Houston, TX

Two Women with the Same Name Murdered 4 Days Apart


Mary Lou Morris (left) and Mary McGinnis Morris (right).Thinkingsidewayspodcast

In the fall of 2000, two women, both named Mary Morris, were murdered only days apart from each other. Mary McGinnis Morris was a 39-year-old nurse; Mary Lou Morris was a 48-year-old loan officer. The only thing they had in common was their name and that they were both murdered in their vehicles.

An investigation was launched into the killings, but there was a notable lack of evidence. Facts were soon overshadowed by rumors that Mary McGinnis’ husband, Mike Morris, was responsible. Many believe he hired a hitman to shoot his wife.

But why was Mary Lou killed?

Did the hitman target the wrong Mary Morris?

Mary Lou Morris

It was on the 12th of October in Huston, Texas when Mary Lou Morris didn’t show up for her job at the bank. It was very unusual for her to skip work without letting someone know and this concerned her husband. He called the police to report her missing.

Later that day, an abandoned car was found. The vehicle had been set on fire and there was a body inside. Authorities sent the body in for identification and using dental records, it was discovered that this was the body of Mary Lou Morris.

The area where her body was found was covered in thick foliage and hidden behind trees. Everything had been scorched and melted by the time she was found, including the tires on the vehicle and her jewelry.

Mary Lou was missing her wedding band from her finger. This can be a common sign of a hit as the hired hitman uses the ring to deliver proof to the employer that the job was completed.

A mysterious phone call came into the Houston Police Department after the first Mary Lou was found dead, in which the caller admitted that she had been killed by mistake. However, the caller’s identity was never revealed.

Mary Lou was found only three miles away from her home, in the opposite direction from where she worked at the bank.

Only 15 minutes after calling her friend, police received a 911 call from Mary’s phone. The call has not been released to the public. She died of a single gunshot wound.

The gun used to kill her was registered in her husband’s name. Blood was found inside the car, the passenger door was wide open, and keys to the vehicle were outside.

Mary Lou Morris lived a happy, peaceful life with her husband of 5 years, Jay Morris. Nothing about her past would indicate that anyone wanted her dead. Police were baffled as to who would want Mary dead and why. There didn’t seem to be any motive to have her killed.

During the investigation, Detective Robert Tonry noted, “She has no apparent enemies. No drugs. No affairs. It has been hard to track down suspects, just short of some mysterious person that abducted her.”

Months after Mary Lou was murdered, a teenager in Galveston, Texas was caught using her phone card. The 16-year-old claimed she had picked up a purse she found in a parking lot and the card was inside. She said she gave the purse to a friend and that the other contents of the purse had been disposed of.

Mary McGinnis Morris

Only four days later, on the 16th of October 2000, a similar discovery was made. Mary McGinnis Morris was found in a remote area. An ATV rider had stumbled upon her body on the side of the road only three miles away from her home.

She had been shot. The only evidence found at the scene were signs of a struggle, as Mary had multiple scratches and her clothing was ripped.

Mary McGinnis did have some concerning circumstances to her past. She was having issues with a co-worker and prior to her murder, she had called a friend to tell her that she was afraid of someone at her job at the drugstore. It was speculated that she may have been abducted by this unknown assailant at work.

Her co-worker was harassing her at work, in one instance leaving a note for her that read, “Death to her.” Her killer had tried to make her death look like she took her own life, but her defensive wounds proved otherwise.

When questioned by police, the co-worker, Duane Young, insisted he had nothing to do with Mary McGinnis’ death. However, shortly before the murder, Young had arrived at the drugstore and started making a scene. He was shouting and asking for Mary while banging on the store windows. He had to be escorted out.

Police investigated the connection and considered the possibility that her husband, Mike, and the co-worker had hatched a plan together. Mike’s alibi was that he had taken his daughter to a movie that day. Suspiciously, he never gave authorities permission to interview his daughter to confirm his alibi. He also refused to take a polygraph exam.

She and her husband had been having marital issues. The couple was known to have frequent arguments and Mike suspected his wife of having an affair.

When Mike was asked about the affair he said, “I confronted her and the person. They looked me in the eye and denied it. I chose to believe them. We had problems in the last few years, but we were well on our way to solving them. We were back at the point of being best friends when she died.”

Mary also had a $700,000 life insurance policy.

There has been a great lack of cooperation when it comes to Mary McGinnis’ husband. He has since moved to West Virginia with his daughter.

Undoubtedly, the most mysterious fact in her death is that her husband called her cell phone almost two hours after her death. Phone records show it was answered and a 4-minute conversation was had. Mike Morris denies anyone ever picking up that call.

The murders remain unsolved to this day. A true motive in the deaths of either Mary McGinnis Morris or Mary Lou Morris has never been substantiated. It is widely assumed that one was the target of a hit, most likely Mary McGinnis, and the other was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.

No one has ever been charged for the Mary Morris murders. No murder weapon was ever found. Over two decades later, their families are still searching for answers.

And still waiting for justice.

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Investigative Journalist

New York, NY

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