Monday, June 2, 2008

Man gets life for killing parents

By David Angier

May 28, 2008 - 6:04PM

PANAMA CITY — Ricky Morris' children do not yet know he's a murderer.

"They love you," Karen Morris told her husband Wednesday in a Bay County courtroom. "They don't know you did it, and one day I'll have to tell them that, but until then, they love you."

Ricky Morris, 25, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of first-degree murder for shooting to death his parents, Raymond and Deborah Morris, in their Fountain home Feb. 3. The state had decided not to pursue the death penalty in Morris' case, so Circuit Judge Don T. Sirmons gave him the only sentence left, life in prison. Florida law does not allow for parole in Morris' case, so the sentence means Morris will die in prison.

But his family asked Sirmons to send Morris to a prison where he can receive help for his mental illness.

"The Ricky Morris that did what he did was not the same person I had children with," Karen Morris told Sirmons. "He wouldn't have done this if he wasn't mentally ill."

Morris' aunt, Cindy Morris, told the judge her brother was so determined to get Ricky Morris help for his mental conditions, he was willing to risk his life.

Raymond Morris asked a judge to send his son home with him as a condition of probation for a gun charge in 2005.

"(Raymond Morris) did say this to me several times, that ‘I would give my life to get my son the help he needs,'" Cindy Morris said. She said "the system failed" to protect her brother by not checking on Ricky Morris' progress while he was out on probation.

Ricky Morris stood by calmly as three family members went before the judge, all asking for a sentence that would provide him help.

Sirmons said he could recommend the Department of Corrections place Ricky Morris in a facility that will give him mental health treatment but said Ricky Morris will have to take some responsibility.

"No one can force you to take your medication," Sirmons told him.

Ricky Morris called 9-1-1 about 7:12 p.m. Feb. 3 to report he had shot his father, Raymond, 51, and mother, Deborah, 47. He said he also wanted to kill his brother, Raymond Morris III, but he was not home.

Raymond Morris was shot twice with a 30-30 rifle while in bed. Deborah Morris was shot once and was found on the bedroom floor.

Ricky Morris said nothing Wednesday, other than to answer the judge's questions and to tell one family member he loved him.

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