Strung out on methamphetamine, Alvin Andrew Kelly collected debts for a drug operation in Kilgore. In 1984, he shot his own roommate, set the man’s truck on fire and dumped the body on a road near Lake Cherokee.
He sold drugs. He stole. He sexually assaulted two of his fellow inmates in the Gregg County Jail.
“I was a bad guy,” said Kelly, who’s scheduled to be executed Tuesday. “I thought I was a gangster, you know what I’m saying?”
Kelly said he is ready to die for the crimes he committed, but he swears he did not commit the crime that put him on death row — the 1984 shooting death of 22-month-old Devin Morgan. The toddler’s body was found along with the bodies of his parents at their home in the Spring Hill community.
“The travesty of this case is not my death, because when I die I know where I’m going,” said Kelly, who says he became a Christian in 1987. “The travesty is the victims’ family not getting the truth, because I’m not the person that’s responsible for this family’s death. All the fighting I have done in this case is not for me. I am a child of God. He can do with me whatever he wants to.”
Prosecutors and investigators have declined to comment until Kelly has been executed. His attorney said he intends to ask the governor for a 30-day reprieve.
No physical evidence
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. The decision has all but ended an appeals process that began soon after Kelly’s conviction in 1991, when a Gregg County jury reached a guilty verdict based largely on the testimony of Kelly’s ex-wife, Cynthia May Cummings.
Cummings testified she watched her husband and his friend Ronnie Lee Wilson — who also was convicted — kill the Morgan family. She described details of the crime scene that prosecutors said only an eyewitness would know.
Kelly’s brother also testified. He said he watched Kelly threaten to kill Jerry Morgan at the Morgans’ home a few days before the murders. He also said Kelly came to his house the night of the deaths, admitted to the killings and asked for money to flee town.
However, no physical evidence has been presented that ties Kelly to the murders. Kelly maintains he first saw the Morgans when his defense attorney showed him a family portrait shortly before his trial.
“There’s no way I could possibly go in this house, kill three people and drag their bodies to the end of (a bedroom) and not leave some physical evidence — a hair, skin, blood or something,” he said.
“It’s not there because I wasn’t there.”
After he dies, Kelly said, he believes the truth will be revealed, but he said officials won’t care.
“They’ll go, ‘Oh, we went on the evidence we had, and so what? He’s an ex-drug-dealing confessed murderer, and we did society a good deal by executing him.’ But that’s not right,” he said.
“I have been offered a life sentence three times in this case. I can’t take a life sentence. I would have to lie to myself, and I couldn’t do that.”
Kelly said he only is responsible for the death of his roommate, John T. Ford, in a dispute over money and drugs 35 days after the Morgan murders. In a recent interview on death row, he claimed Cummings shot Ford first, and he merely emptied rounds into Ford’s dead body.
He also speculated that Ford and Cummings might have killed the Morgans. Cummings has never been charged or indicted on those accusations, and attempts to find her and her relatives were unsuccessful.
17 years of appeals
Kelly’s attorneys have argued that Cummings and Kelly’s brother agreed to testify in exchange for immunity in other crimes, tarnishing their credibility. There is no documentation about a formal agreement, though, and prosecutors have said there was no deal. Appeals attorneys also have said a heart-shaped necklace casts the state’s entire case in doubt.
A few days after their deaths, police found the Morgans’ car on a street near a Tyler hospital. A few blocks away, a pickup had been stolen the night of the killings.
The pickup was found in Grand Prairie, and the two men in the vehicle were arrested, according to appeals attorneys’ briefs. Inside the truck, officers found a heart-shaped necklace.
Investigators presented the necklace to three of Brenda Morgans’ family members, who “immediately” recognized it as hers, according to a brief filed by Kelly’s attorney, T. Scott Smith of Sherman.
“Years later, a few weeks before trial — when it became apparent that the man who stood accused might go free if the necklace found in the truck with the two black males was in fact Brenda’s — these witnesses changed their mind and decided that this necklace did not belong to Brenda Morgan,” he wrote. “For unknown reasons, the police excluded the two black males as suspects in the Morgan murders.”
