Mother's Search for Answers in Daughter's Death Leads to Shelter Closure

By Guy Leonard, St. Mary's County Times

One of the county’s key providers of shelter and aid services to battered, abused and homeless women has closed its doors, according to its founder and director Rev. Marguerite Morris.

Morris led an organization that often struggled to provide shelter and assistance to displaced women and despite years of seeking aid from the county they never received any assistance as did other non-profits with a long history of accepting tax payer funds.

The organization officially stopped all services to women last week, Morris told The County Times, including referrals to other organizations who helped the abused and displaced.

Half a year ago they closed their doors for actually providing shelter, she said.

Morris said the decision to close Leah’s House’s doors was her choice and was not due to financial problems.

Instead she is moving to Anne Arundel County to be with family. Anne Arundel County is also the place where her daughter Katherine Morris died in 2012 from what police have said was an apparent suicide.

Morris is unsatisfied with the ruling and wants to continue her own investigation.

“I need to get answers on this,” Morris said, who also lost her spouse in 2013. “I wanted to make sure people who supported us don’t feel like they failed.”

More than a year ago Leah’s House handed over control of its day to day operations to a management company but reassumed it before finally closing its doors, Morris said.

Morris had several projects she wanted to complete when founding Leah’s House, including building a dedicated women’s shelter in Valley Lee on the site of the former HappyLand Bar, but that idea never came to fruition.

“We didn’t finish the building but we did accomplish a big work,” Morris said, referring to the group’s work with abused women and trying to feed the hungry. “I just want them to know it was appreciated.”

Morris said that the void left by her daughter and what she believes are the mysterious circumstances under which she died have now become the focus of her life.

“To pursue this I want to be closer to family,” Morris said.

Morris said she believed her daughter was driven to suicide by a U.S. Army Specialist named Isaac Goodwin who Morris alleged married her daughter just so he could receive a greater housing allowance.

The marriage was held in secret in 2011, Morris said, and she did not know about it until her daughter tried to kill herself but failed while she was a student at the University of Maryland.

Morris said her daughter, was just 22 years old when she found out that Goodwin was having affairs with other women; Morris said her daughter believed Goodwin had only married her so he could get a greater housing allowance.

An army report showed that investigators found there was no evidence of fraud committed by Goodwin but that there was evidence of adultery.

They also found evidence that he had failed to pay support to his wife while he was serving in the military.

The army’s investigation into Goodwin found that while there marriage was strained there was no evidence to show that their marriage was void from fraud.

Katherine Morris’ body was found inside her car in a Hanover parking lot May 6, 2012, with Anne Arundel County Police ruling the death a suicide. Police said she had used two lighted charcoal grills inside her car to asphyxiate herself.

Before her death Morris’ mother claims that her daughter had accused Goodwin of fraud and was going to make a complaint with the army’s Inspector General’s office.

An apparent suicide letter left by Katherine Morris was found by Anne Arundel police on her phone at her residence at the University of Maryland.

“I am so sorry for doing this to my parents [and] my friends but I don’t see myself ever being happy again. When I look at my future I don’t see anything. I don’t see kids. I don’t see a husband. I don’t see love. I don’t see happiness. [I] don’t see a career. I just see more misery. It’s easier this way. Please don’t let him get away with what he’s done and what he’s doing. I didn’t deserve this. I couldn’t handle this. It completely [debilitated] me.”

Anne Arundel County police ruled in their investigation that there was no indication of foul play or other suspicious circumstances.

Police reopened their investigation into Morris’ death in 2013 but the family has continued to press for more answers.

Marguerite Morris said she has a meeting scheduled with police and elected leaders later this month regarding her daughter’s death.

Attempts to contact Goodwin for comment were not successful.

Doris Day, one of the members of the board of directors at Leah’s House, said the death of Morris’ daughter was probably the strongest reason for closing the doors but is was also from a lack of support.

There was never any county funding, she said, and also there were too few volunteers to help out.

“It’s been a blessing to me,” Day said of her time at Leah’s House. “It’s a blessing God gave me to help others. Sometimes I still hear from them.

“We needed more laborers, we needed more help from the county but they just weren’t doing it.”

Commissioner Todd Morgan said the issue of Leah’s House funding was one of limited resources and more non-profit entities looking for help.

“She was never included on the list to receive funding,” Morgan said. “We [the prior commissioner board] inherited the list and we felt we couldn’t be the judge of who was in and who was out.”

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