Emilie Morris was due to appear in court regarding charges made against her former high school coach when she was found dead in 2014 at her apartment.
An autopsy ruled that the 35-year-old mother of two passed away from asphyxiation. Her manner of death -- it being ruled accidental, suicide or homicide -- was undetermined, People magazine reported. And despite Morris’ determination to seek justice, the case was dismissed because prosecutors said they needed her testimony to move forward.
Now, Morris’ family is coming forward in a new true-crime documentary on Oxygen titled, “The Case Died with Her,” which is based on the original 2018 report by Buzzfeed. The special, hosted by former prosecutor Loni Coombs, features emotional sit-down interviews with both Morris’ mother Joan Morris and younger sister Andrea Morris.
“I think we did everything that we could to communicate that we wanted this to be further investigated,” Andrea told Fox News.
"I reviewed her toxicology report and the alcohol was not at all off the charts," Andrea added. Per People magazine, Morris struggled with depression and alcoholism for years to deal with her pain.
"There was something there, but it wasn’t at a fatal level… We never got a firm answer on what happened to my sister and we want to make sure her voice isn’t ignored," Andrea stated.
Andrea described Morris, who was six years older than her, as “fun-loving and energetic,” the ideal sibling anyone would want.
“She was always someone I looked up to,” Morris described. “She could light up any room and talk to anyone. Hanging out with her was like hanging out with your really cool big sister.”
At age 16, Morris was a cross-country star at Lindbergh High School in St. Louis, Missouri. But the athlete’s sunny demeanor had faded.
“She started to change,” Andrea recalled. “She became a lot more stressed and upset. Emilie was a lot more moody. It was hard for me, especially since I was younger and trying to interpret it. She just seemed like a different person. But I never suspected what was happening.”
It turned out the teen was hiding a dark secret. Morris later alleged that coach James Wilder, then 29, was sexually abusing her. Andrea, who was also a runner in high school, described Wilder as “the cool teacher everyone wanted to be friends with.”
“He was also super outgoing and a bit young for a teacher,” she recalled. “He was very charismatic and engaging. All the kids wanted to be friends with him. He really seemed to fit the mold as someone who cared. He was very admired because of that.”
In 1996 when Morris was a junior, principal David Skillman called her parents and said he received information about inappropriate behavior between the two, Buzzfeed reported. After Joan demanded a meeting, both Wilder and Morris swore nothing happened. Consequently, the adults believed it was gossip created by a jealous student, the outlet shared.
Still, the rumor persisted for years and Morris’ behavior deteriorated, the outlet noted. During her college years, she struggled with depression and bulimia. In 2008, Wilder was arrested for sex abuse allegations involving a different female student. But Morris, who was a happily married mom at the time, “didn’t want to rock the boat” with her own allegations, Joan told the outlet.
At the time, authorities said Wilder was never charged with a crime, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
In 2012, Morris and her husband divorced. Morris' ex was granted sole custody of their children. A year later Morris, who had been struggling with alcoholism for at least three years, worked up the courage to speak out, Buzzfeed shared.
“He never went away as a fixture in her life,” Andrea claimed of Wilder's presence in Morris' life. “I know they kept in touch for a very long time.”
But it was through this ongoing connection that Morris was able to get secret recordings of Wilder allegedly admitting to their inappropriate relationship. Some of those recordings can be heard throughout the Oxygen special.
“I fell to my knees when she told us that she had these recordings and turned it to police,” said Andrea. “It seemed like it was the most stressful, but bravest thing she’s ever done. I remember being just in awe of her actually pulling it off. I didn’t think she would go through with it, but she did. The whole family was blown away. Of course, she was a mess. I know she feared people not believing her. But she seemed a lot more empowered having done this.”
“I know she was really worried about what Wilder would think of her, to be honest,” Andrea added.
In 2013, Wilder was charged with six counts of second-degree statutory sodomy in Morris' case, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The documentary shows Morris appearingd eager to move forward with her life. Andrea, who said her relationship with the elder sibling became “problematic through adulthood,” was yearning to make amends on Thanksgiving 2014.
“I had plans to reconcile with her and make an effort to hang out with her regularly,” she said. “I wanted to offer an olive branch and rekindle our relationship, especially after understanding more of what was going on.”
But the reunion never occurred. On Nov. 4, their father went to Morris’ apartment to check in on her. According to Buzzfeed, she was face down on the bedroom floor with a large trash can pulled over her head. Vomit was found in the plastic lining of the trash can, as well as around her face and neck.
Andrea said that as the family grieved over Morris’ sudden death, they were still hopeful the trial would move forward.
“It hadn’t even crossed my mind that the case would be dropped,” she admitted. “I thought it would absolutely go forward. I remember talking with the detective at the funeral who sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘They have a right to face the accuser. They can’t go forward.’"
"I remember feeling as if I was going to fall over," she continued. "Here I am, at my sister’s funeral. And everything that she worked so hard for was dropped. What kind of justice was this? I still don’t understand it.”
Wilder, now 54, chose not to participate in the Oxygen documentary. He did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment. Andrea said his whereabouts are unknown.
Today, Andrea hopes that the documentary will encourage victims of similar situations to not suffer in silence and speak out.
“I hope the victims understand that this isn’t their fault,” said Andrea. “This is now how I wanted my sister’s story to end, but I am proud of her. And I hope her bravery will empower people to talk about their experiences. Society needs to understand how damaging something like this can be to people’s lives. The signs were there.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
"The Case Died with Her" airs Sunday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. ET on Oxygen.