Bad Apples

Is a teacher's effort to free two convicted killers a rush to bad judgment?

He told her they were going to "take care of business." Kelly put his .22-caliber revolver into a holster and harness. He was wearing a pair of black gloves, as he often did, she testified.

The three drove about 60 miles to Longview and directly to the Morgans' trailer near Spring Hill, arriving at about 5 p.m., she said. In the yard outside the trailer, near Devin's swing sets, Cummings saw the Morgans' blue Pontiac Catalina, a truck and another car.

Kelly told Wilson, a childhood friend of Jerry Morgan's, to go to the trailer door.

Donna Strong, a journalism teacher at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, is engaged in a fight for justice, she says. Not everyone agrees.
Charles Corsentino III
Donna Strong, a journalism teacher at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, is engaged in a fight for justice, she says. Not everyone agrees.

"I want you to go up to the door because you know I'm not allowed there," Cummings recalled Kelly saying.

With the truck running, Wilson went to the door and knocked. The trailer door opened and Cummings said she saw a man's arm but no face. Wilson stood on the small front porch and talked. Wilson kept looking back at the truck and motioning with his hands. He had an angry expression on his face, she said.

He came back to the truck, and they backed out of the Morgans' driveway, stopped at a convenience store for beer and then went to Kelly's mother's house in Longview. At about dusk, they returned to the truck and drove to a back road.

Cummings recalled using a small flashlight to draw three syringes full of methamphetamine for them.

Wilson was disoriented briefly from taking more of the drug than he was used to, but he was alert after that, Cummings said. The three of them "rode for a little bit longer."

"And then, Al asked Ronnie if he was ready. And Ronnie goes, 'I guess.' And we went back to the Morgans'. It was later though, and it was almost dark already, pretty dark."

They pulled up to the trailer for a second time and turned the truck's engine off, she said. Kelly took a packet of methamphetamine powder from his T-shirt pocket and gave it to Cummings, she said.

"He said, 'Hold onto this. We'll be out in a little bit. Play the radio. You can listen to the radio.'"

She didn't know the Morgans and thought Kelly and Wilson might be at the trailer to get drugs.

"I was turning the channels, trying to find something. I heard a gunshot," she said. She turned off the radio, got out of the truck and went up to the trailer.

"I heard a baby crying. I mean there was some screaming," she said. She heard Kelly yelling, "Shut your fucking mouth, bitch."

She went into the trailer and saw that Kelly had Brenda Morgan pinned against the hallway wall with one arm against her back. He told her to "shut her fucking mouth," and he was laughing, Cummings said.

Devin was sitting on the living room floor, crying. Wilson was standing to the right of the front door at a kitchen counter that separated the kitchen from the living room. Wilson, who did not have a gun that night, according to Cummings, had a "confused or shocked" look on his face and had his hands in his pockets. Jerry Morgan was already dead or nearly so, lying on the floor in Devin's bedroom with multiple gunshot wounds.

Cummings said she went to Devin and picked him up.

Brenda was still cussing at Kelly. "He liked that," Cummings said, "and he laughed, and he shot her."

Kelly shot Brenda in her neck, and she fell down onto her back, Cummings said. Brenda was still conscious when Kelly picked up her bare feet and started dragging her down the hall. Brenda pleaded for help. Cummings put the crying Devin onto a chair and followed Kelly as he dragged Brenda to the back bedroom. Jerry Morgan was lying there, faceup and apparently dead, she said. Brenda was also faceup and drowning in her own blood. Cummings went to the bathroom and got a towel, which she put under Brenda Morgan's head.

Cummings remembered that Brenda was wearing brown bell-bottom pants and had bare feet. Cummings testified that she remembered the pants because she recalled thinking that bell-bottom pants were out of style and the feet because she thought Brenda's feet were unusually small. She returned to the living room and picked up Devin, she testified. Seconds later, Kelly appeared behind her.

"What the fuck are you doing?" he asked.

"I said, 'I want to take the baby and put it at least on somebody's doorstep.' The baby was crying."

"Please let me take the baby," Cummings said she begged. "I asked him again. I was going to run with it, but I was afraid he would be shot anyway. That's why I didn't run out with him. I said, 'He's crying.' Al said, 'There's only one way to shut a fucking kid up.'"

Kelly grabbed one of Devin's arms and yanked him from Cummings.

"I was holding on him tight. He did pull him hard, and I was afraid he was going to hurt his arms, not thinking he was going to shoot him anyway," she said.

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