Contacted Friday, Brenda Morgan’s mother, Betty McGrede, said her daughter owned a heart-shaped necklace, but she could not remember whether investigators showed it to her.
Another attorney, Mark Breding of Quitman, also says he found holes in the state’s case against Kelly.
Representing Kelly during his state appeals, Breding took statements from Cummings’ two sisters that cast doubt on Cummings’ testimony. Shortly thereafter, investigators questioned the women, and they recanted their statements or said they were taking medication and delusional when they spoke to Breding.
Breding said he does not buy that.
“For them to completely gut their affidavits, it just floored me. Both of them,” he said. “I’m just curious what was said to those ladies that made them completely change their story.”
Kelly said he forgives the people who testified against him, as well as the state of Texas, Gregg County and the jurors who found him guilty. Days away from his scheduled death, Kelly said he is ready, and he has asked for a special meal before he dies.
“I’m getting communion,” he said. “I don’t want no worldly food. I filled out the paperwork, and I’m going to have the Lord’s Supper for my last meal.
“I’m fasting from Sunday to Tuesday, so when I go, I’ll be purified.”
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NO: “I will tell you, I have known Alvin for 10 years, and he has steadfastly maintained his innocence, and he’s never wavered. In my personal opinion, I believe him. Almost anybody on death row says they didn’t do it, but I don’t believe them all.”
— T. Scott Smith, Sherman lawyer who represented Kelly during his federal appeals
YES: “There’s not a doubt in my mind. There was so much evidence that (his wife) brought forward, so much stuff it was impossible for anybody to know. The small details, like a towel being folded and placed under Brenda’s neck. Plus, I really think the state is not going to set up someone unless they have hard evidence. He’s been in jail 17 years, so we’ve gone through many appeals.”
— Lori Kubecka, niece of Jerry and Brenda Morgan
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Niece keeps promise to watch execution
Jim Morgan didn’t live to see the execution of the man who, on a spring night in 1984, cradled Morgan’s toddler grandson in one hand, held him at arm’s length and shot the child in the face.
Morgan died a year and a half ago. Before his death, his granddaughter, Lori Kubecka, made a promise to him that she intends to keep Tuesday.
“He said if he couldn’t be there, he sure hoped I would step in,” she said.
Kubecka said she is the only member of her family who plans to witness the scheduled Tuesday execution of Alvin Andrew Kelly.
After 17 years of appeals, Kelly is set to die for the murder of 22-month-old Devin Morgan, whose body was found along with the bodies of his parents, Jerry and Brenda Morgan, at their home in the Spring Hill area of Gregg County.
Kelly’s ex-wife and his brother testified he killed the family, but Kelly says he didn’t know the Morgans and maintains he did not kill them.
“I pray to God I can go through with it,” Kubecka said of witnessing Kelly’s lethal injection. “I hope I can actually go in, but I don’t know if I can. I’m going to be there, and I’m going to try.”
The Morgans’ remaining family members have mixed emotions about the execution, Kubecka said. She said she could not convince her mother, Jerry Morgan’s sister, to join her Tuesday.
“I just have this huge knot in my stomach,” Kubecka said. “I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. I don’t think it’s right to take another person’s life. Even though this happened to us, I’m not really for the death penalty.
“But I think it depends on the act, and for this particular act, when it comes to a baby, he shot Devin in the face. When it comes to what he did to our family, I think he deserves it. But it’s been so long. He has sat behind bars for so long now, I can’t really say. I don’t know.
“I feel for his family. They’re going to see now what we’ve gone through in the past 24 years.”
Kubecka, who lives in Corpus Christi, was 10 at the time of the killings.
She lived a few streets away from the Morgans’ home on Greggtex Road and said she saw them almost every day. She often helped her mother baby-sit Devin.
