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The Bizarre Death of Charles Morgan

39-year-old Charles Morgan appeared as though he lived a very unassuming life. He worked as the head escrow agent at Statewide Escrow in Tucson, Arizona, where he lived with his wife, Ruth, and their four daughters. However,what most people who knew Morgan didn’t know was that he was supposedly working as an agent for the federal government, offering assistance in combating organised crime.

On 22 March, 1977, Morgan disappeared without a trace. His family heard nothing from him until a couple of days later when he burst through the front door of their Tucson home. He looked dishevelled and had handcuffs hanging from each wrist as well at one set hanging from an ankle. As he silently rummaged through the house, he grabbed a pen and piece of paper and detailed a bizarre story. He wrote down that he was unable to speak because he had been kidnapped, tortured, and then had hallucinogenic drug poured down his throat, rendering him unable to speak. He eventually told Ruth that he had managed to escape from his captors – who he referred to as “them” near Phoenix’s Sky Harbour Airport.1 Ruth urged Morgan to go to police but he refused, saying that would “sign the death warrant for the entire family.” When she pressed her husband for who was threatening him, he told her that “the less I knew, the less likelihood there would be of anyone hurting me or my children.”

Following this event, Morgan was steadily on edge. He grew a beard and refused to let his daughters go outside alone; he arranged for them to be driven to, and picked up from, school each day.  He told his family that if anything happened to him, he would leave behind a letter explaining everything. Morgan confessed to Ruth that he was doing work for the Treasury Department. It should be noted that at the time, Arizona was the only state that allowed blind trust ownership of real estate. This law meant that individuals could buy property without being traced. An escrow agent – such as Morgan – was the only person who knew an owner’s identity in situations such as this. At the time of his disappearance, Morgan was doing escrow work for two alleged organised crime groups – the Ned Warren family and the Joe Bonanno family.

Around two months later, Morgan disappeared once again. However, this time, he wouldn’t be returning home despite the fact that local police told Ruth that her husband was still alive. The morning of his disappearance, Ruth took the children to school while Morgan went to work. He had been planning on attending a Masonic meeting that evening. In the late afternoon, he called his office from a downtown pay phone and said he would be arriving at the office in half an hour. Morgan never showed up and those who knew him the best would never see him again.

On the 18th of June, 1977, Morgan’s body was discovered alongside his car on a dirt road in Sells, around 40 miles west of his home. There was a bullet wound to the back of his head; the bullet travelled all the way through and settled in between his teeth. Morgan was clad in a bulletproof vest and armed with a knife and holster. He had been shot with his own .357-caliber magnum which was found nearby, completely devoid of any fingerprints. Inside his car, Pima County sheriff’s investigators found a cache of ammunition as well as several other weapons and several sets of handcuffs. Even more bizarre, one of his own teeth was discovered wrapped up in a tissue in his car as well as a pair of sunglasses that didn’t belong to him. Investigators found that his car had been modified so that it could be unlocked from the fender. Pinned to his underwear, investigators found a map and directions of how to get to the murder site as well as a $2 bill.2

The $2 bill had seven Spanish names written on the front as well as a Bible citation – Ecclesiastes 12:1-8. Before Morgan’s body was discovered, Ruth received an odd phone call from a woman who referred to herself as “Green Eyes.” She said to Ruth: “Chuck is all right and everything will be all right,” before referring her to the same Bible passage that was scrawled on the $2 bill found with Morgan.3 This mysterious woman made herself known to police and told them that she had known Morgan and that she had seen him after he disappeared, before his death. According to the woman, Morgan showed her a briefcase stocked with money that he said he was using to buy off a hit man who had been hired to kill him. Morgan had told her that there was a $90,000 contract out on his life that was escalating at the rate of $5,000 a day.

Police were able to corroborate that the woman and Morgan had met with CCTV footage. They found out that at some time between his disappearance and his death, Morgan had registered at a south-side hotel where he met with this woman several times. When Ruth was asked if she believed her husband had been having an extramarital affair, she denied it, stating: “A woman knows when her man has strayed, and Chuck hasn’t strayed in 19 years.”

Credit: The Arizona Daily Star / www.newspapers.com

Following Morgan’s death, his attorney, Ronald J. Newman, confirmed that Morgan had testified in a secret state investigation concerning Tucson’s Banco International de Arizona and a former director, David Kali. Atty Gen. Bruce Babbitt confirmed that they had been conducting an investigation for the Banking Dept., and confirmed Morgan had been called to testify about internal dealings at Banco that he knew of but wasn’t involved in. Shortly after Morgan’s body was found, his impounded car was broken into while in police possession. His is office was ransacked as well and several weeks later, two men claiming to be members of the FBI showed up at the family home and searched it.

Despite the peculiarities surrounding his death, Morgan’s death was ruled a suicide and the case was closed on the 10th of August, 1977. “We have found no evidence that anyone took part in the death but himself,” stated a Pima County Sheriff’s Department official.4 Ruth Morgan staunchly refuted this theory and contends he was murdered. “I don’t know if this will ever be solved,” she said. “I’d like to know why. I don’t think we’ll ever find out who killed him.”

Over four decades have passed and the demise of Charles Morgan is still as mysterious as ever. Understandably, the most popular theory is that he was working as a secret agent which would make him a target for many unsavoury characters. Another theory is that his escrow business was a ploy for money laundering which went south. What’s clear – to most at least –  is that Morgan, fearing for his life and clad in a bulletproof vest, probably didn’t shoot himself in the back of the head  on a lonely desert road.

Footnotes:

  1. Arizona Daily Star, 7 February, 1990 –“’Mysteries’ Takes on Tucson Case of Escrow Agent’s Bizarre Death”
  2. The Arizona Daily Star, 19 October, 2017 – “Charles Morgan”
  3. Arizona Daily Star, 22 June, 1977 – “Investigators Baffled by Morgan Death Clue”
  4. Arizona Daily Star, 28 February, 1982 – “2 Capital Infusions Set off Series of Scandals”
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