Free man: Morris avoids 2nd murder trial

news-mcallister-shifflettDorothy McAllister and Earl Shifflett still believe Butch Morris murdered their baby brother.

Throughout the trial of Alvin Lee "Butch" Morris for the murder 21 years ago of her brother, Dorothy McAllister sat calmly in Albemarle Circuit Court, hoping finally to see the man she believes killed Roger Lee Shifflett brought to justice. That trial ended with a hung jury.

She wasn't in court Thursday–- having been tipped off in advance–- to hear Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford ask the judge to nolle prosequi the murder and robbery charges against Morris.

"I can't bring myself," explained McAllister, "to sit there and watch."

Other kin felt the same. Although at least a dozen family members filled the courtroom for the seven-day trial in July, none were in court August 27 when Lunsford made the announcement.

In July, the court was packed with Morris supporters on one side, the Shifflett family on the other, as Morris was tried for the 1988 murder of Roger Shifflett, who was found shot five times at the Southwind Gas and Grocery on Route 20.

Even then, police and many Shifflett family members were convinced Morris was the killer. Adding to their outrage was that Morris, a regular at the Southwind, admitted to police his growing attachment to Shifflett's widow, Barbara, whom he married a year after the slaying.

On July 13, after 13 hours of deliberation, the 12-person jury informed the court they were hopelessly split, and Judge Cheryl Higgins declared a mistrial. A day earlier, the jury told Higgins they were evenly divided at 6-6.

"What it comes down to is reasonable doubt," says Lunsford, explaining that she spoke to jurors while weighing her decision.

"I have to be fair to the victim and fair to the family," says the prosecutor. "I have to bear in mind my responsibility to the defendant, and if I don't feel there's a reasonable chance of conviction, then I can't retry the case."

Although electing not to try the case again now, Lunsford says that if additional information arises, the charges can be brought again, but such information would have to be substantial to try a 21-year-old murder case.

"Even if we have additional information, witnesses may not be alive," she says. "I wish we could have gotten a verdict. I am frustrated with the fact that we don't have a sufficient set of circumstances that we can retry the case."

Lunsford lists the evidence she thought would convict Morris: a cigarette butt bearing his DNA found near the door of the allegedly well-swept store, his first wife's claim that Morris crawled back to bed the morning that Shifflett was killed, and Morris' relationship that made him the replacement husband to Barbara Shifflett Morris, now the secretary at Stone-Robinson Elementary.

A saddened McAllister says she has no doubt that Morris killed her brother.

"This trial is not over with completely," says McAllister. "Someday there will be a knock on Alvin Morris' door to let him know of his arrest and that the trial still continues. Morris is not a free man; a murderer never goes free."

Her brother, Earl Shifflett, adds the family thinks Lunsford did a good job in prosecuting the case, and they appreciate the Albemarle County police detectives who worked on the case–- and the six jurors "who knew all along Alvin Morris was guilty."

news-morrises-slaterButch Morris hugs his attorney, Dana Slater, after finding out he won't have to face a second trial for the murder of the first husband of his wife, Barbara (left).

Butch Morris declined to comment after the judge accepted the nolle prosequi. According to his attorney, Dana Slater, the defendant was pleased.

"There must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Slater said in a prepared statement, "or the presumption of innocence prevails, and that is just what Mr. Morris is– innocent."

While Shifflett family members have said they believe Barbara Morris was somehow involved, she has declined all comment. And when the prosecutor was asked whether the school secretary will face a prosecution of her own, Lunsford replied, "I'm not commenting on that."

During the trial, Butch Morris, 68, won smiles in court from members of his church as well as the three of Shifflett's five sons that he raised. In recordings of his interviews with police, the recovering alcoholic Morris said his marriage to Barbara gave him a second chance, and that he quit drinking and smoking.

"I don't want him for what he is now; I want him for what he was in 1988," says bereaved brother Earl Shifflett, expressing anger that Morris' mother lived to attend her son's trial while his own family dealt with two deaths.

