SANTA ANA — In filing charges that would make Edward Patrick Morgan eligible for the death penalty, prosecutors disclosed for the first time Wednesday that the 23-year-old Huntington Beach woman whom the three-time rapist is accused of murdering was also sexually assaulted.
Morgan, 28, made his first court appearance here since his capture Monday in the small Northern California town of Quincy, where he had fled over the weekend in an attempt to elude a search that was launched after the victim's body was discovered Friday.
As he stood before Central Orange County Municipal Judge Barbara (Tam) Nomoto to hear the charges against him, Morgan displayed no emotion. The judge ordered that he be held without bail until his June 10 arraignment.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Lewis R. Rosenblum said that Leonora Wong, 23, was sexually assaulted with a foreign object and that her body was so mangled and mutilated that authorities have had difficulty conducting the usual rape tests. One law enforcement source who declined to be identified said authorities were still trying to find the object used to mutilate Wong.
Witnesses said Wong and Morgan met Thursday night at an Orange nightclub, where Wong had gone with a girlfriend. Her body was discovered at the rear of a parking lot across the street from the nightclub. Authorities said she suffered severe upper body and pelvic injuries.
Police said Morgan had been linked to the crime by fingerprints, witnesses who saw him with the victim, and other evidence, including a security camera mounted on a nearby building.
Police and prosecutors have not yet discussed what evidence the video camera may have captured.
The case has struck a nerve with many who believe the legal system failed again and again when it came to Morgan, who has been accused of raping young Orange County women four times in the past decade.
When he was flown back to Orange County from Northern California on Tuesday, a crowd of about 100 angry onlookers booed and jeered as he was escorted from the chartered airplane that delivered him to Orange County authorities at the Fullerton Municipal Airport.
In court Wednesday was Donna Renee Tatum, 28, of Ontario, who is accused of harboring Morgan by driving him to Northern California, Rosenblum said. One of Tatum's friends who was in court, however, said Tatum feared that Morgan would kill her if she did not help him leave the area.
In two of the three rape complaints that were formally filed against Morgan, the criminal justice system allowed him off on less serious charges--statutory rape--and in a fourth case, he was not prosecuted. Instead, the Orange County district attorney's office declined to prosecute and allowed Morgan to be returned to prison for the remaining 12 months of his prison sentence for his third rape conviction.
Orange County prosecutors said they did the best they could, but added that many of the cases were weak and raised questions about the credibility of the victims.
Morgan also narrowly avoided yet another possible parole revocation within days of Wong's murder. He tested positive for cocaine May 10 and the results were completed by May 17, but Morgan's parole officer did not have evidence that he had violated the terms of his parole by using drugs until authorities were already searching for him in connection with the slaying, said Tip Kindel, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.
Kindel said Morgan had passed several urine and other drug tests since his release from prison in late March, but it is likely his parole would have been revoked after the urine test.
"With that kind of a background as a sex offender and a drug user, it is likely he would have been taken back into custody immediately," said Kindel, who said his office is investigating the delay in reporting the drug test results and implementing a new notification system to make sure it does not happen again.