weekend.  I asked her how much it was, and told her I would just order it, and she could pay me back.  It was really nice to see her so bubbly, and actually putting on make-up and curling her hair, which she normally only did if she was going out somewhere special.  At 1:41 pm she walks out to the car with a freshly laundered shirt for her friend’s job interviews and hangs it up in the back of the car.  She goes and picks him up.  He is worried about his interviews, and Morgan calls him to encourage him at all their stops, while she waits in the car.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say she walked him in, but it was really important to her that he had a job or a really good prospect all lined up today.

After Morgan’s murder in 2012 we found out that on Facebook, at 12:20 am on 12.1, early this morning, Hannah Hurlocker (Brooke Harris’ friend) updated her wall, “sowyy it sucks.” Then 37 minutes later she adds, “guess ima go then night”  Her friend ? Likes this. At 1:04 am still confused by the urgency of the requests to drop everything and come get her Stephen Campbell says ”Well u seemed pissed when we talked Wats up??”

Brooke is not happy he has not figured this out yet, and at 3:43 pm today she posts to Stephen Campbell, “why would you ask her that on facebook? On her wall, on a post that had nothing to do with that at all? You know how to get a hold of her.”  It remains questionable what was really happening until certain parties involved are asked to give their input, then it is very upsetting, and obvious to me.

I had an arrangement with Morgan that she would be home by 4:00 pm or call me within two hours after she left, so I could run some errands with her.  Nothing super important, but it always seems like if I don’t get through my list for the day I end up wishing the next day that I had, and since we were sharing a car we had to coordinate.

At 4:00 pm I still had not heard from Morgan, but I had just gone out to the garage to organize, and drag out empty bins for the move.  By 4:30 pm, it has been almost three hours and Morgan is a 1/2 hour late contacting me.  I text her to call me, she is still calling her friend regularly, probably still giving encouragement with each new interview.

Our neighborhood Lhasa’s are getting their evening walk up the street toward Brooke’s house at 4:29:30 pm, and they look very happy.  By 4:48 pm I am getting anxious, in reality she is still helping her friend find the all important job, but I do not know this, only that she is not contacting me back, at least to tell me all is well.  I am worried and upset – I keep remembering that the detective said he thought the stalking was going to escalate.  I am nervous, especially with all of the new unknowns that have been thrust into her stalking this week.  Detective Glassmire told me two days ago that he thinks her stalking is going to escalate, there will be increased patrols, searching in new places.  And we didn’t even know about the very disturbing chatter going on on Facebook at that time.

Morgan gets a text from Nathan from Steve’s phone, “Hey it’s Nathan. Just leaving Aspen just so ya know. I’m gonna get dropped off in c’dale.”  She does not answer, and her friend Calder tries three times to contact her before 6:00 pm.  Also, without an answer.

Steve is home and tells me we should go get something for dinner – I am incredulous for an instant, then I calm down – he feels like Mexican food, and a little grocery shopping after for some of Morgan’s favorites, like pomegranates.  During Morgan’s mystery sickness, which turned out to be chronic carbon monoxide poisoning, Steve had this mental list of all the foods that would cheer her up.   And it would always work.  He thought she was looking just a little too tired and run down right now, and he wanted to get some of her favorites.  I went with him to the grocery store after dinner for that reason only.  Before we leave for dinner, and the grocery store, I lock the dogs up, which I normally do not do, but Morgan’s puppy Wylah had just chewed up a stuffed animal, and I had to clean up all the stuffing that she dispensed throughout the house – that was a BIG mistake to make, locking the dogs up in the laundry room, but I just wasn’t thinking clearly. Anyone could have come into our house and hidden out, unbeknownst to us.

On the way to the restaurant Steve texted Morgan, “Hi Morgan we are going out to dinner in Carbondale are you interested in joking us?” He really meant, joining, but you know these “smart” phones.  Just as I was telling him that he knew that Morgan had not answered me for hours, and I was really getting worried, his phone did that incoming text sound.  He glanced at the screen, smiled, and then handed it to me.  I said, “oh sure she answers you,” and I didn’t know if I should feel relieved or frustrated.  His message from Morgan was, “Gah! I’m sorry. My phone’s little button got switched so my ringer was off. I’m just hanging out with Danny, but I’ll see you guys after?”

Just like that it was no big deal.  Steve wondered if we could just have a nice dinner now, and I told him sure.  Morgan started answering her other friends that she was just hanging out right now.  Steve told her, “Ok we will text you when we get home and then meet you there.” And she answered him, “K.”  I was officially relieved.  We talked about our move and of all the other things going on in the world  Steve wanted to set up Christmas in the new place, so it would be there as we moved in, he thought it would be different, a little extra bit of happy in the midst of carrying, and unloading, and stressing and straining.  I told him I would think about it.

After dinner we shopped for a few things at the grocery store, and went home.  Rhonda, our next door neighbor, had just driven up, before Steve and I did.  We unloaded, and were deciding which room to pack first.  Morgan was still with her friend, watching a movie.

