tampabay.com

Old jail mate testifies at trial for 2005 slaying

By JAMAL THALJI
Published May 31, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - Frederick John Morgan was quick with a correction, an old cellmate testified Wednesday, whenever his name came up in jail.

"It's not Morgan, " he would say. "It's Murder."

That's what Morgan is on trial for this week. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of the 2005 stabbing death of Lynn Marie Vincent.

The prosecution said Morgan wanted to rob Vincent of drugs. Morgan has repeatedly said it wasn't him.

But felon-turned-state witness Charles Asher told jurors that's not what Morgan said when they shared a jail pod last year.

"He bragged, " Asher said of Morgan. "He said 'I almost cut the b----'s head off.' "

In the front row, Adriann DeGrandchamp bowed her head at the mention of her mother.

Day two of the trial saw the prosecution amass more evidence against Morgan, 46.

A detective showed jurors the yard glove the state says was left behind on Vincent's body in her bedroom - a glove the prosecution said has more of Morgan's blood on it than the victim's.

"Can you tell how long Ms. Vincent would have lived after the last stab wound?" Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis asked Dr. Susan Ignacio, associate medical examiner for the District 6 office.

"Minutes, " she replied.

Asher is serving a five-year sentence for robbing a Zephyrhills bank in 2000 he wasn't arrested until 2005. He said he received no special treatment for his testimony.

He told the jury that Morgan said he stabbed Vincent more than 40 times, threw the knife over a New Port Richey bridge, accidentally left the bloody glove behind after washing his hands and threatened harm to anyone who could testify against him.

"If he could bond out, " Asher said, "he would go do something about them."

Morgan decided not to testify. Defense attorney Keith Hammond rested his case after recalling one state witness. His struggle to defend his client can best be summed up by this admission to the court:

"I'm having trouble finding witnesses who are legally sane."

One witness Hammond wanted to call to refute Asher's testimony is facing an attempted murder charge and wants the courts to declare him mentally incompetent.

Another witness once blamed Vincent's murder on another but might have a history of mental illness, Hammond said.

Closing arguments start at 9 a.m. today.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.