Cory Morris was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for the murders of five women. According to court documents serial killer Cory Morris would lure the woman to his residence where they would be sexually assaulted and murdered. Cory Morris would keep the victims body for days for sexual gratification. Cory Morris would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
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In September, 2002, Cory Morris lured his first victim back to his trailer with the inducement of money for sexual services. The victim had recently been released from prison and was taking medication for an addiction to heroin. While engaging in sex, Morris wrapped a tie around the victim’s throat and strangled her to death. Cory Morris kept the body for some time, using it for sexual gratification. Eventually he put the body in an alley near his trailer.
In October, 2002, Morris lured a second victim back to his trailer with money for sexual services. Morris similarly strangled the victim and used her body for sexual gratification. In February, 2003, Morris talked a third victim into coming back with him to his trailer for sex. Once inside, Morris strangled her and had sex with the body.
Some time in March, 2003, Cory Morris came across a woman with severe mental impairments. Morris lured her back to his camper, and sexually assaulted and strangled her to death. After her death, he kept the body for a significant length of time and repeatedly raped her.
Cory Morris killed his final victim in April, 2003. Under the pretense of sex, Morris sexually assaulted her and strangled her with a tie. Morris kept the body, and repeatedly sexually gratified himself with it. A relative noticed a putrid smell coming from Morris’ trailer and discovered the decomposing body. The relative contacted the police, who arrested Morris.
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Morris lived in a camper in the backyard of his aunt and uncle’s house in Phoenix and worked at a bar approximately three nights a week. In April 2003, Morris’s boss noticed for the first time that Morris had a body odor problem. Morris’s aunt and uncle also noticed that Morris had a body odor problem that had become progressively worse since he began living with them six months earlier.
¶ 3 On April 12, 2003, when Morris’s uncle went to the camper to find Morris, he smelled a “rotten odor” in the backyard and saw flies inside the window of the camper. As he opened the door and stepped inside, he saw flies and maggots “boiling on the floor.” He discovered the decomposed body of Julie Castillo under a blanket.
¶ 4 On the same day, police officers questioned Morris about the body in his camper, as well as four other bodies that had been found nearby. During this interview, Morris admitted to knowing the five victims and provided two versions of each victim’s death. In the first version, he claimed that each victim died of a drug overdose while he was away from the camper. After discussing all five victims, the detective conducting the interview told Morris that he did not believe him. Morris then stated that each victim asked him to choke her during sex and that each accidentally died as a result of this conduct. Morris also claimed that he used a condom during sex with the victims. We discuss each victim in turn.
¶ 5 On September 11, 2002, police discovered Barbara Codman’s naked, decomposed body in an alley between East McKinley and East Pierce Streets and west of 9th Street. The alley is located just north of Morris’s residence. Police found drag marks from the sidewalk crossing the alley into the alley itself. Codman’s body exhibited skin slippage 1 on her inner thighs and breast, and her head and neck were more decomposed than the rest of her body.
¶ 6 Morris said that he met Codman while walking at night and, for twenty dollars, she agreed to come to his camper and have sex with him. Morris first said that he went outside after he and Codman had sex and, when he returned, Codman was sitting naked on the bed using drugs. Morris told her to leave after she finished, and then he stepped outside. When he went back into the camper, Codman was sitting on the bed panting, and she soon collapsed. Morris dragged Codman out of the camper on a sleeping bag.
¶ 7 In his second version of events, Morris stated that Codman asked him to choke her with a necktie during sex. He did so, and she collapsed and never regained consciousness.
¶ 8 Morris kept some of Codman’s belongings, including her overalls, panties, and purse. Analysts found Codman’s DNA on some of the items. When Morris was arrested, he was carrying Codman’s social security card, driver’s license, and check card in his wallet.
¶ 9 Because of the extensive decomposition of Codman’s head and neck, Dr. John Hu, who performed her autopsy, was unable to conduct a detailed investigation for trauma in that region. Hu originally determined that the cause of death was combined toxicity of morphine and cocaine and listed the manner of death as undetermined because the circumstances surrounding Codman’s death were suspicious. After the police gave Hu a transcript of Morris’s statements, he determined that “the cause of death is most likely asphyxia due to ligature strangulation” because the autopsy results were not inconsistent with such a determination.
¶ 10 On October 10, 2002, police found Shanteria Davis’s naked, decomposed body in the same alley in which Codman’s body had been discovered. Davis had skin slippage on her back, buttocks, and the backs of her legs. Police found drag marks in the alley.
¶ 11 In his first version of events, Morris stated that, for five dollars, Davis agreed to come back to his camper and have sex with him. After they had sex, Morris left Davis alone in the camper for about an hour because she wanted to use drugs. When Morris returned, Davis was unconscious but breathing. Morris covered her and left for his friend’s house. When he returned the next morning, Davis was dead. That night, he dragged her into the alley.
¶ 12 In his second version of events, Morris stated that Davis asked him to wrap her hair extensions around her neck while they were having sex. Davis died as a result of this conduct.
¶ 13 Police found hair extensions in Morris’s camper. DNA under Davis’s fingernails matched Morris’s DNA. DNA analysis on panties found in Morris’s camper could not exclude Davis as a source of the DNA.