“For years, we didn’t know who did it. I was terrified. To this day, I still cannot stay by myself overnight,” she said.
“Even though he’s behind bars, you still have this thought in the back of your mind that if this man could do it, anyone could come into my home and kill my family. It definitely traumatized me. It was such a brutal, brutal murder.”
A niece remembers the Morgan family
Jerry Morgan, 30: “Jerry was the kindest man. I call him a clown, because he cut up with everybody. … He was just a fun-loving, very kindhearted person. He loved his family more than anything in this world. He loved his son.”
Brenda Morgan, 25: “Brenda was my role model. They were so happy together. She loved her family, and she was a very devoted mom. She was beautiful, just a beautiful person inside and out.”
Devin Morgan, 22 months: “Devin was an angel. I remember the butterfly kisses I used to get from him. He’d wrap his tiny little arms around my hand, and he’d just squeeze as hard as he could.”
— Lori Kubecka, who was 10 years old when the Morgans were killed
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The “rocky horse” Betty McGrede built for her grandson still sits on the front porch of her country home near Hallsville.
Devin Morgan was too small to ride it when he was killed in 1984.
Two days from now, 57-year-old Alvin Andrew Kelly is scheduled to die for the toddler’s death. Devin would have been 26.
“Nothing’s ever going to bring my kids back,” said McGrede, whose daughter and son-in-law, Brenda and Jerry Morgan, also were killed, “but (Kelly has) lived longer than he really deserved to live.”
The case went unsolved for about five years, until Kelly’s estranged wife implicated him in the deaths.
“The first few years after they were killed, you lived in fear because you didn’t know who they were, where they were, or why they did it,” she said. “Chances are, we’ll live the rest of our lives and never know why.”
At Kelly’s trial in 1991, witnesses said the killings might have been drug-related, but prosecutors presented no physical evidence of that. McGrede said she does not believe the drug claims.
“Brenda would do good if you could get her to take aspirin for a headache,” she said. “There’s just no way. I know there were rumors, but I just don’t believe they would have dealt with drugs in any way.”
She said Devin had an older brother, Shane, who died of complications from cerebral palsy two months before the killings. Jerry and Brenda Morgan were still grieving when they were killed.
Today, the McGredes often talk about the Morgan family, especially around the holidays.
“They’re never forgotten,” she said. “It’ll always be there. It changes you forever.”
After losing her two grandsons, McGrede now has “a bunch of little girls,” she said – three granddaughters and four great-granddaughters.
“None of the grandkids were even born then,” she said. “They just know by pictures.”
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April 30, 1984: A Gregg County family is shot to death in the Spring Hill community. The next morning, family members discover the bodies of Jerry, Brenda and 22-month-old Devin Morgan, arranged on the floor of Devin’s bedroom.
June 5, 1984: A burning truck is found north of the Judson community. The body of the owner, John T. Ford, is located a few days later on a road near Lake Cherokee.
Sept. 5, 1985: A couple since 1982, Alvin Andrew Kelly and Cynthia May Cummings marry. By 1987, they have separated, and Cummings has move from East Texas to Michigan.
July 7, 1987: Kelly, who had been in the Gregg County Jail on a drug charge, is convicted of the aggravated sexual assault of two fellow inmates.
Nov. 20, 1989: A man in Michigan calls Gregg County investigators to say Cummings, his ex-wife, has information about Ford’s and the Morgans’ deaths. Cummings implicates her estranged husband, Alvin Kelly.
July 26, 1990: Kelly pleads guilty to Ford’s murder and is sentenced to 30 years in prison. He denies killing the Morgan family.
Sept. 23, 1990: In a sworn statement, Cummings says she witnessed Kelly kill the Morgan family. She describes a towel she folded under Brenda Morgan’s head and provides other details that prosecutors say only an eyewitness would know. She says another man, Ronnie Lee Wilson, helped with the killings.
Nov. 28, 1990: Kelly is indicted in the Morgans’ deaths.
