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Lake accident or attempted murder; jury must decide

Did a Summit woman drug her husband and try to kill him bydriving their Jeep off into Lake Lincoln in October 1998, or was itsimply an accident and the wife’s alleged actions a creation of ahusband still obsessed with the incident?

Did a Summit woman drug her husband and try to kill him bydriving their Jeep off into Lake Lincoln in October 1998, or was itsimply an accident and the wife’s alleged actions a creation of ahusband still obsessed with the incident?

Those are the questions before a Lincoln County jury this weekin the attempted murder trial of Linda Morris, who is accused inthe attempted drowning death of her now-former husband, Bill.

Bill Morris, 58, was the main prosecution witness Monday in thetrial that could conclude today.

The incident began on Oct. 18, 1998, when the Morrises, who hadbeen married since 1995, went to Lake Lincoln to fish. Morris saidhis wife insisted on going to Lake Lincoln even though a trip therethe previous weekend was unsuccessful.

His wife was also “adamant” about fishing near a bridge wherethe Jeep would eventually go into the water later that day, hesaid. While fishing, Linda Morris complained of a leg cramp and gotout of their boat near the bridge, he added.

After returning home, Mrs. Morris said she couldn’t find herdriver’s license and wanted to go back to Lake Lincoln. He saidthey agreed to go after they ate, and his wife prepared him a plateof pasta.

“She said, ‘This might taste a little different because I triedsomething new,'” Morris said.

Around 6:30 p.m., they left and Mrs. Morris got into the Jeep onthe driver’s side. Morris said that was “very unusual” for hiswife.

“She seldom drove at night,” he said.

Traveling north on Interstate 55, Morris said he fell asleepafter seeing a Brookhaven exit sign.

“That’s the last thing I remember until the next day when I wokeup at my house,” he said, adding that he also had flashbacks ofgasping and a feeling of drowning.

At the lake, Mrs. Morris was allegedly blinded by the headlightsof an oncoming vehicle on Sunset Drive and the Jeep went off intothe lake.

Phillip Hurst, who lives about half a mile to a mile from theaccident scene, testified that a wet Mrs. Morris came to his houseto seek help. He said she told him her husband had hit his head andwas in the Jeep in the lake.

Hurst said he and Deputy Frank Coker got Morris out of the Jeepbefore emergency services personnel arrived.

Hurst testified he thought at the time that Bill Morris mighthave been drinking or was mentally handicapped. Coker alsotestified that the man seemed confused and “addle-headed.”

There was conflicting testimony about a desire to not seekmedical treatment for Morris.

Although he was also occupied with tending to the Jeep, Hurstsaid Mrs. Morris told personnel she did not want her husband to goto the hospital. Coker indicated otherwise.

“I believe it was him who said he didn’t want to go to thehospital,” Coker said.

When he awoke at home the next day, Morris said his bed sheetswere wet and he had a pain in his side. After several attempts byhis wife to call the doctor, Morris insisted on going to the McCombhospital emergency room and was hospitalized with pneumonia andfractured ribs.

At first, Morris said he did not think the incident wasintentional, although his wife provided few details about theaccident. From his hospital bed, he called several people to thankthem for their help.

“I didn’t think anything was wrong. I just wanted to know whathappened,” Morris said.

After talking to the people, Morris said he becamesuspicious.

The day after his release, Morris said he was working at homeand found his wife had packed up some boxes. He questioned herabout it; she said she was leaving and her children were comingover to help her move.

About the same time, Morris said his wife had removed $1,500 of$1,800 from a Texas bank account they had. Also, although she hadsaid otherwise, he found out a $1,555 check for appraisal servicesthey were expecting had arrived.

Morris later inspected the Jeep and found both the driver andpassenger side window handles broken off. He said the passengerside handle had been broken in two, but the driver side handle wasnot.

Morris also testified about “$500,000” in accidental deathinsurance policies that had been changed to make his wife theprimary beneficiary instead of his children.

Insurance and 401k plan totals discussed Monday, however,totaled only $310,000. Questioning an alleged motive, defenseattorney Woody Breeland pointed out those totals had never beenincreased during the Morrises’ marriage.

Morris also testified that, when he came home from the hospital,he did not find sleeping or nerve pills that had been prescribed tohis wife in May 1998.

Under cross examination,Morris said he was not stating for afact his wife had given him the pills. However, because of thedrugs’ effects, that could be inferred from the description of hisactions the night of the incident.

“It described exactly how I was told I was acting,” Morrissaid.

In a confusing and confrontational exchange, Breeland and Morristhen discussed a narrative Morris had written about the incidentand statements that Breeland contended were contradictory. At issuewere various statements regarding when Morris knew about thesleeping and nerve pills.

One statement had Morris learning of the pills and reading abouttheir overdose effects when Mrs. Morris got them. In anotherstatement, he said he did not know about the pills until he got aprintout from the pharmacy.

“I didn’t do anything to deliberately confuse anything,” Morrissaid during the lengthy cross examination.

Also regarding insurance,Morris was questioned by Breeland abouta claim he filed for hospitalization coverage.

In the claim, Morris told the company the Jeep incident was anaccident even though he had become suspicious of something elseabout a week earlier, Breeland pointed out. Morris said he couldn’tsay for a fact the incident was something other than an accident,but he had his suspicions.

Breeland asked Morris if he was “obsessing” about the accident.Morris questioned the definition of the word, but indicated theincident had been on his mind.

“I’m still thinking about it,” Morris said.

After the jury was dismissed for the day, prosecution anddefense lawyers argued about the admissibility of Bill Morris’psychological evaluation of moderate depression and medical recordsshowing his taking a prescription drug. The defense indicated thedepression and the drug could have had some effect on Morris whilehe was investigating during the months following the jeepincident.

“All we’re after is the diagnosis and the medication,” Breelandtold Judge Mike Smith while Morris was also outside thecourtroom.

Smith said Breeland would be able to ask Morris questions aboutthe medical factors. However, it seemed unclear whether the recordswould be admitted.

Morris was expected to conclude his testimony Tuesday morningand then the defense would begin its case. There were indicationsthe jury would get the case this afternoon.