¶ 14 Because of the extent of decomposition, Dr. Kevin Horn, who performed Davis’s autopsy, could not determine whether Davis suffered any trauma. Based on the lack of visible trauma and the presence of cocaine and cocaine breakdown products in her spleen, Horn determined that the cause of death was cocaine intoxication. After reviewing a transcript of Morris’s statements to the police, Horn stated that nothing in his autopsy was inconsistent with strangulation.
¶ 15 On February 27, 2003, police discovered the clothed body of Jade Velasquez on the west side of 9th Street, just outside the gate leading to the backyard where Morris’s camper was located. Velasquez had ligature marks on the front and sides of her neck and bruising under her left eye. Police noted “some disturbance” in the ground near the gate to the backyard, which was consistent with removing the gate from its hinge and then replacing it. Police also noted grass scuff marks on the sidewalk, indicating that the body had been dragged. A detective spoke with Morris’s aunt during the investigation of Velasquez’s death.
¶ 16 Morris first stated that Velasquez, a friend, agreed to come to his camper for sex. He claimed that Velasquez was drunk when she arrived at the camper and passed out before having sex with him. According to Morris, he realized that Velasquez was dead when she did not wake up the next morning. He left for the day and moved her body to the street that night.
¶ 17 In his second version of events, Morris stated that Velasquez asked him to use his hands to choke her while they were having sex. Morris did so, and Velasquez passed out and never regained consciousness. Morris put Velasquez’s clothes back on her before he dragged her to the street because he knew her and did not want to leave her in the street unclothed.
¶ 18 DNA from semen on a vaginal swab taken from Velasquez’s body matched Morris’s DNA profile. Dr. Vladimir Shvarts, who performed Velasquez’s autopsy, found petechial hemorrhages in her left eye and focal hemorrhagic areas inside her neck and determined that the cause of death was strangulation. Velasquez’s blood tested positive for alcohol, cocaine metabolites, and benzodiazepines, but the combination of drugs was not sufficient to cause death.
¶ 19 On March 29, 2003, police found Sharon Noah’s naked body on the west side of 9th Street, approximately fifteen to twenty feet from the location at which Velasquez’s body was discovered. There were ligature marks on Noah’s neck and skin slippage on her inner thighs, breasts, and hips. Some maggots were present on her body, and her hand and foot were mummified. Some of Noah’s artificial fingernails were broken.
¶ 20 Morris first stated that he met Noah, who had the mental age of a ten- or eleven-year-old, while out walking, and the two then went back to his camper and had sex. Afterwards, Morris left because Noah wanted to use drugs. Noah was dead when he returned. Morris then put a belt around Noah’s neck and pulled her body onto his sleeping bag. He dragged her body outside that night. He threw away most of her clothes but kept her shoes.
¶ 21 In his second version of events, Morris said that Noah suggested that he use the nylon strap attached to Morris’s gym bag to choke her during sex. Morris did so, but when Noah’s eyes closed, he stopped and noticed that she was no longer breathing. Morris left the strap on Noah’s neck until he dragged her outside.
¶ 22 DNA on panties found in Morris’s camper matched both Morris’s and Noah’s DNA profiles, and Morris’s DNA profile matched DNA on a vaginal swab taken from Noah. Police also found broken fingernails in Morris’s camper.
¶ 23 Noah’s autopsy indicated that she died of ligature strangulation resulting in asphyxia. Toxicology reports showed that Noah had used cocaine before her death and that although she had GHB, which is often used in date rapes, in her system, drug overdose was not the cause of death. When asked how he would explain the extensive skin slippage on Noah’s thighs, the medical examiner posited that some item may have contacted her thighs postmortem.
¶ 24 The body discovered in Morris’s camper on April 12, 2003, was that of Julie Castillo. The badly decomposed body was face down and her buttocks were near the camper’s fold-down bed. There was a necktie around her neck.
¶ 25 Morris first stated that he brought Castillo back to his camper because it was cold and she needed a place to spend the night. Morris left the camper after Castillo asked if she could smoke crack, and when he returned, Castillo was unconscious on the floor. He took her clothes off because she had urinated on herself. The next day, he went to work, and when he returned, he realized that Castillo was dead. Morris stayed in the camper that night. When the detective conducting the interview asked whether Morris engaged in any sexual activity while Castillo’s body was in the camper, Morris stated that he ejaculated in his sleep but was facing away from Castillo’s body at the time. Morris originally said that he never had sex with Castillo.
¶ 26 In his second version of events, Morris stated that Castillo asked him to choke her with a necktie during sex. Morris did so, and Castillo collapsed and never regained consciousness. Morris kept Castillo’s body in his camper for approximately five days before it was discovered. He claimed that he had not been in the camper during the three days before the body’s discovery.
¶ 27 Dr. Horn, who performed Castillo’s autopsy, determined that Castillo had been dead “between three and seven” days at the time the body was found. Based on information from the detectives, Horn determined that the cause of death was “probable ligature strangulation.” Because of the extensive decomposition, there was no visible evidence of trauma. Castillo had a blood alcohol content of 0.12, and also had traces of cocaine in her system. Additionally, seven defects measuring up to three-eighths of an inch radiated around Castillo’s anus. Horn could not determine whether the defects resulted from trauma or normal decomposition.
¶ 28 A grand jury indicted Morris for five counts of first degree murder. During the guilt phase of the trial, the prosecution played videotapes of Morris’s descriptions of each woman’s death. Morris did not present a defense, but his counsel moved for acquittal on all counts pursuant to Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 20.a. The judge denied the motion. The jury then found Morris guilty on all five counts.