August 11, 1961
4-year-old Michele LeAnn Morgan dies from injuries inflicted by her stepmother
Michele had been beaten and stomped on by her stepmother, Mary Morgan, after Michele supposedly lied about something which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Dec. 5, 1996) reported was “so trivial [Michele’s brother] doesn’t remember what it was.” As Michele’s 8-year-old brother George watched, Mary pushed Michele’s head underwater repeatedly then dragged her inside and threatened to stomp on the child unless she admitted to whatever offense had elicited the rage. Mary fulfilled her threat and stomped on Michele’s midsection multiple times. Later that night, Michele vomited blood clots while at the dinner table; she was told by Mary to eat them. Hesitant to do so, but fearing her stepmother’s anger, Michele contemplated obeying. Before she did, her father returned home and told her to stop.
The following day, Michele complained of weak legs and collapsed. She died two days after the assault.
Decades later, George began researching his family tree and noticed his sister’s death certificate listed her cause of death as pneumonia. He wrote to the county coroner, explaining her real cause of death. The letter was brought to authorities and Michele’s body was exhumed in 1996. Evidence of abuse was found and Mary was arrested shortly after. She pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison. She was released in 2001.
According to the Chicago Daily Tribune (Dec. 8, 1996), an autopsy performed in 1961 showed Michele had two healed rib fractures, a brain hemorrhage, and injuries to her leg and head. For unknown reasons, no investigation was conducted in Michele’s death. Fifteen years after her murder, Michele’s death was ruled as pneumonia.