PORTLAND, Jan. 2 (UPI) — The father of murder suspect Edward Morris appealed to his fugitive son Thursday to turn himself into authorities and face charges that he murdered his pregnant wife and three small children last month.
Paul Morris appeared at a FBI news conference in Portland to personally appeal to his 37-year-old son, who has not been seen since he bought gasoline in the Seattle suburb of Edmonds on the morning of the Dec. 20 slayings.
“We want you to know that we love you and will continue to stand by you regardless of what happens,” the elder Morris told reporters in Portland despite a growing likelihood that his son was able to slip out of the Pacific Northwest ahead of an intense police dragnet. “We ask you to call 911 from the nearest phone and surrender yourself. If you need us to help you do this, call one of us, and we’ll meet you somewhere and help you through it.”
Morris reassured his son that “God has supported you and cared for you for a long time,” in an apparent appeal to his son’s reportedly devout religious beliefs.
The murders of Renee Morris, 31, and the couple’s three children — Bryant, 10; Alexis 8, and Jonathan 4 — stunned friends and relatives who had considered the family to be close-knit and active in their Portland church despite recent financial difficulties.
The victims were found on the afternoon of Dec. 21 in a secluded state forest near Tillamook in the northwest corner of Oregon, about 40 miles from Portland; they apparently were killed the day before.
Authorities failed to find any sign of Morris in the area, and he was later charged with the murders and with interstate flight to avoid prosecution, a federal charge that brought the FBI into the case.
Despite alerting law enforcement agencies from the Canadian to the Mexican borders and receiving nearly 600 tips from the public, there have been no confirmed sightings of Morris. Edmonds is about 75 miles south of Canada, raising the possibility that Morris was able to cross the border before he became a known wanted man.
“We don’t know where he went from Edmonds,” said Tillamook County Sheriff Todd Anderson, whose department is the lead agency in the investigation.
Portland television station KATU said Thursday there had been a recent unconfirmed report that Morris had been seen at a traffic light in Vancouver, British Columbia. Another theory is that Morris headed for Alaska.
Morris paid cash at the gas station and the night before at a Super 8 motel in The Dalles, Ore., where he registered under an assumed name, indicating he was avoiding the use of credit cards that would generate a computer record of the location where a card was used. Morris’ behavior apparently raised some suspicions of the hotel clerk who wrote down the gray Dodge van’s Oregon license number, WSH 171.
Anderson declined to speculate on how much cash Morris might have with him.
The possibility that Morris had left the United States was another similarity to a case roughly a year ago in which Christian Longo allegedly murdered his wife and three kids in northwest Oregon and then disappeared into Mexico where he hid out for three weeks before being arrested.
“We want to make sure that we keep everyone alert around the world and don’t focus in on any one area,” suggested Charles Matthews, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Portland office. “Both of these confirmed sightings were quite early on, and as with Longo, he could be anywhere in the world.”
(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles.)