Mary Lou Morris was a 48-year-old loan officer at a Chase Bank in Houston, Texas. She was happily married to Jay Morris and was loved by many others.
On the morning of October 12, 2000, Mary Lou said goodbye to her husband and left for work. Throughout the day Jay tried to call her, but she never answered or returned any of his calls. This was unusual of Mary Lou, so Jay began to worry. At around 5 PM, he called her supervisor. Alarmingly, they told Jay she hadn’t come in to work that morning and wasn’t picking up their calls either.
Jay knew something was wrong and immediately reported his wife missing.
Around the same time Jay called the police, a man who had been driving down the highway reported a smoldering car near the road — not even three miles from Mary Lou and Jay’s home. Earlier that day, at around 10 AM, someone had called the police and reported seeing smoke in that area. The fire department did not take action as they believed it was a controlled burn.
When police arrived, they saw a body in the driver’s seat. It had been drenched in gasoline and set on fire. As a result, it was unrecognizable. They did, however, find a tooth which led to the body being confirmed as Mary Lou. It was not possible to establish a cause of death as the fire destroyed any evidence.
Despite other valuables being in the car, only Mary Lou’s wedding ring and purse were missing.
Mary Lou’s murder shocked those who knew her. She had been a kind and generous woman. No one could think of a reason someone would want to hurt her.
The day after Mary Lou’s death, the Houston Chronicle received a bizarre call. The man on the other end said that they had got the wrong Mary Morris.
This baffled everyone, until three days later…
Mary McGinnis Morris was a 39-year-old nurse practitioner. She had a successful career working for a major industrial corporation and was in charge of various clinics. She was married to Mike Morris, had a daughter, and also lived in Houston, Texas.
Mary McGinnis was a friendly person. She loved her job and got along with her work colleagues. However, there was one exception.
One of the newer employees in her staff, Duane Young, made her feel vary nervous. She even told one of her best friends, Laurie Gemmel, that she was certain he was capable of harming her.
According to Gemmel, Mary McGinnis once found her desk unorganized and her picture frames faced the opposite direction, with “death to her” written on a piece of paper. Mary McGinnis was positive it had been Duane.
The same day she found the alarming threat, she asked her husband to teach her how to use a gun so she could keep one in her car. Mike agreed and placed a gun, registered in his name, under the driver’s seat of her car.
On October 16, 2000, Laurie visited Mary McGinnis at one of her clinics to get a flu shot. While there, she told Laurie she was going to finish up some work at the clinic, run some errands, and then go home and make dinner.
Later on, Mary McGinnis called Laurie while she was in a drug store. She told Laurie she was creeped out by someone at the store. Clearly disturbed, Mary McGinnis then told her friend she was going to quickly return to the office to turn off her computer and then go home.
Twelve minutes later, a terrifying call was made to the police. This call has never been released, as it contains Mary McGinnis being attacked, which has been deemed too disturbing to be public.
Mary McGinnis was later found in her car. She had been beaten and shot in the head. The killer had tried to make it seem like it was a suicide by placing the gun — the same one that had been under the driver’s seat — on the passenger’s seat next to her. It was confirmed that the hidden gun had been the same one used to shoot her in the head.
Police do not believe these two murders are connected. Many people, including both Morris’ families, disagree. They don’t believe it is possible that with only three days of difference, two women with the same first and last name, who happen to look alike and live in Houston (a city with over 2 million people), were coincidentally murdered in a similar way.
What most people think happened is that a hitman killed both women. Supposedly, a hitman was hired to kill Mary McGinnis Morris but accidentally killed Mary Lou Morris. This explains how two women with so many characteristics in common were murdered three days apart.
It would also explain why a seemingly unproblematic person like Mary Lou would be murdered. Unlike her, Mary McGinnis was going through a rough patch with her husband. As a result, the main suspect is Mike Morris, who is believed to be the one who hired a hitman — he was cleared of actually committing the murder of his wife as he was at the movies with his daughter.
Mary McGinnis and Mike were having relationship issues. Mike was suspicious that she was having an affair with one of their friends. Just weeks before her death, Mike confronted his wife and their friend. Both denied any involvement with one another and Mike presumed they were being truthful.
Suspicion against Mike raised when he refused to take a polygraph test and didn’t allow police to talk with his daughter. It was also brought to light that his wife had a life insurance policy of $700.000, for which he was the beneficiary.
Oddly, Mike had phoned Mary McGinnis two hours after her desperate call to the police. The phone company said it had been a four-minute call, but Mike claimed that nobody on the other end answered and that the phone company had made a mistake. Many believe that Mike spoke to the killer during that call.
Another piece of information that supports this theory is Mary McGinnis’ wedding ring not being found on her or in her car. This is a sign of a hitman, as they would steal the ring to show whoever hired them that they completed the job. Interestingly, a family friend later saw Mike’s daughter wearing the ring. Mike claimed that they had later found it.
Despite a lot of the evidence suggesting Mike had the biggest reason to hurt his wife, Mary McGinnis’ staff member who made her anxious, is also a suspect.
During investigation it was discovered that Duane Young had tried to discredit Mary McGinnis various times. After unsuccessfully doing so, he quit his job as a nurse.
Duane has been very vocal on social media. He denies any involvement and blames Mike and Laurie. The reason for him quitting his job is uncertain. Some say Mary McGinnis showed the threatening note left on her desk to her superior and they fired him. Others think he was tired of the accusations and wanted to get away.
Six months after the murders, Mary Lou’s husband, Jay, received a strange bill. A total of $2.000 for his wife’s phone card. Police traced this card to a 16-year-old girl in Galveston.
The teenager told police that her neighbor had given it to her. When questioned by police, the neighbor said she had found a purse in a convenience store parking lot a month before. In the purse she found various personal belongings and the phone card. Strangely, when the purse was returned to her loved ones, no one recognized it as being Mary’s.
It was also around this time that Jay received three peculiar phone calls. The person calling asked for Mary Lou. Jay, not knowing what he should say, simply told the person that she wasn’t there at the moment. He then gave the caller the number of the Harris County Sheriff’s department. When the man called them, he said: “Oh yeah, right”. He hung up and never called again. Police did trace the call, but could not find the man.
If these two murders are not connected, as the police believe, Mary Lou’s case has no suspects. But as many firmly believe, if the two cases are linked, the only known suspects are Mike Morris and Duane Young.
The murders of Mary Lou and Mary McGinnis remain unsolved.