October 16, 2000
The body of Mary Morris (39, pictured right) is found in her car four days after another Mary Morris (48, left) was found dead in her car
On October 12, Jay Morris watched his wife Mary Henderson Morris (left) drive to work. He often talked to her throughout the day by calling her cellphone, and grew increasingly concerned when Mary did not respond. Jay called the police to report his wife missing after her employer notified him Mary had not come in to work that day. That same day, Mary’s body was found in the charred remains of her car approximately 3 miles from her Baytown, Texas home. Her body was so heavily damaged by fire she had to be identified by tooth fragments. Investigators learned a “massive” amount of accelerants had been used to burn Mary’s car, enough to singe nearby trees and melt the jewelry she was wearing. Robbery did not seem to be a motive in Mary’s murder; while her purse was taken, the credit cards were not used and the only piece of jewelry missing was Mary’s wedding ring.
After Mary’s October 16th funeral, her daughter called the funeral home to inquire about picking up her mother’s jewelry. The funeral home employee responded they would be ready at the same time as the body. “I said, ‘That is impossible; we just had the funeral,’” Mary’s daughter later recounted to the press. “And they told me they still had Mary Morris’ body. I was freaking out. I was thinking we just had the funeral. I saw the remains, and I was looking at something that wasn’t even my mother.”
The mistake was caused by the employee confusing Mary Henderson Morris for another woman, Mary McGinnis Morris (right) whose body had been found on October 16. The day before, McGinnis Morris had called a friend on her cellphone, mentioning she had encountered a person who gave her “the creeps” while McGinnis Morris was shopping in a drug store. Roughly 20 minutes later, McGinnis Morris called 911, though the details of that call have not been released. Her body was found in her car by a tow truck driver the next day in Houston, Texas, approximately 26 miles (42 km) from Baytown. McGinnis Morris had been shot once in the head in what initially appeared to a suicide as the gun was left at the scene but, as Detective Wayne Kuhlman told the press, “there was physical evidence that suggested it couldn’t be.” Specifically, there had been signs of a struggle, McGinnis Morris had been beaten, and she may have also been gagged.
While the two Mary Morrises did not know each other, the similarities between the two women were not lost on their families. “They mentioned something about the Mary Morris that had been burned,” McGinnis Morris’ sister told reporters. “I began to think how [strange] it all was. … It cannot just be coincidence. … It is just so astounding that two people by the same name, who to me look very similar, were murdered so close together.”
Some have speculated Mary McGinnis Morris was the original target of a contracted killing in which the murderer initially killed the wrong Mary Morris then corrected their error. The theory comes largely from the facts the women shared the same name, were in relatively close proximity to each other, were killed within days of the other, and were both found dead in their vehicles. Additionally, while there were no suspects in Mary Henderson Morris’ case, Mary McGinnis Morris’ had several including her husband and a co-worker. Days before McGinnis Morris’ murder, someone left a note on her desktop calendar reading “Death to her.” The next day, a male co-worker began “banging on the windows, asking for Mary. He had to be escorted out,” according to McGinnis Morris’ friend and co-worker. Both the husband and co-worker denied involvement in McGinnis Morris’ death, and no charges have been brought forth against them or any other suspect.
Four years after the murders, Sgt. James Parker updated the press on the Morris cases: “To date, we have no link or connection between the two cases. As coincidental as it seems, we don’t think there was a link.”
To date, neither case has been solved. Information should be directed to the Harris County Sheriff’s Department homicide division at 713-967-5810 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).
Mary Teresa McGinnins Morris. Find a Grave. Accessed: October 16, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7636606/mary-teresa-morris
Davis, Rhea. “Two Mary Morris slayings remain unsolved.” Chron. December 17, 2004. Accessed: October 16, 2020. https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Two-Mary-Morris-slayings-remain-unsolved-1637059.php
“First name may be key to killings.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. June 2, 2002
“Case of the like-named murder victims puzzles authorities.” Austin American-Statesman. May 27, 2002
Khanna, Roma. “Killings of 2 Mary Morrises prompt questions.” Chron. May 26, 2002. Accessed: October 16, 2020. https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Killings-of-2-Mary-Morrises-prompt-questions-2064766.php