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Couple held on murder charge

Deputies say the man beat and strangled the victim while the girlfriend suffocated the dying man.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001

PORT RICHEY -- A man was beaten, suffocated and strangled in his apartment Tuesday night, authorities said, and the man's ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend were charged Thursday with his murder.

The victim's ex-girlfriend even held a pillow over the dying man's face as her boyfriend strangled him, said Pasco County sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers.

Detectives didn't release the name of the slain man on Thursday, pending notification of next of kin.

The man, who was in his 30s, was found dead in his living room in an apartment at 8918 Miguel Place. The one-story apartment complex is off San Miguel Road, about an eighth of a mile from Little Road and across the street from a busy shopping plaza.

On Tuesday night, Powers said, Samantha Jane Beach told her boyfriend, Joseph R. Morales, that the victim wanted to fight him.

Beach and Morales drove to the victim's apartment, and he let the two inside.

Morales and the victim began fighting and Morales beat the other man unconscious, Powers said. Then, Morales directed Beach to hold a pillow over the victim's face while he strangled him, Powers said.

Powers would not say why the two were fighting, or how detectives were led to the couple.

Morales and Beach were charged with first-degree murder.

Beach, who is 26, was charged Thursday afternoon, Powers said. She was arrested at noon at Community Hospital in New Port Richey because she was involuntarily committed to psychiatric care under the Baker Act by another police agency on Thursday morning, Powers said. Beach will be taken to the county jail when she is released from the hospital.

Beach was arrested by Pasco deputies in November for driving under the influence, Powers said. According to records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, she had been arrested six times since 1995, mostly in Pinellas County, on charges ranging from writing worthless checks to battery and failing to appear in court.

Authorities did not have a recent address for Beach, who is an unemployed waitress. But public records showed that she once lived at Miguel Place apartments, and in the early-to-mid 1990s had a Clearwater address.

Morales, 28, was arrested Thursday evening at a friend's house and was booked into the county jail in Land O'Lakes, where he is being held without bail.

Morales, whose last known address was 5303 Reflections Club Drive in Tampa, has a Florida criminal record that includes arrests for grand theft, burglary, forgery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Those arrests happened in March 2000. He is an unemployed laborer.

Detectives, crime scene technicians and the Pasco-Pinellas medical examiner spent several hours in and around the Miguel Place apartment. Some detectives appeared to be searching the nearby bushes, and at one point, yellow crime scene tape was draped over a Dumpster.

Most of the people who live in the apartments are retirees, but in recent years, younger renters have moved in. On Thursday, residents stood in small groups in the parking lot and were surprised to hear of the homicide -- but were quick to say that they didn't know who the victim was.

"Twenty years ago, all of Pasco County was quiet, no trouble," said Marie Davis, a 73-year-old from Philadelphia who has lived at Miguel Place for two years. "Now it's robbing houses and killing people. It has changed. Really changed."

-- Tamara Lush is the police reporter in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6245. Her e-mail address is

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