Mother, son accused of murder freed from prison
FREEHOLD — After spending two years in the Monmouth County jail accused of murdering two relatives in Long Branch decades ago, a mother and son were released Tuesday to await a retrial in the case.
Dolores Morgan, 68, and her son Ted Connors, 49, got out of jail after an appeals court order staying their release expired at noon, and as of that date, prosecutors had not appealed to the state Supreme Court to keep them the couple behind bars.
“It took a long time; I’m grateful,” Connors said outside his mother’s attorney’s Freehold office after he and his mother were released from jail around 1:30 p.m
“Thank God I took one day at a time,” Morgan said. “Since November they’ve said so many times we’re coming out, we’re coming out. There was a time when I lost my faith, but I pray.”
Morgan and Connors, both formerly of Long Branch and now of Delray Beach, Fla., are charged with the 1994 murder of Morgan’s daughter Ana Mejia and the 1995 murder of Nicholas Connors, Morgan’s husband.
The couple went on trial last year but a Malpractice was declared after the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. Her retrial is scheduled for February 14.
Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley last week ordered Morgan and Connors released from prison to await a retrial, who said the state’s star witness against her, Jose Carrero, was “less than credible” and that all other evidence against her was “mostly circumstantial”.
Prosecutors asked the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division to hear an appeal against Oxley’s decision. The appeals court overturned Oxley’s dismissal order while they considered whether to hear the appeal. However, the appeals judges issued an order late Friday saying they would not hear the appeal and that Oxley’s order would go into effect Tuesday noon unless the Supreme Court intervenes.
Mark Spivey, a spokesman for the Monmouth County Attorney’s Office, said the prosecutor’s office is in the process of filing a non-emerging appeal with the state Supreme Court, which is expected to be completed in the coming days.
But Jason Seidman, Morgan’s attorney, said that when no appeal was filed by Tuesday noon, he tried to enforce Oxley’s order, and the jail began taking Morgan and Connors out of jail just after noon.
Seidman said he was driving to the jail to meet his client and her son and expected them to get off later that afternoon when he saw them walking down the street, so he stopped and picked them up.
Outside Seidman’s office, when asked what his first plans are now that he’s free, Connors said, “I’ll get a chicken parm sandwich wherever there’s an Italian deli nearby.”
When asked the same question, his mother said, “I need to fix this hair.”
When first arrested in January 2020, Morgan’s hair was short and auburn. Since being in prison, her hair has turned silver and grown down her back.
“You’ve been incarcerated for 740 days to date, awaiting trial, awaiting COVID, fighting motions, fighting trial, filing motions to be released, and 60 days ago a judge said, ‘You should be released’ and it It took another 60 days before he was released today,” Seidman said.
Oxley initially ordered the mother and son released from prison in November, but prosecutors appealed, and the Appeals Division returned the case to Oxley for another hearing on her possible release, asking the judge to focus on the presumption that defendants charged with murder should be jailed to address the process to wait.
Oxley said at the second hearing on Jan. 11 Morgan and Connors had overcome the presumption and should be released. The accused had remained in detention in the meantime.
Both are expected back in court on Thursday for a hearing on motions by defense attorneys who allege prosecutors withheld crucial evidence from them before the first trial. That evidence, defense attorneys say, is that a key witness contradicted the state’s claim that Connors confessed to him that he killed his father and that it was in fact Carrero who confessed to shooting Nicholas Connors .
Mejia, 25, was stabbed to death at her Long Branch home in December 1994, and prosecutors allege Morgan staged the murder and her son committed it because they thought Mejia was cooperating with authorities in relation to the family’s drug trade.
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Prosecutors allege Morgan staged the shooting of her 51-year-old husband in May 1995, and that her son committed it so she could collect his life insurance.
Jonathan Petty, Connors’ attorney, said he and Seidman can now better prepare for their retrial if the defendants are released from prison.
Kathleen Hopkins, a reporter in New Jersey since 1985, covers crime, trials, legal issues, unsolved mysteries and just about every major murder trial that has hit Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact them at [email protected]