ST. LOUIS – The man accused of killing a 3-year-old Missouri girl has a criminal record in Arkansas for threatening to blow up the factory where he worked, according to court records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, the small town of Senath, Mo., prepares to say goodbye to Breeann Rodriguez with a memorial service on Friday and funeral on Saturday.
Records from Greene County, Ark., show that Shawn Morgan of Senath pleaded no contest in 2004 to a misdemeanor charge of making a terroristic threat. He served one year of probation and was fined $1,000.
Before the plea agreement, Morgan was originally charged with felony threatening to cause a catastrophe for leaving notes in a restroom stall at Prestolite Wire Corp. in Paragould, Ark., in May 2002.
"Notice if Eddie, Britt, Amy, & Gary B. aren't fire soon I will leave a bomb and blow everybody up I'm not joking Take me seriosly," read a note on May 7, 2002. Two days later, another note in the restroom read, "Bomb baby boom."
Co-workers suspected Morgan. He denied writing the notes but agreed to give handwriting samples. Police said his handwriting style and misspelling of some words matched the note.
Now, Morgan, 43, faces a much larger crime. If convicted of first-degree murder, the husband and father of three could get the death penalty. His next court appearance is Aug. 30 and he remains jailed without bond.
Breeann was reported missing on Aug. 6. She was last seen on that Saturday riding her small pink bike with training wheels. Almost immediately, the FBI joined dozens of local and state police and hundreds of volunteers in the search.
The Rodriguez family lives on Ode Johnson Street. So does Morgan. Neighbors said investigators awoke them at 2 a.m. to search their homes the day after Breeann went missing.
Authorities haven't said what led them to key on Morgan, but he allegedly confessed. He was arrested Saturday.
According to a probable cause statement, Morgan said he found Breeann on the ladder of his above-ground backyard swimming pool on Aug. 6, took her inside his home and suffocated her with a white plastic trash bag, saying it "felt like it took an hour" to kill her.
Why he allegedly did it remains a mystery. Dunklin County Sheriff Bob Holder and prosecutor Stephen Sokoloff on Thursday declined to discuss details of the case. Morgan did not yet have an attorney.
Breeann's body was found Tuesday on the banks of a drainage ditch a few miles outside of Senath, a town of 1,600 residents near the Arkansas border.
A community memorial service is planned for 5:30 p.m. Friday at the town park. City collector Kathy Morgan said doves will be released in the park where hundreds of candles still remain from a vigil during the search for Breeann. Several hundred people are expected to attend.
Kathy Morgan said yellow ribbons adorn City Hall and many homes in Senath as the community tries to come to grips with the horrific crime. Her husband is a cousin of the suspect, and she also lives on Ode Johnson Street. She said she feels sorry for both families — the Rodriguezes and the Morgans.
Despite his record in Arkansas, "Nobody would have ever suspected him of this," Kathy Morgan said of Shawn Morgan. "He's a shy guy. He's always working. Neighbors went over to his house to swim."
Breeann's funeral is Saturday, and she'll be buried at Senath Cemetery.