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Former Sheriff’s Investigator Sentenced For Wife’s ‘Carefully Laid Out’ Murder

Authorities said David Lee Morse had his wife killed after his mistress threatened to expose their extramarital affair. 

By Jax Miller
Former Sheriff’s Investigator Sentenced For Wife's Murder

A former sheriff's office investigator in Virginia has been sentenced for the premeditated murder of his wife two years ago.

David Lee Morse, 67, was sentenced to 60 years behind bars for the murder of his wife, Pamela Morse, 63, according to the Martinsville Bulletin. Prosecutors said that while the former investigator for the Henry County Sheriff’s Office didn’t pull the trigger, he planned to have his wife gunned down in her bed on May 13, 2020.

Pamela Morse died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

“This was premeditated, calculated, and carefully laid out,” said Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Nester. “As a former law enforcement officer, he ought to have better sense.”

Last December, a jury found Morse guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He was one of four people charged in connection with Pamela Morse’s death after his extramarital affair with a woman named Tanna Shelton Fitzgerald was revealed during the trial.

David Lee Morse Pd

For her role, Fitzgerald was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, according to the Bulletin. Those charges were dismissed when she died in October 2020 after overdosing on her blood pressure medication while being held at the Henry County jail.

Witnesses painted Fitzgerald as a woman subject to mood swings who threatened to expose the affair to Morse’s wife. Fitzgerald later was able to provide the code to the Morse residence to investigators, something Morse denied ever giving her.

“They said they had been seeing each other since December 2019, and she could become hostile if he didn’t do what she wanted,” testified Virginia State Police Special Agent Matt Wade. “She threatened to expose the relationship” and “was capable of being very upset.”

Tanna Shelton Fitzgerald Pd

Over the course of the three-day trial, prosecutors unraveled the affair, providing texts between Fitzgerald and Morse hours before Morse reported his wife’s death.

“The phone messages between Ms. Fitzgerald and Mr. Morse are literally a play-by-play,” said Nester. “He said those text messages were going to cause him a lot of headaches, and they have.”

At 4:48 a.m. that morning, Morse texted Fitzgerald, saying, “People are waking up now.”

“It’s already in progress,” Fitzgerald responded. “I’ll turn myself in. I’ll take the blame.”

Investigators later extracted deleted messages from both the suspects’ phones, where they discussed the locations of surveillance cameras on the Morse property.

At 7:52 a.m., Morse called authorities and reported that he’d found his wife dead in their bed, saying, “I just got in from work, and she’s in the bed. She’s been shot.”

Morse told investigators that he last saw Pamela at around 9:30 p.m. the previous night before heading off to work, according to the Bulletin. He arrived at the house shortly before 8:00 a.m. with biscuits and gravy, as per his wife’s request, and realized his wife’s Jeep was missing. When Morse entered the home, he found it in disarray. 

Morse later admitted to having an affair with Fitzgerald but told investigators he didn’t believe that Pamela knew about it, and he didn’t think Fitzgerald was involved.

Investigators found Fitzgerald in Franklin County with a woman named Casey Lynn Rogers, 27. Collin Joshua Russell, 37, was also found on the property, where investigators found Pamela’s Jeep partially spray-painted.

The murder weapon was discovered on a logging road on the Franklin County property.

“Mr. Morse engaged in bad behavior,” Morse’s defense attorney, Michael McPheeters, said during the trial. “But he didn’t want harm to come to Pam.”

Morse later claimed he couldn't remember the hours surrounding his wife’s murder, citing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, for which he was taking medication. Morse claimed he had no recollection of ever talking to authorities and was surprised to hear the 911 call replayed in the courtroom.

“You were bringing breakfast to a dead woman,” said Nester. “You knew she was already dead.”

At Tuesday’s sentencing, McPheeters cited Morse’s decades in law enforcement and current age as reasons for leniency. According to the Bulletin, Morse served as an investigator for the Henry County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years and spent a previous 13 years with the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office.

“He made these selfish choices in life, and Mrs. Morse is dead because of it,” argued Nester. “Now he has to pay.”

Morse faced life in prison but was sentenced to 50 years for murder and 10 years for conspiracy, according to the Bulletin. Judge David Williams suspended 30 years and ordered Morse to pay restitution to the victim's family. The amount will be determined at a later date.

Rogers and Russell were charged with first-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and grand larceny of an automobile. Russell was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The pair is scheduled for a five-day trial by jury on July 11.