"Ms. Morris was there every day giving her son support," says Earl Shifflett. "My mother went to her grave mourning her son."


In many ways this case is somewhat similar to the case unfolding in Placerville, California right now. For almost 2 decades a stepdad was the main suspect in the disappearance of his beautiful little 11 year old stepdaughter in 1991.

The truth is finally out though. The real suspect has been caught and the then 11 year old has been found alive and well. She actually has 2 daughters fathered by this crazed idiot that held her captive for decades.

The main difference in the two cases is the fact Butch Morris has been a suspect for two decades, and will now continue to be a suspect for the rest of his natural life.

This isn't the first case the Albemarle County Police have wrongfully labeled a person as "the suspect", and it won't be the last.

quote: "He is a guilty man walking free ââ?¬â?? period."

Family, let me give you some free advice, based on my own personal experiences. Be very careful what you say. You may think you have the "freedom of speech". But you don't. You have just committed lible again Alvin Morris.

Any good attorney can trace you and file a defamation lawsuit against you. You're not anonymous here no matter how much you think you are.

In 2007 and 2008 I won two lawsuits where a couple of women posted false and libelous remarks about me on Internet forums. I prevailed in both lawsuits and was awarded damages.

Just friendly advice, take it for what it's worth.

quote: "...their own biased opinion based on hearsay and local media or perhaps you know the church-going Alvin and not the man he used to be..."

Nope. No biased opinion on my behalf. I knew Alvin, Roger and Barbara well before the murder, during the murder and after the murder. I was familiar with the various problems that all of them were having at the time. Alvin wasn't the only one of the three having problems in their life.

quote: "There are rules that govern the admissibility of evidence."

Correct. This is the major reason reason I could not be called by the defense to testify as to another prime and more probable suspect at the time. It was hearsay, told to me by a fellow law enforcement officer at the time. (Crack addict has been smoking crack all night long. Ran out of money. The dealers would not give trust him to smoke now, pay later. He left a housing complex on Avon Street and returned shortly thereafter with about $100 to $125, the same amount believed to have been taken in the robbery and murder of Roger Shifflett.) The county police know this suspect exists, but I bet you they didn't enter it into evidence either. Because of these rules that govern admissibility of evidence, the county police could have entered this evidence, but the defense couldn't. The rules that govern the admissibility of evidence cut both ways. Some benefit the commonwealth, some benefit the defense.

Let's all pray for the Shifflett family, for Alvin's ex-wife and for Alvin "Butch" Morris and his family. May they all find peace. Butch is now innocent. Thank God for that! The new Commonwealth Attorney has upset too many lives with this unsolved case. It should have not been brought to trial without greater evidence. The time to have caught the killer, and it wasn't Butch, was back when the case was still hot. Someone was roaming Albemarle that week, that day back then that did this horrible deed and has now set families at unrest and pitted them against each other decades later. Pray for a real clue to pop up with the investigators that will prove who really did this heinous act. Now go leave Butch, his family and the Shifflett Family alone and let them live in peace.

Dear Gasbag, People who make claims like this clearly have no real concept of the justice system and how it works. What they do have a clear concept of is their own biased opinion based on hearsay and local media or perhaps you know the church-going Alvin and not the man he used to be - by his own proclomation an alcoholic, abusive, cheater just to name a few. Oh but that's right - he found God. In any event, so everyone is perfectly clear, what is presented or allowed to be presented in court is only a speck of the evidence that clearly showed Alvin as the killer. How can you make such a claim agains the Commonwealth unless you clearly know the difference between what the Commonwealth has as evidence and what was presented to the jury?? Do you have some inside scoop? If so, please enlighten us. Defendants have many more rights in their defense than prosecutors have prosecuting them. There are rules that govern the admissibility of evidence. So, suffice it to say the jury and all of Alvin’s supporters only got to see a portion of the evidence. And even that small portion was enough to have at least 6 people vote GUILTY with no hesitation! I’m certain that the charges were brought against Alvin Morris because the evidence pointed clearly and positively in ONE direction ââ?¬â?? HIS! I applaud the Commonwealth for having the courage to try this case. And if god forbid a loved one of yours is ever murdered in cold blood ââ?¬â?? shot in the face like a dog - I hope the Commonwealth will have the courage to try that case as well. He is a guilty man walking free ââ?¬â?? period.

