Two Women, Same Name Slain in Houston

ByABC News via logo

Sept. 25, 2002 -- Two women who lived in the same city and shared the same name never met, but they suffered the same violent end.

Both Houston women were slain and left dead in their cars, just three days apart in October 2000, in different parts of Harris County, Texas. Neither woman was robbed and police have still not cracked either case.

The victims' families fear that the fact that both women were named Mary Morris may have sealed their fates. Though police say they have no evidence to support the theory, the families are speculating that a sloppy hit man hired to kill one of them may have initially killed the wrong woman.

One of the Mary Morrises was a 39-year-old nurse with a joyous outlook, her family said.

"Mary lived life to the fullest," said her sister, Stephanie Anne Loar. "She was just very outgoing, very bubbly."

The other Mary Morris was a 48-year-old loan officer at a bank. She was active, devoted and kind, her family said.

"She was one of the nicest people you'd ever want to know," said her daughter, Marilyn Blaylock. "She acted like she was 20. She was always going somewhere, she was always doing something. She never missed a day of work."

No Robbery, No Apparent Motive

Mary Morris, the loan officer, left her house on the morning of Oct. 12, 2000, but never made it to her job at the bank. Jay Morris, her husband, became concerned because he wasn't able to reach her all day. He called police to report her missing that evening after learning that she never arrived at work.

That same evening, her body was found incinerated inside her car in a remote area. Someone driving an off-road vehicle noticed the burned-out car. Tooth fragments were used to identify the body.

"There's no question at all this was a murder," Harris County Detective Robert Tonry said.

There was no sign of robbery, and no motive, police said. The death remains unexplained to this day.

Morris' daughter said she did not know of anyone who would have a motive to kill her mother.

"She was nice to everyone," Blaylock said. "Everyone the police interviewed never had a bad word to say about her."

Nevertheless, Blaylock acknowledges that somebody made an incredible effort to kill her mother and leave the body in the middle of nowhere.

"I think that is the biggest mystery, is why someone would do that to her," Blaylock said.

One Morris Had Enemies

Just four days later, on Oct. 16, the second Mary Morris, the nurse, was found dead in her car, one day after she was last seen. She, too, was found slain in a remote area.

The nurse had been shot in the head and someone had tried to make it look like a suicide, but her torn clothing and the bruise marks on her wrists made it obvious to police that she had put up a ferocious struggle, investigators said.

"Most people think that just because you see the gun at a scene, and see a person that's shot, that you're supposed to believe that they shot themselves," Harris County Detective Ronald Hunter said. "But this was a very different case. We knew after looking at the scene more closely that this was definitely a murder."

While Mary Morris, the loan officer, may not have had an enemy in the world, that was not the case with Mary Morris, the nurse.

"She was having problems in her marriage. There was a disgruntled employee that had just been fired that had made a death threat to her," Hunter said.

The Shadow of a Hit Man?

Both families are speculating that the Mary Morris who worked at the bank may have been the victim of a hit man who was after the other Mary Morris.

"The more I look at pictures of the other Mary, the more I begin to think that it must have been a mistaken identity," Blaylock said. "They look extremely similar, and the fact that both were brutally murdered — there had to be a connection. There must have been mistaken identity."

The nurse's family is horrified by the thought of a mistaken-identity murder, too.

"If, by chance, this was someone who was hired to kill my sister, it is a very sad thing that they got the wrong person," said Loar. "My heart has to go out to Marilyn and her stepfather."

Police say they have not found any evidence to tie the murders together. They have not made any arrests, and they are not convinced that the killings were a result of mistaken identity.

"Unless you had a totally bumbling hit man that just went by and said, 'I will just look for the first Mary Morris I can' … I don't see that as a viable option," Tonry said.

Nevertheless, investigators in Houston — a city with a population of nearly 2 million — could not recall two people with the same name being murdered in the same week before.

"That was a big coincidence, but as far as we consider it right now, that is just what we consider it, a coincidence," Hunter said.

The daughter of Mary Morris, the loan officer, says the worst part is not knowing what happened — and fearing that her mother may have lost her life simply because she shared a name.

"How do I even explain to my little one what happened to her grandmother when I don't even know what happened to her?" Blaylock asked wiping away tears.

ABCNEWS' Mike Von Fremd reported this story for Good Morning America.

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