August 20, 2014

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Hours before flying to see new wife, bigamist slain

 

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Muslim man who had taken a second wife in Morocco earlier this year was shot to death in his bed on the day he was to travel there, and his first wife has not been ruled out as his killer, authorities said Tuesday.

Jereleigh Morton’s first wife, Myra, told police she chased the intruder who shot him Sunday in their $1 million suburban home. But police found no signs of a break-in and focused their attention on the victim’s marriages after reading Myra Morton’s diaries.

Her 47-year-old husband was shot twice, at least once in the head. A gun holster was found on a dresser, and a handgun was outside a sliding glass door that leads from the bedroom to the yard.

No charges have been filed, but police took cheek swabs from Myra Morton to compare to DNA found at the scene, court papers show.

“We haven’t excluded her as the killer,” Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said.

Myra Morton has not retained a criminal lawyer, and the family’s home telephone rang unanswered Tuesday.

Myra Morton, 47, had reluctantly agreed to her husband’s second marriage and even traveled to Morocco this year to sanction it under Muslim law, authorities said. Prosecutors, however, think her husband may have married the other woman — a woman in her 20s whom he met on the Internet — even earlier than Myra knew.

“We’re working under the theory that she sort of approved it after the fact,” Castor said. “I think there was discussion, and she felt pressured into agreeing to allow it.”

Police, working with the U.S. State Department, are trying to piece together a timeline of the couple’s overseas travels. They do not yet know the identity of the second wife, Castor said.

“I never saw any problems or concerns about them or their relationship,” said lawyer Charles Hehmeyer of Philadelphia, who represented the Mortons in their daughter’s wrongful-death case two years ago. “She’s a nice lady and has endured a lot of tragedy in her life.”

Myra Morton wrote in her diary, according to a police affidavit, that her husband married the Moroccan woman in March. “Before this he was showing strange behavior to me, going out staying late, on computer all the time,” she wrote, according to the affidavit.

She discovered that her husband had sent the woman money for a dowry. She told police they had about $6 million in assets.

Myra Morton wrote that she went to Morocco and even ran around to get the paperwork in order, only to have her husband grow increasingly aloof.

“I go give him the permission, because he argues with me when I protest this marriage,” the diary reads.

He was scheduled to leave again for Morocco at 7 p.m. Sunday, a trip Myra Morton had backed out of, said Risa Ferman, an assistant district attorney in Montgomery County.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that a minority of Muslims take second wives, and that Islamic scholars would differ on whether one could do so while living in the United States.

The Mortons converted to Islam about 20 years ago. They lived in a small city row house until reportedly receiving an $8 million medical malpractice settlement in 2005 over their teenage daughter’s death, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The girl, who died in 2001, had Crohn’s disease.

They paid $1 million cash for a sprawling suburban home near Ambler, and Jereleigh retired from his job as a plumber to dabble in real estate. Another daughter also lived with them and was home Sunday morning, along with her husband and baby.