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Suspect in Youngstown slaying called ‘gentle’ at trial

Staff photos /Ed Runyan Lisa Markijohn, fiancee of William Granger, who is the son of John Morgan, is seen testifying Monday in John Morgan’s murder trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. At right is Rob Andrews, assistant county prosecutor, questioning Markijohn.

YOUNGSTOWN — The defense in the John E. Morgan murder trial presented three witnesses Monday who were close to Morgan at the time he was accused of shooting and killing Danny Peek Sr.

His girlfriend described Morgan as “gentle” and “loving.” His son described him as the victim of a drive-by shooting a year or so before he killed Peek.

Morgan is on trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on a charge of murder after Peek was fatally shot following a confrontation outside of Peek’s home on East Florida Avenue on the South Side on July 31, 2022. The trial resumes today, and Morgan is expected to testify as the final witness.

The first witness Monday was William Granger, 29, Morgan’s son, who testified about an incident in which Morgan, 47, of Campbell, was driving his car on Wilson Avenue on the South Side about three years ago when someone started shooting at Morgan’s vehicle near Jackson Street. They first fired from behind Morgan’s car, then the side and then “shot backwards at the front of his vehicle.” Morgan was not hit, and no one was ever charged.

Granger said his father had a gun prior to the incident and carried it at times. But after the incident, his father appears to have installed a dash camera in his vehicle, Granger said.

Granger’s fiancee, Lisa Markijohn, 29, testified next, saying she grew up in Canfield and that is where she and Granger live with their child. She said she met Granger’s parents, John and Mary Morgan in 2018, but in 2019 she learned Mary had a boyfriend and late in 2019, John and Mary split up. Markijohn said she believes John and Mary Morgan are still legally married.

She described John as a “very important person in our lives” and her first impression was of a “shy Teddie bear.”

She said her and Granger’s relationship with Kaitlynn Morgan, Granger’s sister, changed after Peek was killed. She used to talk to Kaitlynn Morgan a lot on Facebook, but within the first six months after the killing, Kaitlynn blocked her and Granger on Facebook.

Under questioning by defense attorney Justin Weatherly, Markijohn said she had never seen John Morgan pull out his gun on anyone or behave aggressively toward anyone. She said Morgan “usually shies away from any confrontation.”

She was asked whether she saw John Morgan ever display any “animosity toward” Peek.

She replied, “Not besides the normal ‘You’re sleeping with my wife.’ But that’s about it. He was upset about the whole situation. Why they were separated or why she left him.”

Weatherly then asked Markijohn about a series of statements Kaitlynn Morgan made in her testimony last week that seemed to contradict written Facebook comments Kaitlynn Morgan was quoted as having made.

In Kaitlynn Morgan’s testimony, she mostly defended Peek.

But in the messages with Markijohn, which Markijohn read aloud, Katelynn Morgan wrote that on the day Morgan killed Peek, she viewed it to be “self defense from Danny beating on Daddy.”

Another message from Katelynn Morgan read: “Why isn’t everyone trying to understand that Danny was attacking him. And then his 17-year-old son ran out kicking him? That he is disabled and how else was he supposed to protect himself?”

In her testimony, when Katelynn Morgan was asked about such comments, she said such information was how she felt “at the time” but she does not feel that way now.

The third person to testify for the defense was Megan Owens of Girard, John Morgan’s girlfriend, who said she met John Morgan five years ago. She described him at that time as “gentle, dorky (inaudible), compassionate, loving.” Morgan had health problems, but that did not change those characteristics, she said.

Owens said that just before the confrontation with Peek, she requested that John Morgan divorce his wife as her birthday present in June 2022. She obtained the forms for Morgan so he could file them, but John Morgan was missing something needed for the form: the address where his wife was living with Peek.

So he called Mary Morgan’s phone to ask for it but had to leave a message. Peek called John Morgan back a couple of days later on Mary’s Morgan’s phone. John Morgan put the phone on speaker, and Owens heard the call, she said.

Peek was “screaming, talking loud,” she said, “almost hostile.” John was not not hostile, she said. Instead, she described John’s reaction to Peek’s remarks as “childish.”

She said John Morgan was “saying childlike things to get a rise out of Dan.” Peek was making threats, she said. Peek was telling John Morgan to “come over so he could bury him by beating him, and John said I don’t know where you live. Give me your address.” Peek “blurted out the address, and John hung up.”

Rob Andrews, assistant county prosecutor, asked Owens a couple of questions about the video of the shooting.

“You saw John get out of the car, fire that gun?”

“I did,” she agreed.

“Then as Danny Peek is running away, you see John shoot him, correct?”

“John was on the ground when he shot,” she said.

“But you saw him shooting Danny?” Andrews asked.

“No, I saw him shooting at something,” she said.

The final witness Monday was Timothy Dimoff, a former Akron police officer. During his testimony, Weatherly showed portions of the dashcam video as he asked Dimoff to describe what Dimoff saw.

Dimoff described a point in the video when Morgan moved toward Peek with his gun in his hand. Morgan appeared to swing in the direction of Peek’s head. Dimoff said it appeared that John Morgan threw the gun “off to the side to engage (Peek) in a physical manner to try and control the situation.” John Morgan then appeared to use a “bear hug” to take Peek to the ground, Dimoff said.

Peek’s son, Daniel Peek, is then seen coming down the steps of the Peek residence to join the fray. Dimoff said a second person joining a fight “doubles or triples the threat” to Morgan. It increases the adrenaline and the “survival instinct of the person being attacked,” he said.

After “reviewing the background of all of the parties involved, obviously we knew there was a strong dislike, hatred and threat to kill or hurt” Morgan seriously. “And secondly, we see John just take a tremendous amount of physical pounding,” Dimoff said.

Then the gun ended up near John Morgan.

“With all of the beating, kicking and stomping, in my opinion, I don’t believe (Morgan) could understand, comprehend what was going on. He was in total adrenaline rush, survival mode, picks up the gun and fires it. I don’t think he even knew where Dan was,” Dimoff said.

As a result, Dimoff believes John Morgan cannot be held accountable for the gunshot that killed Peek, he said.

erunyan@vindy.com

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