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Deputies: Teenager slit throat of relative

The wounded youth bled and suffered as his stepbrother watched, authorities say.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- A Zephyrhills High School senior cut his stepbrother's throat, watched him bleed in agony for hours on the front lawn and invented a burglary story as an alibi, Pasco County sheriff's deputies said.

Joey Dennis Morton, 18, is charged with attempted first-degree murder in the early Friday morning knifing on Faux Pas Road in the southeast Pasco neighborhood of Crystal Springs.

Morton's 18-year-old stepbrother, Jacob Dean Leab, was in critical condition at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa on Friday after surgery to repair damage to his throat. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office refused to comment on the reason for the attack, blacking out references to a motive from Morton's arrest report.

"It was a domestic dispute. What it was about, we're not saying," sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said.

Morton's mother and his stepfather were asleep in the house at the time of the attack.

Deputies said Morton told them this happened:

About 12:30 a.m. Friday, Morton said he snuck into his stepbrother's bedroom. After punching Leab in the face and head, Morton grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Leab in the throat.

Deputies said Morton carried his injured stepbrother outside the gray modular home and dropped him across the washboard-like dirt street out front. Morton went inside and tried to clean up the blood. He stuffed clothes, the knife and other evidence into a plastic trash bag.

Returning outside, Morton hauled his stepbrother back to the family's well-maintained front lawn and slit Leab's throat with a pocketknife. He tossed the knife into the trash bag.

After hiding the bag in a ditch several houses down the street, Morton returned to watch his stepbrother bleed and suffer, then ran inside to wake his mother and stepfather, deputies said. He summoned police with a 911 call about 3 a.m., 21/2 hours after the initial attack.

Deputies said Morton initially told them he had fallen asleep on the sofa while watching television, Leab having gone to bed at 10:40 p.m., then woke up after midnight to go to the bathroom and found his stepbrother bleeding outdoors. Morton blamed burglars for the attack.

Although deputies found no sign of burglary, they found a trail of blood leading to Leab's bedroom, where blood had pooled on the floor and splattered on the wall.

"At first we thought it was either a suicide or a burglary," sheriff's spokesman Doll said. "But things didn't quite add up, and Morton admitted to it."

Morton, listed on the arrest report as a senior at Zephyrhills High School, was being held without bail in Land O'Lakes jail on Friday.

No occupation or school was listed for Leab.

On Friday afternoon, three people sitting outside Morton's house on Faux Pas Road declined to talk about the attack.

The neighborhood of mostly doublewide mobile homes, with a smattering of other, permanent houses, is about 2 miles east of State Road 39.

The neighborhood is overshadowed by the towering twin smokestacks and heaps of phosphate and lime rock from a nearby plant.

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