UPDATED: Man found guilty in killing of Denver DJ off Catalina Island
LONG BEACH – Five years of waiting and struggling with the unknown came to an end Wednesday for the families of two men at the center of a complicated and chilling murder.
A Long Beach jury came back with a verdict of guilty on all counts against defendant Harvey Morrow, a 60-year-old man charged with first-degree murder and special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain in the slaying of his former friend, Stephen Bailey Williams.
For friends and family of the victim, the verdict after less than a day and a half of deliberation, prompted tears of joy.
All involved have waited more than five years for the decision, ever since Morrow was tracked to Montana in September 2006 and arrested in the murder of the San Pedro man, whose remains were found off the coast of Catalina in May of that year.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney charged that Morrow killed Williams after Williams realized his friend scammed him out of more than $1million – money that belonged to Williams and his disabled sister.
Williams’ murder, and the loss of the estate left to Jan Williams and her brother, has left her destitute.
The disabled woman was evicted from her town house in New Jersey when she could no longer pay the rent. She was also thrown out of an apartment before she ended up homeless.
She has since been taken in by friends and now lives in Tennessee, but she still struggles over money for food and extra medical attention and bus tickets to attend the California trial.
Defense Attorney Michael Ooley argued Williams’ death was a suicide, not a murder, because Williams was distraught over his mismanagement of his funds.
Morrow took the stand in his own defense and said Williams shot himself while the two were aboard Morrow’s boat during a fishing trip to Catalina.
Williams body was dumped overboard, but was eventually found.
Morrow said the reason paper trails showed nearly $1.9 million of the Williams’ money had ended up in Morrow’s account was due to a 20-year-old debt between Williams’ father and Morrow’s dad.
That claim, Jan Williams said, was “complete fiction.”
Their fathers never knew each other, she said.
Both Jan Williams and the victim’s longtime friend, Sylvia Noland, said Morrow befriended Williams only a couple of years before the victim’s father died in 2003.
Jan Williams believes Morrow manipulated her brother, who was in a vulnerable state after caring for their ailing father for nearly two years.
She also believes Williams had a hand in the oddly written trust set up for her and her brother.
It included language allowing for investment of the trust funds. Morrow claimed he was a financial analyst and Williams believed his and his sister’s money was safe in overseas accounts, Jan Williams and Noland said.
It all came to a head when Williams and his sister could no longer access their money, his family and authorities said.
Police and prosecutors charge Morrow spent the money on his 69-foot yacht, then shot and killed Williams when Williams confronted his friend and demanded his money.
“I told Steve not to meet (Morrow) in public, … not to go on the fishing trip, especially after they had already had a confrontation” over a project, Noland said.
Jan Williams said everyone but her brother seemed to distrust Morrow.
“I remember when I first saw his picture, when he was arrested in Montana,” Jan Williams said. “He had this smug smile. … The first word that came to mind was smarmy. It’s what I think every time I see him.”
The complicated case received national media attention, including extensive coverage by the Denver Post.
Williams was a beloved radio personality in Denver in the 1980s, known as “Steven B” and half of the “Steven B and Hawk” morning show, before he moved to Hawaii, and then to the Napa area, finally settling in San Pedro.
When McKinney questioned Morrow during the trial about how he was able to earn $200,000 a year after dropping out of college in the 1970s, the defendant said he somehow landed a job importing luxury cars from Canada.
It was one of many twists and turns in the case.
Part of the delay was due to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office taking about a year to decide whether to pursue the death penalty.
Eventually it was decided not to seek death, leaving Morrow to face a term of life in prison without parole, plus an additional 25 years, when he returns to court on Dec. 16 for sentencing, McKinney said.
The assurance that Morrow will never again be free was a huge relief for the victim’s sister and Noland, though they both noted there are still many issues to work out.
Authorities are hoping the sale of Morrow’s yacht, which was seized five years ago, will help Jan Williams recoup some of her lost estate. Investigators are also still looking into the possibility that some of the stolen money might be found, though that seems unlikely.
It isn’t the money, however, that troubles Jan Williams, she said. It’s knowing there will never be any closure for her; that her brother remains dead, the victim of senseless greed.
“I know that when I go home, there’s going to be an implosion. My life has been on hold for the last 5 1/2 years,” she said.
Nonetheless, she added, she is grateful for the resolution of the trial.
“The defense had no evidence, they had no case, but you never know,” what a jury might decide, the sister said. “You think it can’t be otherwise, but you’re so glad when others validate what you know. It has restored my faith in justice.”