Thursday , August 09, 2007
NORRISTOWN, Pa. —A woman killed her longtime husband hours before he was to leave on a trip to Morocco to try to impregnate his new second wife, prosecutors said in murder charges filed Thursday.
Myra Morton, 47, turned herself in Thursday to face murder and related charges in the death of Jereleigh Morton, 47, who was shot in his bed early Sunday morning in his million-dollar home outside Philadelphia.
The killing happened just hours before Jereleigh Morton was to travel to Africa to try to conceive a baby with his second wife, prosecutors said.
Myra Morton had reluctantly agreed to the second marriage and even traveled to Morocco to sanction it under Islamic law, authorities have said. She told police that an intruder had come into the bedroom and shot her husband, but police found no signs of a break-in.
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Prosecutors charged Morton with first-degree murder, third-degree murder and related counts. She turned herself in Thursday, dressed in traditional Muslim garb with a full black cloak and a face veil that left only her eyes showing.
Neither Morton nor her two attorneys spoke to the media on their way into the Montgomery County Courthouse on Thursday.
One of her lawyers, Brian J. McMonagle, told The Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday that he was "really looking forward to examining what it was that led them to the conclusion that it was necessary to arrest her as opposed to anyone else in the world."
McMonagle declined to comment by telephone to The Associated Press on Thursday morning.
The Mortons, who hail from North Philadelphia, converted to Islam about 20 years ago. They lived in a small Philadelphia row house until a medical malpractice settlement over their teenage daughter's death netted them a reported $8 million in 2005.
They paid $1 million cash for a sprawling suburban home near Ambler, and Jereleigh retired from his job as a handyman to dabble in real estate. They lived in the home with their surviving daughter.
Morton met his second wife, Zahra Toural, 35, on the Internet in December 2006, investigators said. She lives in Morocco — authorities didn't specify where — and married Morton there on March 19, prosecutors said.
Myra was reluctant to accept the second marriage and she told friends that she was upset her husband was "no longer paying attention to her," First Assistant District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.
Morton wrote in her diary — portions of which were filed in court papers earlier this week — that she went to Morocco to approve the marriage and get paperwork in order.
"I go give him the permission, because he argues with me when I protest this marriage," the diary reads.
Shortly after her husband married Toural, Myra Morton sent a letter to the U.S. State Department in which she said her husband was trying to bring Toural over on a tourist visa. She urged the government to keep Toural out of the United States, going so far as to accuse the other woman of having connections to terrorists.
"She was really trying to protect her turf," Ferman said.
Myra Morton claimed an intruder killed her husband, but investigators said the evidence at their Whitpain Township house didn't point to that.
A police dog didn't find any scent on a patio over which the intruder was said to have escaped, something Ferman described as "highly unusual."
Also, Myra said she was lying in bed next to her husband when he was shot. There was no blood spatter on her, but there was blood on her side of the bed, authorities said.
"She would have been soaked in blood as well, and that did not happen," Ferman said.