Oct. 24, 1991: After a weeklong trial, a Gregg County jury deliberates 73 minutes before convicting Kelly of the capital murder of Devin Morgan. A day later, the jury sentences Kelly to death. Kelly is never tried for the deaths of Jerry or Brenda Morgan. Kelly maintains he did not kill the family.
April 6, 1992: Wilson is found guilty of capital murder and is sentenced to 66 years in prison. Wilson has been eligible for parole since 1998, and is scheduled for release in 2013.
June 26, 1996: The first of almost 20 years of failed appeals is announced, with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirming Kelly’s sentence.
Aug. 15: Gregg County District Judge Alvin Khoury sets Kelly’s execution date for Oct. 14.
Oct. 6: The U.S. Supreme Court declines to review the case.
Tuesday: Kelly is scheduled to be executed.
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Kelly apologizes before execution
Longview News-Journal (TX) – Wednesday, October 15, 2008
HUNTSVILLE – Alvin Andrew Kelly died Tuesday evening the same way he spent the previous 17 years on Texas’ death row – professing his innocence in the 1984 killing of a Gregg County toddler.
In his final statement, Kelly thanked God and his family and friends, then addressed the family of victims Jerry Morgan, Brenda Morgan and their 22-month-old son, Devin Morgan, who were found dead in their Spring Hill home on May 1, 1984.
“I offer my sorrow, and my heart goes out to y’all,” he said. “I know you believe that you’re going to have closure tonight. As I stand before God today, the true judge, I had nothing to do with the death of your family.”
As the lethal injection was administered, Kelly began to sing a song:
“Thank you Lord Jesus for coming into my life; You walked with me through prison; Thank you Lord Jesus because you died for me; Thank you Lord Jesus for remembering me.” His voice faltered, and he slipped into unconsciousness.
Kelly was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m. He was 57 years old.
Lori Kubecka, the niece of Jerry Morgan, said she and other family members did not expect an apology from Kelly when they decided to attend the execution at the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“I think we all feel like he’s lying,” she said. “We know he did it, without a shadow of a doubt. I’m glad it’s over. None of us came for closure. We were there to speak and give voices to our family who did not have voices anymore.”
Kubecka said she became angry as she listened to Kelly’s last words.
“It made me ill,” she said. “It made me sick to my stomach. I kept thinking, ‘This was the last voice that Brenda, Jerry and Devin heard before they were murdered.’
“I’m kind of numb. I’m glad it’s over, but I feel like he got off too easy – peacefully.”
Friends and family members of Kelly declined to comment after the execution
In his final statement, Kelly apologized to the family of John T. Ford, an East Texas man who Kelly pleaded guilty to killing in 1984. Kelly was serving a 30-year term for Ford’s death when he was indicted in the Morgan killings.
Kelly’s brother and ex-wife testified that he shot and killed the family. Kelly was an admitted drug dealer, and prosecutors said the killings might have been drug-related.
Investigators Russell Potts, with the Gregg County District Attorney’s Office, and Chuck Willeford, who is now chief deputy of the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office, headed the investigation that led to Kelly’s conviction in 1991.
“For the family, this has been a long wait, and maybe this will help them a little bit,” said Willeford, who was contacted by phone after the execution.
“It will never bring them back, but maybe they’ll feel there was some justice.”
Kelly was the 10th inmate to be executed in Texas this year.
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Excerpts of Alvin Kelly ‘s last statement
Yes, I would like to thank God for my salvation and all he has done in my life. …I love you, Mary Taylor (Kelly’s friend), with all my heart. … I love you, Michelle (friend), you’re my little kitten. Kevin (Kelly’s son), it’s all you now. You are my boy. …
I would like to address the family. I offer my sorrow and my heart goes out to y’all. I know you believe that you’re going to have closure tonight. As I stand before God today, I had nothing to do with the death of your family.
I would like to address the family of John T. Ford (Kelly’s 1984 murder victim). I ask for forgiveness because I do stand guilty for my involvement for that. Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for coming to my life. …