Conflicting tales now. Why does this not surprise me?

Was "Satan" put to sleep or not?

nope old age


by his own proclomation an alcoholic, abusive, cheater just to name a few.

Roger was also these things

Well, we have religion in this thread now. Wanna do politics too? The only reason this murder charge was ever placed IMHO was because the Shifflett family has worried the county cops to death for 20 years to make an arrest. The county cops and the commonwealth attorney knew they did not have enough evidence to convict this man. I can't even imagine imagine the average IQ of the Grand Jury members that indicted him. It sure doesn't speak very highly of Albemarle County residents.

Denise Lunsford dropped the ball on this one. If she does this very often I'm afraid she will find herself going out the back door just like Jim Chamblos did.

OK, there's the politics. Feel free to flame me now. But just remember, I too would love to see the real murderer found, arrested and convicted someday. Roger was a good friend of mine.

Go for it Gasbag! Bout time you or someone raises the issue about that "other person" being involved with Shifflett's murder. Thanks for enlightening us. Everyone wants Shifflett's murderer found. The same amount of people would like to see Butch exonerated and left alone. Go see what is happening in Texas where the state is making dozens of new millionaires because of prosecutors mistakes...

Cisbemarlian, Alvin and the crack addict weren't the only suspects. There were others. And the DNA laced cigarette was just about the silliest thing I have ever heard of. This is what bothers me.... while it never appeared as if the commonwealth wanted the public or jury to know this, Alvin knew both Barbara and Roger and was a close friend to both. He visited the store. He visited both of them at the store. Alvin smoked at the time. There's no reasonable explantion in the world why a DNA laced cigarette butt of Alvin's wouldn't have been found on the poroperty. The commonwealth used the excuse that Roger swept and cleaned up the lot every day. And he did most of the time. I guess the commonwealth was attempting to say the DNA laced cigarette butt of Alvin's was deposited on on the parking lot the morning of the murder. But I'm sure there were evenings when Roger never got up every little speck of trash or cigarette butt.

It's not the first unsolved murder in the city and county. And sadly enough, it certainly won't be the last.

Cookie, just so you know "Satan" lived on another 6 or 7yrs

Prove it. (Petalmetal 9:13:30)

Prior to his fall, the Devil was the angel ââ?¬Å?Lucifer, son of the morning.” (Isa. 14:12) He was created and remained perfect until iniquity was found in him. (Ezek. 28:15) His iniquity was pride, which led to his ambition to ââ?¬Å?be like the Most High” [God].ââ?¬â?Isa.14:13,14

Satan’s ambition led him to tell the first lie ââ?¬â? that Adam and Eve would not surely die if they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. (Gen. 3:4,5) Through this lie, Satan usurped authority over man, and since that time he has used lies and violence to maintain his hold over the human family. He is the father of lies and a "murderer [of the human family] from the beginning."ââ?¬â?John 8:44


What happened to the store, the scene of the crime? It was at the corner of 20 an Avon and now you cant even tell where it was. Who owned it? Did Mr Morris have it bulldozed if he and his new wife, the widow, inherited it?

Sorry to say but he is not innocent by no means. Him and Barbra should pray everynight, that the hand cuff's don't come for them the next day. He should cry, how many hours did Rogers mother cry before her death. I will tell you everyday of her life she set looking out of the window crying each day. She also visited his grave everday till she was to weak to go. Never was Barbra there are his son's. But Mr. Morris was driving Rogers truck and living in his home he had payed for and eating his food. I think any family would want justis for this alone. Rogers dog he loved very much was put to sleep, becouse he could not stand Butch Morris and would try to eat him up every time he entered the house. And why would and innocent man blame others for something they din't do.