Growing Up Fatherless

No leads in 2011 shooting of dad with three kids

A trip to the Pima County Fair last week brought both joy and despair to Vicki Morgan.

The joy came from the beaming smiles of her three grandchildren, whom she rarely sees nowadays.

But looking into their eyes also brought Morgan despair, a reminder she'd never see their father—and her only son—Jesse Morgan again.

"I live my son every day," said Vicki Morgan, whose daily routine for the past year involves passing out fliers throughout the city in hopes someone will know who killed Jesse. "I'm not giving up."

Jesse was shot to death just over a year ago, on April 3, 2011, in a westside park just up the street from where he lived with his pregnant new wife and his two children from a previous relationship. He was 24.

Initially investigated as a gang-related homicide by Tucson police because of Jesse's past gang ties, the case has hit a dead end, with no new leads in months.

"I talk to the detective every week," Vicki said. "He has no clues. Some guy on a bike found him."

Why Jesse was in Vista del Pueblo Park after 3 a.m. is somewhat of a mystery. Vicki said Jesse's wife, Adelina Morgan, initially said Jesse had gone outside to smoke a cigarette and presumably walked up the street to the small strip park along San Marcos Boulevard between Mission Road and La Cholla Boulevard.

Vicki later learned that Jesse and Adelina had gotten in an argument earlier that night, likely the result of his coming home at 1:30 a.m.

"They were arguing and he went to the park to blow off steam," Vicki said. "He didn't have his phone or anything."

Adelina Morgan declined to be interviewed for this story.

Police have determined Jesse was shot sometime after 3:30 a.m., but from there, the case has run cold.

The gang angle was explored, Vicki said, because Jesse ran with gangs at a younger age. She said that part of his life had been over for three years, a change that accelerated when Jesse was shot in the back in an apparent argument over a woman.

"He straightened up after that," Vicki said. "He wasn't smoking weed anymore. He got a job; he was going to school. He even got custody of his kids."

Jesse's wife gave birth to his third child three weeks after his death. Last week's trip to the fair was only the second time Vicki has seen her newest grandchild, who turned a year old on Monday, April 30. She said she has been granted grandparent visitation rights from the court, but otherwise the relationship between her and Jesse's wife is strained.

Evidence of this can be seen in Pima County Superior Court records, where Vicki and Adelina Morgan filed petitions for restraining orders against each other in 2010.

"I'm really close to my grandbabies, but (Jesse's) wife tried to keep me from them," Vicki said. "But he'd been coming over to see me without her knowing."

Jesse's choice to live in the San Marcos neighborhood near Cholla High School baffled Vicki, as well as Jesse's friends, because the area was considered the turf of a gang that was a rival of Jesse's old crew. To this day, she wonders if that contributed to his death.

"I know he had a past, and sometimes our past haunts us, but he didn't deserve this," Vicki said. "Whoever this person is, it's really awful they get to still walk on the street. I want justice for my son."

Vicki continues to post fliers all over town, from a grocery store on the westside up to the Tucson Mall. Somewhere, someday, she hopes, someone will know something.

"That's all I can do for my son now," she said.

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