Testimony begins in Floyd County murder trial

James Duffy is accused of killing Lewis Morrison in 2016

Testimony begins in Floyd County murder trial
James Duffy, 27, is charged in the murder of 68-year-old Lewis Morrison of Floyds Knobs. (Source: Aprile Rickert)

NEW ALBANY, IN (NEWS AND TRIBUNE) - Opening statements started Wednesday morning in the trial of a man accused of robbing and killing a Floyds Knobs man in 2016.

James Duffy, 27, is charged with the murder of 68-year-old Lewis Morrison, who was found shot to death in the laundry room floor of his Vale Hill Drive home on Nov. 5, 2016. A trial began this morning in Floyd County Circuit Court.

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson first addressed the jury, which is made up of 10 men and four women. He said Morrison was retired from the U.S. Air Force and a local trucking company, and was involved with the American Legion up until his death.

Morrison, a widower, had been a generous man, Henderson said. He had opened his home to his friend's daughter — Staci Jo Chapman — after Chapman was released from prison in Kentucky, to help her get "back on her feet." Chapman made the 911 call Nov. 5 reporting a possible robbery and that Morrison was unresponsive.

Henderson told the jury that Chapman, who lived downstairs but used the kitchen and laundry room upstairs, "had a lot of acquaintances who came in and out of that apartment."

He told them there would be later evidence to show there had been a discussion in the days prior about Morrison's money, and that Duffy, his girlfriend Chelsea Wilson and another person had driven to the home the morning of Nov. 5 and that Duffy had gone into the home, through the basement.

"He didn't just attempt to rob Morrison," Henderson said. "He didn't give him a chance. The evidence will show that this wasn't just a killing, it was an execution."

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Morrison's body was found in the laundry room, where blood was present. Preliminary testimony from Floyd County Sheriff's Detective Mark Slaughter, the state's second witness, revealed that he had apparently been shot multiple times, based on Slaughter's observation. Slaughter also observed spent bullet casings and apparent bullet holes in multiple rooms leading from the stairs to the laundry room.

The house was ransacked, drawers and closets emptied of their contents, he said. A computer and TV were still at the house when police arrived.

Perry McCall, Duffy's lead counsel, told the jury during opening statements to expect themes to come out during the trial — that the case was poorly investigated, that Chapman had a role and that Duffy was made to be "the fall guy" for a murder he didn't commit.

Duffy was found by police in Clark County with a 9mm handgun, a .38 revolver and a large amount of cash, 14 hours after police first began investigating the case, Henderson said. McCall said "possession of those items doesn't make you a murderer."

"...Duffy had absolutely zero to do with this," he said. "There is another person involved. When you start peeling it back bit by bit, it cannot be Duffy."

He said when detectives became aware of Duffy's name, they ran with that, ignoring "potential other persons of interest, other evidence."

The trial was expected to resume at 2 p.m. continuing with the testimony of former Detective Slaughter.

This story will be updated.

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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