7:32:17 PM Morgan’s friend Nicole sent Morgan an important text – “Lady! We need to talk about breckenridge and get it all figured out!”  They were leaving before noon tomorrow to babysit for the returning military and allowing them to have a retreat with their spouses.  There is a group of children that loved Morgan, and two-year-olds were asking for her by name.  She either does not see this text or decides to wait to answer Nicole, because it is not immediate.

A person who will remain secret for some time, arrives home.  Morgan asks if she could spend the night at their house.  This person thinks for a moment about inviting Morgan, but then decides that day has been too tough, she has a headache and decides to have her sleep over some other night.  I have spoken with this person after Morgan’s murder, and she has felt horribly guilty about that one decision to send Morgan home for the night, thinking she sent her to her ultimate death.  No matter how much I try to convince her this is not true, I have not yet succeeded.  Morgan was scared to go home alone – yes, we were there in the house, but sleeping on the very other end of our big house…Morgan had been either having a friend sleep over at our house or she would sleep over a friends house for the past 2 weeks – that is how frightened she was.  I believe her intuition was screaming at her not to sleep at home, but Morgan was always concerned with others feelings, she said it was fine and she left.

I suddenly realize that I was supposed to text Morgan when we were headed home and I had completely forgotten.  I sent her a text at 7:57 pm that we are done shopping and heading home.  I go into her room and turn on her bedroom light and let Wylah into her room, she jumps on the bed and lies down, and it’s exactly 8:09 pm.

Right after I turn Morgan’s bedroom light off there is a bang on her window.  Reviewing cameras later we can see the big motion lights goes on at the same time.  Nothing obvious is seen on video, but then whatever whacked the glass, and set off the motion detector was out there.  At that time we didn’t know we should have been looking up instead of on the ground, where the cameras were pointed. We now know her stalker was on the ROOF!

At 8:30 pm Morgan is in the car alone, driving home. She has made plans to go back out with her friend in the morning to go out to breakfast and return applications, that will be filled out by then.  Morgan is confident a job can be had before her friend will have to return to Denver.

Morgan pulls off into the Catherine’s store parking lot at 8:36:38 pm and answers her text from Nicole about babysitting on the weekend, “F… I know. I haven’t talked to Amy. I have no idea what’s going on.”

She then drives over to her friend Calder’s house & talks to him and her other friend Cooper. She then drives Calder & herself over to a house where her friends Nathan, Kara & Kashandra hanging out. She visits with everyone, expecting Nathan to drive home with her as previously planned.  Morgan’s friend Kara later told me Morgan seemed very happy when they spoke, as did Kashandra & Calder. Morgan was hoping to get Nathan to come home with her to sleep over again, but he tells her no.  She goes outside to talk to Calder, who is outside smoking, and Nathan borrows her phone to contact someone.  Nathan reads the texts, and then sends a text to Joey, “Sorry man. Haven’t been near the phone for awhile. And whatever works for you man. I don’t care either way. The fact that you remembered this long is enough. You can forget about it. Just make sure you come chill soon. :)” We know all this later from reading and saving everything on Morgan’s phone.

Morgan leaves, and her two friend’s (Nathan & Calder’s) recollection of Morgan during that short time is completely opposite from each other.  Calder always seems enamored with Morgan and always loved to spend time with her, although now we now know he was a part of her terrorization (he had strong loyalties to Brooke) – probably not thinking she could end up dead.  I also found out that Morgan was upset with Calder, because he had refused to give her the phone number of his friend who had told him about Keenan and his supposed girlfriend Morgan…our Morgan felt really betrayed by Calder, but in typical Morgan form she never stayed angry for long with anyone.  Nathan is concerned more about who she was with today, and what is going on, because he still cares about her and would like to be together again- he is jealous.  She does not want to talk about it and this causes an awkwardness.  I found out later from Nathan that Morgan had asked Nathan to come home with her and sleep over again so she would feel safer, but this night he said no.  Now, it’s just a little before 9:00 pm and Morgan hops in the car and heads for home.  Once again I am starting to get worried about Morgan and ask Steve to see if she is on her way home yet.  He texts her at 8:54:47 pm and asks if everything is OK?

Morgan does not answer, because she is driving and can not text.  She drives up into the driveway 9 minutes later. She goes through her normal routine in the car, and I am waiting for her on the porch, pepper spray in hand and her puppy on the leash, after I hear the driveway alarm go off.  As she opens the car door I begin to tell her how upset I am that earlier she did not answer calls or texts – I was so worried about her.  I remind her about her stalker, and how much I worry about her.  She does not answer, looks down and mumbles an unsavory comment as she walks by me, and takes the leash out of my hand.  Our eyes meet for a second, and I decide she is tired and OK.  (Now years later I wonder if that comment was even aimed at me or was she referring to Brooke because she was so upset over what she believed Brooke was doing to her?  I stand in the foyer and watch her go into her room.  I then go to her bedroom door and knock, she says, “Go away I’m tired.”  So, I head down the hall to my bedroom on the other end of the house.

