Arthur Morgan III, the Eatontown man accused of tossing his 2-year-old daughter into the Shark River while the toddler was strapped into a weighted car seat, will be tried in Monmouth County and possibly incriminating statements he made to authorities after his arrest may be entered as evidence, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.
But Superior Court Judge Anthony Mellaci ruled against admitting a video made showing the possible ways Tierra Morgan-Glover ended up in a stream at Shark River Park in November of 2011.
Arthur Morgan, held on $10 million bail since he was arrested in San Diego after a nationwide manhunt, appeared in court for the first time since his indictment last June. His hands were handcuffed to a belt around the waist of his yellow jail jumpsuit. He did not speak publicly during the hours-long proceeding.
Jeff Coghlan, Morgan’s attorney, requested a change of venue for court proceedings. Citing numerous television reports and articles in online news sources and print publications, Coghlan said Morgan would be unable to receive a fair trial in Monmouth County.
"This court does not believe that the defendant has submitted clear and convincing proof that the citizens of Monmouth County are so roused that they cannot remain fair and impartial,'' Mellaci said.
Coghlan also argued that statements Morgan made during his extradition to New Jersey should be ruled inadmissible because Morgan was not read his Miranda rights. Mellaci also denied that motion.
Before leaving San Diego, Morgan met with San Diego Sheriff’s Office Detective Donna Duncan, of the office’s extradition unit.
Duncan testified that she explained the extradition procedure to Morgan and asked if he had any questions. Morgan, she said, replied: “Not about that, but I wanted to ask for your professional opinion on something. I know New Jersey doesn’t have the death penalty, so what am I looking at when I get back there. What sentence?”
On the plane back to New Jersey, Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Lt. Brian Veprek noticed that Morgan was watching a children’s cartoon – “Wow! Wow! Wubsbzy!’’ -- on the plane’s seatback television screen and asked him what he was doing.
Veprek said that Morgan replied: “This is my daughter’s favorite show.”
Morgan made two additional comments during the 5½-hour flight, Veprek said.
Morgan, who had been looking out the window of the plane, asked Veprek if he thought his daughter was in heaven.
“I told him that I thought his daughter was with God,” Veprek said.
About two hours later, Morgan asked: “Do you think they will let me see my daughter at the grave site before I’m sentenced?’’
Veprek told Morgan he did not know, he said.
Coghlan argued that Morgan should have been read his Miranda rights prior to the interaction with Duncan and before being taken on the plane.
But First Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Richard Incremona, representing the state, countered that neither incident was an interrogation and each took place after Morgan was read his Miranda rights a day before during a formal, three-hour police questioning.
Morgan is accused of throwing Tierra into a portion of the Shark River from a bridge on Schoolhouse Road near Shark River Park in Wall Township on November 21, 2011 during a court-approved visitation with his daughter.
The girl’s body, strapped to her car seat, was found partially submerged in the water by passers-by. The seat was weighted in the back by a silver, scissor-type car jack, authorities said.
The cause of death was determined to be homicidal violence, including submersion in water. An autopsy determined that the child was alive when she hit the water.
Morgan is charged with murder, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. He also is charged with child endangerment and violating a custody agreement.
Morgan never retuned the child to her mother after the visitation on Nov 21. A warrant was put out for his arrest on Nov. 22, but Morgan had fled sparking a nationwide manhunt. The case attracted national attention after the case appeared on the television show America’s Most Wanted.
Morgan was found in an east San Diego, Calif., home the day after his daughter’s funeral. He has been in Monmouth County jail on $10 million bail since his extradition to New Jersey in December 2011.