The tapes: Morris statements evolved
Long before Alvin Lee "Butch" Morris was arrested 20 years after the murder of Roger Lee Shifflett, police suspected him and interviewed him multiple times in 1988.
In recordings of the interviews, Morris initially claimed that the employee at Southwind who found Shifflett's body confessed to him four or five times that he shot Shifflett. In the final tape, Morris calls the alleged confession "hearsay."
Morris also denied he owned a .22-caliber gun, the type of firearm that killed Roger Shifflett. Later, he told police he used to own one but didn't know where it was.
In Albemarle County Circuit Court on Wednesday morning, July 8, the third day of the trial, the prosecution called in the officers who'd talked to Morris, and played the at-times nearly inaudible recordings of those conversations.
In a September 19, 1988, tape, Morris told Courtney Craft, then an investigator with Albemarle police, that he and Shifflett's widow, Barbara, were "good friends." The couple married a year later on September 1, 1989.
Morris can be heard on the tape saying phrases such as, "I talk to her, I told her to get out," "slow process," "I want a divorce," and "no grounds."
And when asked if he owned a .22 pistol, Morris says, "Only thing I got is a 12 gauge." In a later tape, he admits to having previously owned a .22: "It's been a couple of years since I've seen it."
In another recording made September 28, 1988, at Virginia State Police Headquarters in Appomattox, Morris alleges that Steve Stover, the employee at the Southwind Grocery who found Shifflett gunned down, was the real killer. Morris said Stover confessed to Morris four or five times. Prosecutor Denise Lunsford mentioned in her opening statement that Morris falsely accused someone else of the crime.
In that tape, Morris said Stover confessed that he killed Shifflett because of outrage over alleged mistreatment of Mrs. Shifflett by Roger. "It was time for him to go," Morris quotes Stover as having said.
By an October 24, 1988, tape, Morris backs off his claim about Stover.
"That was just hearsay," Morris says. "I can't prove it. I don't feel comfortable. I've heard so many stories."
Roy Kyle, who was a special agent with the State Police, can be heard on one tape saying, "Butch is telling me now he feels guilty because of his relationship with Barbara before and after, and this thing is eating him."
Morris says on the tape: "I enjoy the boys." Roger and Barbara Shifflett had three sons together. Twins Randy and Rodney were about seven when their father died; Lee was three and were raised by Morris. Shifflett had two older children from a previous marriage.
"I don't mean [inaudible] or even talk about getting married in six months," Morris says on the tape. "Down the road in a year, year and a half, I don't know."
And at least three times on the tape, Morris declares, "I did not shoot Roger Shifflett."