October 12, 2000 in Houston, Texas…
Mary Henderson Morris, 48 years old, left her home and headed to work at the Spring Valley Chase Bank where she was a loan officer. She never got there.
Her husband, Jay Morris, tried to contact her throughout the day, but didn’t hear from her. He was getting worried. This was unusual behavior.
About 10:20am, smoke was reported to the Baytown Fire Department, a small suburb of Houston and just 3 miles from the home of Jay and Mary. Believing the smoke to be from a controlled burn, the fire department did not investigate.
At approximately 5pm, a man driving an ATV in the area stumbled across the charred remains of a Chevrolet Lumina and called the police. When they responded, they found the unrecognizable body of Mary in the driver’s seat. They were only able to confirm her identity through a tooth found on the scene.
The body had been soaked in gasoline and lit on fire. The police were able to determine that only Mary’s wedding ring and purse had been taken. Other jewelry and valuables had been left behind.
Everyone reported Mary to be kind and hardworking. No one could think of a single person who would want to hurt her.
On October 13, 2000, a call came into The Houston Chronicle. The man simply said, “They got the wrong Mary Morris.” No one had any idea what this could possibly mean until three days later.
On October 16, 2000, Mary McGinnis Morris, 39 years old, was found dead from a gun shot wound in her Dodge Intrepid less than 25 miles from the site where the first Mary had been found. She was also beaten in the attack.
Mary McGinnis was a nurse practitioner. Like Mary, she was also married and also had a daughter, but unlike Mary, people may have wanted to harm Mary McGinnis.
The message reportedly left with the newspaper had people thinking that maybe Mary had been murdered by a hit man who missed the mark. Perhaps, Mary McGinnis was the real target.
Fingers were very quickly pointed at Mary McGinnis’s husband, Mike Morris. Mike was the one that reported her missing when she didn’t return home on October 15, 2000. Their marriage was strained. The couple had recently moved from West Virginia were Mary McGinnis had accused Mike of infidelity. Since moving to Houston, he still hadn’t found a job and money was getting tight. Mike adamantly denies having anything to do with his wife’s murder.
Clues that pointed in Mike’s direction included the gun used to kill Mary. Shortly before her death, Mary was concerned for her safety. She felt threatened by a nurse that she worked with and had asked Mike for a gun to keep under the seat of her car. She asked him to teach her how to shoot it and to load it for her.
That gun, which was registered to Mike, was found on the seat next to Mary McGinnis’s body and was positively identified as the murder weapon. Police have stated that they believe the gun was left to make it appear as though Mary McGinnis committed suicide. Those that study the case have wondered who, besides Mike, would have even known the gun was there?
The man that frightened Mary McGinnis at work was a nurse by the name of Duane Young. She told Mike, coworkers and friends that she came into her office one day to find her picture frames turned around and a note that said, “death to her.” She accused Duane of the threat.
Duane has been very vocal on social media denying his involvement and placing the blame not only on Mike, but also on Mary McGinnis’s close friend Laurie Gemmell, who spoke to Mary McGinnis shortly before she was found dead. Duane was the author of two different blogs where he stated, and attempted to provide evidence of, his innocence. I was unable to find either of those blogs on the internet, but I was able to find two different message boards where he continues to denounce his involvement and blame Laurie and Mike, among others. Those message boards can be found here:
On Causes.com (a site created by Mary McGinnis’s daughter), Duane uses his real name. On sitcomsonline.com (a thread about the 2002 Unsolved Mysteries episode that featured this story), he goes by the name Koala.
Some reports say that Duane was fired when Mary McGinnis reported the threat to her boss, others say that Duane was tired of the accusations and quit.
The day of Mary McGinnis’s death, she was out running errands. She went to work for awhile, went to the grocery store, gave Laurie a flu shot and ran to the local drugstore. While at the drugstore, she called Laurie and told her that a man in the store was making her feel uncomfortable. Laurie asked if she was okay. Mary McGinnis said that she was going to run to work, sign out of her computer and head home.
The next phone call made from Mary McGinnis’s cell phone was 12 minutes later to 911. The recording of this call has never been released to the public, but police indicated that she was attacked while on the phone and her last moments were recorded by police dispatch.
Oddly enough, another phone call was made to Mary Mcginnis’s cell phone after her death, but before her body was discovered. The call was from her husband. Phone records indicate that the call was answered and lasted for 4 minutes. Mike denies having spoken to anyone during this call. He claims that, distraught because he did not know where his wife was, he called her cell phone and let it ring for 4 minutes. Police and her cell phone carrier deny that this is true, because the call would not have registered as completed if no one had picked up. Mike claims that it is a computer error that caused the call to be registered as completed. Many people believe that Mike made this call and the killer picked it up. They alleged that the two talked to confirm that Mary McGinnis was, in fact, dead possibly because the killer had missed the mark the first time.
The company that Mary McGinnis worked from confirmed to police that she had a sizable life insurance policy with the them with Mike as the beneficiary.
The public was quick to link the death of Mary and Mary McGinnis Morris, but police have stated that they have no reason to believe that the deaths of these two women, by the same name, in the same city, less than a week apart, is anything but a coincidence.
One thing that might have linked the two crimes was that Mike reported that a ring had been stolen from the vehicle, just like in Mary’s murder. Some believed that this was proof that the hit man would offer to prove that the deed had been done and that the correct person had been killed.
Months later, Mike’s daughter (from a previous relationship) was seen wearing the ring that he had reported as missing. When asked about it, Mike stated that he had found the ring in his home and had forgotten to inform the police.
In a strange twist to these stories, Mary’s husband, Jay, was informed that $2000 worth of phone calls had been billed to a phone card owned by his wife. The police traced the card to a 16 year old girl living in Galveston, Texas. She said that she found the card in a purse that her neighbor had given her. The neighbor said that she found the purse in a parking lot. Mary’s family and friends said that it was not a purse that was ever owned by Mary.
Shortly after the incident with the purse, Jay began receiving calls from an unidentified number. The male caller would ask for Mary. Jay, not knowing what to say, told him that Mary wasn’t home. After speaking with police, Jay told the caller that Mary could be reached by calling another number. He gave the caller the number of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. The caller responded, “Oh, yeah, right.” He hung up and has the calls have stopped. The calls were traced to an apartment complex, but the caller has never been identified.
In 2015, Mary’s daughter, Marilyn Blalock, and Mary McGinnis’s sister, Stephanie Loar, met while taping an episode of The Montel William’s Show that detailed the case. The two have built a close friendship and Marilyn moved to Connecticut, close to where Stephanie lives. The women say that the tragedy brought them together. They feel like they lost a loved one, but gained a new family.
A video summary of this week’s post can be found at