The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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Morse, Hugh Bion
Born in Kansas City during January 1930, Hugh Morse was the product of a forced marriage, abandoned by his father in infancy. He grew up in a harsh, abusive home, completely dominated by a grandmother who brutalized her daughter and grandson with total impartiality. When Hugh was four years old, a hammer blow from grandma scarred his face for life; another time, she slaughtered his pet mice after Morse went to a movie without her permission. It comes as no surprise that he informed police in later years, "I can't remember being happy at any time since I was born." In adolescence and adulthood, Morse was tortured by a mix of awe and hatred for the women who had ruled his early life. The end result was sexual ambivalence and violence, the trademarks of a classic serial murderer.
Escaping from his home environment, Morse enlisted in the Marine Corps, but he soon ran into conflict with the law. Arrested the first time in May 1951, for indecent exposure and assaulting a woman in Wilmington, North Carolina, he left the service seven months later with a dishonorable discharge. More arrests followed, in Los Angeles, during 1953 and '54, with Morse serving six months on a burglary conviction. In 1955, charged with trying to molest two eight-year-old girls in Fairfield, California, he was committed to Atascadero state hospital for therapy. Released as "cured" in January 1957, he was picked up for sex crimes in Burbank four months later.
A pattern had begun to form in Morse's criminal behavior. Prowling residential neighborhoods by night, he entered houses and apartments, creeping up on girls and women in their beds. Briefly settled in Spokane, Washington, Morse tried his hand at marriage, but it didn't take. On November 7, 1959, he raped and murdered Glorie Brie, age 28, in her Spokane home. His second known victim, on September 26, 1960, was 69-year-old Blanche Boggs. Two weeks later, on October 10, Beverly Myers was attacked in her home, but managed to survive her wounds.
On October 28, 1960, Morse broke into the home of his estranged wife, attempting to strangle her before he was interrupted and forced to flee. A federal warrant was issued, charging unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for burglary and attempted murder. Morse was added to the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list on August 29, 1961.
By that time, there were other victims, all unknown to federal agents who were stalking Morse. He raped at least two women in Atlanta, Georgia, in the spring of 1961; arrested on a charge of voyeurism there, he paid $200 bail and walked away, amused that officers had failed to recognize his WANTED poster hanging in the jailhouse.
On July 11, 1961, Morse entered Bobbi Ann Landini's home in Birmingham, choking her unconscious and beating her to death with a length of pipe. Moving north, he attacked Mildred Chasteen in her Dayton apartment on August 2, stabbing her several times and leaving her for dead. Morse drifted into St. Paul, Minnesota, on August 15, posing as "Darwin Corman" when he rented a room, acquiring odd jobs at a car wash, a gas station, a hotel kitchen. On September 18, he raped and strangled Carol Ronan in her home, five blocks from his rooming house. A few days later, Morse lured a six-year-old girl into an alley, where she was molested.
Published photographs of Morse, meanwhile, were turning heads around St. Paul, and phones were ringing at the local office of the FBI. On August 29, a flying squad of agents called on Morse at home, arresting him without a struggle. Searchers found a knife, a straightedge razor, and a loaded pistol in his room.
Pleading guilty to the Ronan case, Morse received a double life sentence in December 1961, on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree burglary. As late as January 1964, he was attempting suicide in jail, without success. In the event he is paroled, the states of Washington and Alabama are prepared to level other murder charges, guaranteeing Morse will never be at liberty to kill again.
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