Family confronts killer who breaks four decades of silence

Killing happened in 1977

STUART, Fla. - Beth DeOliviera had one question for the man who killed her grandmother. Why?

“How dare you just sit there. Look at me!  Why?” asked DeOliviera, face to face with James Morgan.

It was the last day of school in June of 1977 when DeOliviera says she learned that Morgan, then 16, killed and sexually assaulted 66 year-old Gertrude Trbovich in her Stuart home. Morgan stabbed the victim more than 60 times and bit her breast, leaving marks that helped identify him as the killer.

Because of changes in the law surrounding juveniles who commit murder, Morgan was entitled to this week’s re-sentencing hearing. Morgan had been sentenced to death four times. The last trial was in 1990. His sentence was changed to life in 1994.

This week,  psychologists for the state and the defense testified. A defense psychologist said Morgan appeared remorseful and had a traumatic childhood. Wednesday, a forensic psychologist for the state said Morgan has made no transformative changes in prison.

Son Steve Trbovich found himself again in a courtroom, testifying how hard it's been for his family.

“There’s been no closure."  Trbovich then pointed right at Morgan and declared, "You killed her and you know you did.”

Finally, James Morgan addressed the family.

“Last Wednesday marked 41 years since I did the worst thing a man could do. I am truly from the depths of my heart and soul, sorry.”

It will now be up to the judge to determine Morgan's fate. If he’s re-sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 40 years to life, there is a chance Morgan could be freed as he’s already served 41 years.

The judge plans to hand down his decision on Friday.

 

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