Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Photo of Girl, 4, Could Solve Murder

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Photo of Girl, 4, Could Solve Murder

Article excerpt

Although Michele Leann Morgan has been dead for 35 years, St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone hopes someone will recognize the pretty 4-year-old's picture and recall information that will help produce a murder conviction.

Until this year, it was believed that Michele had died of natural causes.

St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone reopened the case after her older half-brother, George Morgan, sent a letter to a funeral home in O'Fallon, disputing that Michele had died of pneumonia, which was the cause of death given on her death certificate. Illinois State Police investigator Kurt Sachtleben was sent to the Jefferson City, Mo., Correctional Center to interview George Morgan, who was convicted in 1991 of raping and sodomizing an 8-year-old girl and sentenced to 45 years. At an inquest late in June, Sachtleben testified that Morgan had told him he recalled seeing his stepmother become enraged at Michele in 1961 and watching as she forced the 4-year-old to the kitchen floor and stomped on her chest four or five times. Sachtleben also interviewed Dr. Brian Harrold of Fernandina Beach, Fla., a former Air Force physician who helped perform the autopsy on Michele at the Scott Air Force Base Medical Center. Michele was pronounced dead there on Aug. 10, 1961. The coroner's jury ruled the death a homicide. Authorities then concentrated on gathering additional evidence. Last week Stone obtained the photo of Michele that accompanies this article. It was taken not long before her death. "I got it from her brother," he said. "At first we didn't think he had any, but he was able to find some." Stone hopes the photo will jog the memory of someone who lived in the area of Mascoutah or Scott Air Force Base 35 years ago. "People who don't remember names might remember faces," he said. "We would like to interview anyone who might have seen her." There is no statute of limitations for murder, but a case based on decades-old evidence presents special problems for a prosecutor. St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert B. Haida is trying to amass every bit of evidence that would support a charge or an indictment. …

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