December 17, 2012 - 11:48 am
With little ceremony, a man accused of killing his wife’s lover and suspected in three other disappearances was freed of a murder charge Monday.
Clark County prosecutors officially dropped the murder case against 77-year-old David Morgan, who Las Vegas police suspect killed Gabriel Vincent in 1979.
Judge Carolyn Ellsworth granted a motion to dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning prosecutors could pursue the case again if new evidence arises.
Morgan didn’t even need to show up.
His defense lawyer, Thomas Pitaro, said, “I think the evidence indicated he would have been found not guilty (at trial).”
The case was dropped after the prosecution’s key witness, Morgan’s former employee Fred Hackett, believed to be in his 80s, died in Florida of natural causes about a year ago.
Hackett’s 2006 confession to Las Vegas police that he saw Morgan shoot Vincent and helped bury the body near Indian Springs 33 years ago led to Morgan’s arrest.
It may have been the only direct evidence in the case after a January 2007 excavation on Morgan’s property produced nothing.
Prosecutors sought a preliminary hearing to preserve Hackett’s testimony in case of his death, but never got the chance.
Pitaro waived Morgan’s right to a preliminary hearing and moved the case to District Court, where he then sought five trial delays over five years because of his heavy caseload.
Police believe that in 1979 Vincent had an affair with Morgan’s wife, Marie, and tried to blackmail him, which led to the killing. Vincent’s body was never found.
Police also think Morgan was involved in the disappearances of his wife, in 1980; his girlfriend Diana Leone, in 2000; and a former business associate, Donald Richard Cowan, in 1982.
Police had a signed statement from Morgan’s late sister, Deloris Morgan, that her brother forced her to help dispose of Marie Morgan’s body and believed he was involved in Cowan’s death.
Morgan had a history of domestic violence arrests but no convictions.
Pitaro said his client has no intentions of leaving the country for South America, where he has property.
Pitaro said, “He has no reason to flee. There is nothing to flee from.”
Morgan, on house arrest since 2007, has lived in Las Vegas since 1961.
In 2007, he owned property in the valley worth more than $20 million, but Pitaro said he has lost most of his fortune since then.