Deputy Seeks Help For Alcohol Problem

By Sam Shawver,

Presented By

Bonnie M. Wells

Marietta, Ohio --

A Washington County sheriff’s deputy facing child endangerment charges is seeking treatment for alcohol addiction.

“Deputy (Jeffrey R.) Morris has voluntarily checked himself into the Marietta Memorial Hospital alcohol dependency unit,” Sheriff Larry Mincks said on Wednesday

Morris, 30, and his wife, Tawni L. Morris, 28, of 100 Bae Circle, Marietta, were both charged with child endangerment after the couple were accused of leaving their 8-year-old son by himself at home with three loaded firearms on Dec. 24.

Mincks said the Morrises also have a 3-year-old, but that child was not left in the residence with the 8-year-old on Christmas Eve.

One of the loaded firearms left at the residence was an AR-15 high-capacity rifle that sheriff’s deputies are authorized to carry.

Morris was immediately placed on administrative leave with pay while the sheriff’s office conducted an internal investigation into the matter.

Mincks said Morris is no longer on administrative leave, but has taken sick leave while he’s in the hospital.

“We just held (an in-house) pre-disciplinary hearing (Wednesday). Deputy Morris did not attend, but was represented by his union representative,” Mincks said.

“I probably won’t make a decision in the matter at least until Friday,” the sheriff said.

On Dec. 14, Tawni Morris was sentenced in Marietta Municipal Court to 90 days house arrest for a misdemeanor theft charge, but she had not violated the terms of her sentence when the couple traveled to Parkersburg on Dec. 24, leaving the boy alone at home.

“She’s not allowed to leave the house except for scheduled outings, like going to work. But she was not in violation at the time of the incident,” said Dale Wilson, chief probation officer with the Marietta Municipal Court.

“She’s still on house arrest at this time, and we’re continuing to monitor her,” he said.

Although Mincks expects to render a decision on disciplinary action against Jeffrey Morris this week, as of Wednesday no date had been set for the couple to appear in Marietta Municipal Court on the child endangerment charge.

Jeffrey Morris was hired as a dispatcher for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in December 1999, and worked in that position until December 2002, according to Mincks. From December 2002 through April 2006, Morris was employed by the Belpre Police Department.

In April 2006, he was hired as a road patrol deputy for the sheriff’s office.

Mincks said Morris had no employment-related incidents prior to last week.


Former Deputy Gets Suspended Sentence

By Brad Bauer, // May 30, 2008

A former Washington County sheriff’s deputy was given a suspended jail sentence and placed on probation for a year after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to child endangerment charges.

Former Deputy Jeffrey R. Morris resigned from the sheriff’s office in January after he was accused of leaving his 8-year-old son at home alone with loaded guns present.

In addition to probation, Morris must attend a gun safety class and all guns in his home must be equipped with a trigger lock, according to Athens Chief City Prosecutor Lisa Eliason, special prosecutor assigned to the case. Morris also was fined $250.

If Morris fails any condition of his probation he faces 180 days in jail and an additional $750 in fines, which were suspended. Athens Municipal Court Judge William Grim heard the case.

The case was held in Athens County to prevent any appearance of impropriety since Morris was a Washington County deputy.

Morris’ wife, Tawni L. Morris, 28, was also charged with child endangerment out of the case, but those charges were dismissed.

According to the affidavit filed in the case, the loaded guns belonged to Jeffrey Morris. One of the guns was an AR-15 high-capacity rifle that sheriff’s deputies are authorized to carry.

Tawni Morris was on house arrest at the time of the incident for a misdemeanor theft charge, but was not in violation for leaving the home because she had told her probation officer she was going out.

The child was discovered at the house when probation officers went there to investigate a report of excessive alcohol use in the home.

According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Jeffrey Morris enrolled in a chemical dependency program shortly after the incident.

Sheriff Larry Mincks said he was satisfied with the outcome of the case.

“It was in the hands of the prosecutor and the court, and justice was served,” Mincks said. “Otherwise, I really don’t have any comment.”

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