SANTA ANA — A paroled three-time rapist was brought back to Orange County from his Northern California hide-out Tuesday to face charges that he murdered a 23-year-old Huntington Beach woman he met last Thursday at a local nightclub.
A crowd of about 100 onlookers jeered and booed as Edward Patrick Morgan Jr., 28, of Orange shuffled off a chartered, twin-engined airplane at Fullerton Municipal Airport, wearing a jail-issued jumpsuit and shackles, and was guided to a waiting patrol car by the Orange police who had gone to arrest him.
Meanwhile, a Huntington Beach woman who says she was the victim of a fourth, unpunished rape by Morgan said Tuesday that last week's slaying would never have occurred had Orange County prosecutors been more vigorous in pursuing her case. "I feel like somebody is dead because of this," said the woman, who asked that her identity not be revealed.
Morgan was arrested by Huntington Beach police in 1993 after the woman reported being raped, but the Orange County district attorney's office declined to take the rape case to court, preferring instead to let parole officials send him back to prison for the remaining 12 months of his sentence for his third rape conviction.
The case has angered many--including Morgan's other victims and some police officers--who say he is a sexual predator who took advantage of a criminal justice system that seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt at nearly every turn. It has also renewed calls for tougher punishment for sex offenders.
Seeking to elude a statewide manhunt that was launched after the murder was discovered last Friday, Morgan fled over the weekend to the small Northern California town of Quincy, where he had gone into hiding with an old girlfriend and a former cellmate from Folsom State Prison, both of whom were taken into custody for harboring a fugitive.
When he is formally arraigned in court today, Morgan could be facing a capital murder charge, if prosecutors have determined that the 23-year-old woman he is accused of murdering was also raped.
Police and prosecutors have declined to say whether they have evidence that Leanora Annette Wong was the victim of a sexual assault before she was savagely beaten to death at the rear of a parking lot across the street from the Orange nightclub where she went with a girlfriend Thursday.
Orange Police Lt. Timm Browne said Morgan has been linked to the crime by fingerprints and witnesses who saw him with the victim. He said a video security camera near the club also captured some information that might be helpful, but he declined to elaborate.
Tamara Mason, co-coordinator of the Newport Beach chapter of NOW, said the whole case "makes me so sick. Sex crimes against women are not taken seriously."
But one woman who plans to remain on Morgan's side is Sonya Marvin, 22, of Quincy, Calif., whose postcard inviting Morgan to visit her in Quincy was found in his Orange apartment and gave police the clue that led to his capture.
"I love him. That's all you need to know," blurted Marvin, as she was released on her own recognizance from a Quincy jail Tuesday.
Later, speaking through the screen door at the white clapboard home where she allegedly helped hide Morgan, Marvin said she could not believe the charges against Morgan. No, he never struck her. Yes, he was always kind to her. No, he never showed signs that he preyed on women.
The two had even talked of marriage.
She said she had no idea Morgan tried to evade police and would not discuss the case against her.
Also arrested was Marvin's brother-in-law, Travis Burhop, 21, who was Morgan's prison cellmate. Marvin said he is wrongly being dragged into the case.
She said she and Morgan have been in close contact since meeting about a year ago. She and her sister, Sabrina, visited Morgan and his cellmate in prison. Sonya Marvin said she once visited Morgan in Orange County.
Described by those who know her as a "churchgoing, good kid," Marvin said she is "scared and confused" but has no plans to abandon Morgan. She said she loves him.
"Regardless of what happens, you can't turn your back on love. You can't. I'm going to stand by him," she said, adding, "But I'll take care of myself, too."
Morgan's history of sexual assaults dates back to 1984, when he pleaded guilty to two unrelated rape cases, one a rape involving "force and fear," and a second that was reduced to a statutory rape charge of unlawful sex with a minor, because the victim was 16 years old, as was the first victim.
Prosecutors allowed Morgan to plead guilty to less serious charges in the second case after questions were raised about their ability to win a conviction at trial.
Morgan was again convicted on a reduced charge of statutory rape in 1991, after being arrested for raping and beating a 16-year-old La Palma teen after meeting her at a party several months earlier.