Tessi (our Newfoundland) was lying in the entryway close to Morgan’s door, just staring at the front door, as if just waiting and guarding.  She looks over at me, and I tell her let’s go to bed.  We usually left Tessi loose during the stalking, so she could wander the house all night in order to warn us if someone ever got in the house.  Steve did not want her loose that night, because he thought she might bark and wake everyone up, because of the increased patrols. This is just one of the many things we did wrong this night that added up to the perfect storm. We were all so exhausted from lack of sleep. Tessi paddles down the hall behind me, and when I get into our room I ask Steve if he will talk to Morgan.  He asks if she is upset, and I say she might be.  Steve says he will wait ten minutes just in case.  No matter how mad we may make Morgan, it never lasts more than ten minutes.  I already know that in the morning she will apologize for what she said and explain what happened tonight, it will all make perfect sense, and it will be behind us.  It has happened like that on so many mornings, it is safe for me to say it has never failed.  I used to always tell Morgan, “You don’t have to apologize – heck your brother and sister never did when they got mad at me,” but Morgan was different and if she snapped at someone and didn’t think it was justified she would always apologize – she said everyone should always speak how they feel, and then they never have to feel bad later, so apologies were good.

I turned off the light and got into bed.  Two minutes later the video camera records motion coming over the berm toward the house.  We will not see it for some time – not until months after Morgan’s murder.

Steve has counted his imaginary time for Morgan to be happy, and he gets out of bed.  Morgan can get upset, but she never stays upset.  A good Zen Buddhist would never let their anger control them – and that was Morgan’s personality.

Steve walks to Morgan’s room and knocks, she answers.  Tessi has followed him back out of our room again and stations herself by the front door – smart and intuitive dog – too bad Steve and I did not listen to our dog.  Steve asks Morgan if he can come in, and she says, “Of course.”  He sees that she is on her phone texting, and he offers to come back later.  Morgan presses send for the last time on her phone, and announces, “Nope, all done for the night.”  She was lying across the bed in her jammies, on her stomach, and propped up on her elbows.  Her legs were folded at the knees and her ankles are crossed, gently moving back and forth.  She is smiling. And asks Steve what’s up?  They both know why he is there, because she had a moment of anger, and he wants to ask her about it.  This is something Steve and Morgan have done since she was a little girl.  She’s twenty now, and if you ask her she will admit it is something they have always done, but she will also never call her daddy to come in to cheer her up, he just always has good timing.  Tonight, she does not need any cheering up.  Steve and her talk about developments in her life, how some friends of hers are doing better, and some just need a little more time.

Steve talks to her about oil painting.  He has been so busy at work he has not had much time, but he wants to go in for another painting class with Morgan, because he just got an email and the classes have started up again.  Morgan says she would really like that.  They talk about how her older sister really wants to make jewelry, and Morgan reminds him they are supposed to get a metal clay kiln for Christmas, and they can all use it.

Morgan is concerned about babysitting the next day because she is afraid she is contagious (she has been coughing), and she does not want to get all of the children sick, but she does not know if they can get a replacement for her on such short notice.

Steve tells her that she should wait until morning, she is getting to sleep early, and maybe she will feel much better in the morning.  He remarks that she already looks much better since Monday morning, and if she had not he would have never let her come to the shop and pack bins for him.

Steve confessed that he wished he could run faster and he could catch this guy, and it could be over.  He is choked up, because defending his family is a huge thing for Steve.  Morgan tells him it’s OK, and I love you daddy.  He tells her how much he loves her and says goodnight.  This was the last time he would ever speak with her – he just didn’t know it at the time.  Now when I go over things in my mind, and realize there were signs that something might be wrong…Tessi didn’t want to stay in our bedroom, she wanted to stay in the entry staring at the front door, and Steve had to drag her to our room, and close the door.  I always left the bedroom door open, just in case, so Tessi could patrol the house if she needed to, but we were all so tired Steve put her in our room, and closed the door.  The next mistake we made, part of the “Perfect Storm” that night was that Steve thought we should both have a good nights sleep so we both took sleeping pills that night – I usually did not, because I never wanted to miss any unusual sounds, or Morgan trying to send me a text, or if she had to push her panic button (although that sound was loud enough to wake us up), but this night I agreed and I did take a whole sleeping pill.

At 9:52 pm our neighbor Matt, from across the street comes home, and right behind him is a car, I think I know the occupants, but am not sure, so I won’t say.  And a few minutes later Brooke’s friend, Hannah Hurlocker, is on her Facebook wall again, this time adding, “Some people are like slinkys. Pointless but amusing to watch when you kick them down the stairs. ?”

At 11:56 pm the 1st of December is just about over and the Great Room video camera catches something moving behind our next-door neighbor Rhonda’s pine tree.  But, we are all fast asleep by now and don’t know what evil is approaching.

The absolute fear, stress, exhaustion and utter helplessness of that day, 11 years ago, can still be felt, as though it is happening right now, today.

If only…so many thoughts keep going through my mind…how did I not know what was about to happen? My gut was screaming at me that something bad was about to happen, but my logical mind kept telling me that tonight was Thursday and in only a few more days the sheriffs would most likely be making an arrest. If my logical mind had only realized that this would be the most dangerous time for a stalking victim, but I did not know.