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Man Accused In Wesleyan Student's Death Pleads Not Guilty, Waives Probable Cause Hearing
Stephen P. Morgan, accused of gunning down Johanna Justin-Jinich at a bookstore near Wesleyan University last month, pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a probable cause hearing Tuesday in Superior Court.
State's Attorney Timothy J. Liston also filed two additional charges: first-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias and carrying a pistol without a permit.
Morgan's lawyer Richard R. Brown said that he and his partner John Maxwell met with Morgan twice and discussed the merits of proceeding with the probable cause hearing and that Morgan decided that he would waive it.
Judge Patrick J. Clifford questioned Morgan about his decision, explaining that he has a right to a hearing.
Under Connecticut law, a person accused of a crime that could lead to life in prison is entitled to a hearing in which a judge hears evidence and decides whether it is reasonable to believe the person accused of the crime committed it. A finding of probable cause enables the prosecution to continue.
Morgan, wearing a green prison jumpsuit, was unexpressive during the proceedings. He did not acknowledge members of his family, who had traveled to Middletown to offer their support.
Also in court Tuesday, Liston agreed to provide Brown with the evidence the state has amassed against Morgan.
Asked about the possibility of an insanity defense, Brown said, "We are considering all defenses available, which would include mental health defenses." Brown said it would be premature to discuss any specific defense until he has reviewed the state's evidence.
Justin-Jinich, a 21-year-old Wesleyan junior, had been harassed and stalked by Morgan in the past, police say. A warrant charging Morgan with Justin-Jinich's killing recounts in detail how police said Morgan carried out the attack on the Timnath, Colo., woman. Police said she was shot several times in the head and body with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol while she worked in the cafe at Broad Street Books.
The May 6 shooting prompted a nearly two-day campus lockdown and nationwide search for Morgan, who, according to a New York City police report, allegedly threatened Justin-Jinich in 2007, when they both attended a New York University summer program.
Morgan, 29, a former Navy petty officer, turned himself in to police a day after the shooting. Morgan walked into a Meriden convenience store sometime before 10 p.m. May 7, bought a smoothie and asked a clerk for a phone so he could call police.
The warrant shed little light on the relationship between Morgan and Justin-Jinich. Her father, Daniel Jinich, told detectives his daughter was "having problems with a male stalking her" in 2007. The affidavit cites the New York City Police Department report saying Morgan was harassing and threatening Justin-Jinich through calls and e-mails.
According to the affidavit, James Morgan told police he last saw his son on May 5 at 11 p.m. On May 6, Stephen Morgan traveled to Connecticut in a 2001 Nissan and checked into Room 206 at the Best Way Inn in Middlefield.
That same day, Morgan shared his thoughts in a composition notebook he kept in a computer bag. Morgan wrote about "seeing all the beautiful and smart people" at Wesleyan, according to the affidavit. "I think it okay to kill Jews, and go on a killing spree at this school."
And then he mentions one Jewish person in particular, the warrant states.
"Kill Johanna. She must Die."
About 1 p.m., May 6, witnesses at Broad Street Books reported hearing loud "popping" noises and seeing a man wearing what looked like an ill-fitting wig, a baseball cap and eyeglasses running from the first floor to the basement.
Steven Hebenstriet, the general manager of the store, told police he saw the shooter "do a somersault and then jump off" a conveyor belt in the basement. At one point, the men came face to face. The gunman pointed the gun at Hebenstriet and warned: "Don't say anything or I'll shoot."
Morgan shed his disguise before police arrived, according to the warrant, and talked briefly to Middletown police Officer William Porter outside the store. When questioned, Morgan gave his name and told the officer he was from Boulder, Colo. Police took his information and let him go.
Inside the store, Justin-Jinich lay seriously wounded behind the cafe sales counter, "moaning and shaking." She was taken to Middlesex Hospital, where she later was pronounced dead.
Police found a wig, eyeglasses and a black T-shirt with a handgun wrapped inside it in the building. Outside, Morgan's car was still in the parking lot, the affidavit states. Inside the car, police found a handgun case and ammunition.
Early Wednesday morning, Massachusetts police went to the Morgan family's home in Marblehead, Mass., where Morgan's father identified his son as the man carrying a firearm in a surveillance photo taken at the store at the time of the shooting.
James Morgan told police his son was a quiet loner who had few friends.
"James said that his son kept a journal and he has known him to make anti-Jewish comments," the affidavit states.