Murder suspect claims killing justified to save self, father, victim's wife

Murder suspect claims killing justified to save self, father, victim's wife
Austin Patton, 20, has been charged with murder and tampering with evidence in relation to the Metro's first homicide of 2016. (Source: LMDC)
Austin Patton, 20, has been charged with murder and tampering with evidence in relation to the Metro's first homicide of 2016. (Source: LMDC)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A troubled son was on the run for more than 24 hours, calling and texting family and friends to admit responsibility for Louisville Metro's first homicide of 2016.

But instead of keeping a promise to surrender at Louisville Metro Police Department Headquarters at 1 p.m. Thursday, Austin Patton, 20, was at a motel in Shepherdsville, where detectives took him into custody minutes later on charges of murder, tampering with evidence and possession of a handgun.

"He phoned his Mom, he got scared," Attorney Gus G. "Skip" Daleure said. "He's the shooter. There's never been any doubt. But based on the facts I know, I think he has a legitimate self-defense."

[RELATED: Arrest made in Metro's first homicide of 2016]

Family members and friends said Patton claims he was protecting his father, Rodney Patton, his father's girlfriend -- Morgan's estranged wife -- and the Morgans' 3-year-old daughter, after Morgan showed up at Rodney Patton's home and threatened tried to hit them with a brick.

"That's what I would have in my mind, if I saw the guy beat my Dad up," neighbor Joyce Watkins said Thursday.

Morgan had attacked Rodney Patton several times, Watkins said, upset over the relationship.

"I didn't see the shooting, but I heard the two gunshots," Watkins said.

She saw only Patton, his father and Morgan when she looked outside moments later, she continued.

"It wasn't like he (Austin Patton) was fleeing," Watkins said. "He was walking really fast, but wasn't running."

Morgan was still breathing, but bleeding badly when officers arrived, she continued.

"Rodney (Patton) had called 911," Watkins said. "Then he drove his girlfriend (Morgan's wife) and the little girl home, so she wouldn't have to see her Daddy."

Police took the pickup Rodney Patton drove to examine it for evidence. By air and ground, they searched the mobile home park for several hours Wednesday, to confirm that Patton had not hidden in another unit or in the surrounding brush-line.

Police and family members were unclear as to whether Morgan's wife and younger daughter witnessed the shooting.

"He did talk to us about his role in the shooting," LMPD Det. Lt. Todd Kessinger said. "That's all I can say about that."

Patton was not alone when he was taken into custody, but his companion will not face charges, Lt. Kessinger said.

Patton has faced charges tied to thefts and drugs, "but he was on diversion," Daleure said. "No history of violence. He is adamant that he was justified in this."

WAVE 3 News has been unable to reach members of Morgan's immediate family. Relative Thelma Edwards choked back tears as she tried to process it all.

"Babies are being left behind in this world," she said. "Missing parents, missing father, missing brother - it's got to stop!"

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