Suspect gets mental tests in slaying at Wesleyan

By Stephanie Reitz
Associated Press / December 16, 2009

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MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - A former Massachusetts man accused of killing a Wesleyan University student in a bookstore cafe is undergoing a mental health evaluation to help determine whether he is fit for trial.

Stephen P. Morgan, who appeared briefly yesterday in Middletown Superior Court, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, intimidation based on bigotry or bias, and carrying a pistol without a permit.

Morgan, 30, is accused of fatally shooting Johanna Justin-Jinich, 21, of Timnath, Colo., at her job in a bookstore cafe near the Wesleyan campus on May 6. He has been held without bail since he surrendered to police two days later.

Richard R. Brown, Morgan’s lawyer, said yesterday that it is too early to say whether Morgan may assert insanity as part of his not guilty plea.

If he does pursue a mental health defense, prosecutors would review the evaluation that Brown ordered and could require another evaluation by experts of their choosing.

Brown said he hopes the mental health evaluation is finished by the time Morgan returns to court Jan. 26.

“The bottom line is this is obviously an extremely serious case coupled with what one may characterize as a bizarre set of tragic facts,’’ Brown said.

Prosecutors have ordered an analysis of information found on Morgan’s computer, including e-mail messages and documents, and DNA analysis of Morgan’s clothes that might show whether he was close to Justin-Jinich when she was shot.

Justin-Jinich, a junior, was killed when a man wearing a wig entered the bookstore cafe, fired at her, and fled. Police say they homed in on Morgan after finding his car parked nearby, a box of ammunition, and an empty handgun holster.

They said they also found a journal filled with hateful comments about Justin-Jinich, Jews, and other students at Wesleyan, a liberal arts university with about 3,000 students.

The shooting and subsequent police warnings that the killer might be targeting Jews sparked fear throughout the region until Morgan surrendered two days later at a convenience store in nearby Meriden.

Morgan, from Marblehead, met Justin-Jinich in a class at New York University about two years ago. She later complained to police that he was harassing her by calling her repeatedly and sending her insulting e-mails.