Police suspect homicide in case of missing Montgomery man

Montgomery County police detective Rod Stephens makes a plea to the media and community in the hopes that someone will be able to help solve the case of John J. Morris Jr., missing since July, 2007.
By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 12, 2010

Madeline Morris, 69 and in a wheelchair, and John Morris, 76, with Parkinson's disease, know they're not going to be around forever. What they want to learn, above all else, is what happened to their son after he disappeared in Montgomery County three years ago.

"That would make us go in peace," Madeline Morris said Thursday by phone from their home in Manchester Township, N.J.

County detectives are stumped, and on Thursday, they announced a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Police say that because the body of John J. Morris Jr. has not been found, the idea that he committed suicide is growing less likely. And since he has not called his parents, which he did regularly before disappearing, the chances that he started a new life somewhere are remote.

Detectives are increasingly concerned that someone killed Morris, but they have no suspects.

Morris grew up a happy, smiling boy who started to drift off in class during the fourth grade, the first signs of the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder that would affect him the rest of his life, his mother said. He eventually moved to Washington and began a longtime relationship with an older man.

In July 2007, after a contentious 14-year relationship, the pair split up, according to police. At the time, Morris, 37, stayed in a house that the older man leased in the 24000 block of Whites Ferry Road, which is in the Dickerson and Poolesville area of the relatively rural western part of Montgomery County.

Morris was last seen by a neighbor around 11 p.m. July 30, 2007; he was at the end of a long driveway and appeared to be talking on a cellphone. It wasn't until three weeks later that his mother reported him missing.

"That sort of got us behind the eight ball," Detective Rod Stephens said Thursday.

Detectives found Morris's truck, with New Jersey tags, in the driveway, with belongings packed inside as if he were ready to leave. They checked phone and credit card records, spoke to friends and acquaintances, and enlisted cadaver-sniffing dogs to search areas around the house and comb nearby roadways, thinking that he may have been struck by a car.

His longtime partner "has been cooperative," Stephens said, although the man could not fully explain why he didn't call police about the packed truck in the driveway. "He's not considered a suspect at this time," Stephens said.

In New Jersey, Madeline Morris said she tries to talk to her son, mostly at night. "I miss you. Where are you?" she says. "May the angels watch over you."

To learn more about the case, go to www.findjohnmorris.com. Anyone with information is asked to call Stephens at 240-773-6239. Callers who wish to remain anonymous and become eligible for the reward can call 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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