As she sat in a Bucks County jail cell, Jennifer Morrisey seemed nervous, her former cellmates testified Friday at her trial in the slaying of her former lover. One said she asked her how to craft a self-defense plea and later told her she had accidentally shot her “sugar daddy” in the heat of an argument.
Another fellow inmate testified that Morrisey said Michael McNew was drunk when she confronted and killed him at his house in Washington Crossing in August 2017. Afterward, the woman said, Morrisey told her she fled to her boyfriend’s trailer in Bensalem, seeking guidance on what to do next.
The three women said Morrisey spun several versions of how McNew died. The details, one said, “shifted every time she told the story.”
But what was consistent, they said, is that Morrisey, 34, told them she went to the home she once shared with the pharmaceutical executive, shot him once between the eyes, and left the house in a panic.
Prosecutors spent the third day of Morrisey’s murder trial in Doylestown reinforcing their case against the former exotic dancer and motorcycle mechanic. They built their evidence on the accounts of the women — Tracy Ward, Kimberly Wallace, and Ashley Connor — who spent time with her in the county prison.
At every turn, Morrisey’s attorney, S. Philip Steinberg, questioned their credibility and repeatedly asked whether prosecutors had promised them any favorable treatment in exchange for their testimony. In some instances, he noted, the inmates had received lesser sentences or had crucial paperwork expedited around the time they cooperated with the prosecution.
One witness, Connor, contradicted large parts of previous testimony to a grand jury, and had to be corrected multiple times by prosecutors.
All three women denied receiving special treatment, but none more vehemently than Ward, who acknowledged she is addicted to drugs and also admitted calling Morrisey’s boyfriend, Charles “Ruthless” Kulow, on Morrisey’s behalf in a violation of prison rules.
Ward told Deputy District Attorney Christopher W. Rees that she called Kulow and provided him with updates on the investigation into McNew’s death. She later regretted it, Ward said, nearly in tears.
“I’m not a perfect person. I thought I was helping someone out,” she said. “I made a phone call that I absolutely shouldn’t have made.”
She felt so guilty, she said, that she later passed along information Morrisey had provided her to detectives.
Wallace provided detectives with perhaps the most detailed account of McNew’s death.
She said that Morrisey outlined the fatal encounter multiple times: Morrisey went to confront McNew after he had been threatening her through text messages, angered that she was spending too much time with Kulow, a member of the Breeds motorcycle gang.
When Morrisey arrived, McNew brandished a gun and asked her, “Where is your boyfriend?”, according to Wallace. The two then struggled, wrestling to the floor. Morrisey, she said, told her she was able to grab the dropped gun and push McNew into a nearby recliner.
He lunged at her, Wallace said, and the gun went off “accidentally.”
Zhongxu Hua, the forensic pathologist who performed McNew’s autopsy, testified Friday that the barrel of the gun was very close to McNew’s face when the fatal shot was fired, at most an inch away.
Wallace said she asked Morrisey why she didn’t call the police if the shooting was accidental. Morrisey told her that “there was nothing that could be done" for McNew and that she doubted the police would have believed her story.
Morrisey, Wallace said, told her she returned to the scene of the shooting later with Kulow and a third man, and they initially decided to stage McNew’s death as a suicide. Later, according to Wallace, she said they changed course, trying to make it look like a “bad robbery,” by stealing McNew’s laptop and cell phone and rifling through his pockets.
She was insistent, Wallace said, that she “wouldn’t let Ruthless go down for this.”
The biker ended up going down on his own: He was convicted of an unrelated murder in Philadelphia in October.
The third man to whom Wallace alluded, Jerry Watson, also testified Friday. He said only he and Morrisey drove back to McNew’s house as a favor to Kulow, who wanted to see whether McNew had survived the shooting.
Watson denied stealing anything from the home or otherwise disturbing the crime scene.