A man charged in an Oct. 30, 2013 murder at a vacant home on Corning's Pine Street had assembled a kit with a duffel bag, trash bags and a hacksaw, and was planning to return to the scene the day he was picked up by police, he said in a videotaped interview shown in court Tuesday.
A man charged in an Oct. 30, 2013 murder at a vacant home on Corning’s Pine Street had assembled a kit with a duffel bag, trash bags and a hacksaw, and was planning to return to the scene the day he was picked up by police, he said in a videotaped interview shown in court Tuesday.
Ryan Morrow, 20, of Corning, is one of two suspects charged with killing Philip Lough, 28, of Bath, last year at 222 Pine St.
Steuben County Judge Marianne Furfure on Tuesday heard testimony from New York State Police investigators Joseph Kelly and Karl Appelbacher, who interviewed Morrow on Nov. 2, and saw several hours of the videotaped interview conducted at the Corning Police Department.
The purpose of the hearing was to determine if Morrow’s statement was admissible as evidence at trial.
Much of the videotaped statement was difficult to understand, largely because Morrow was speaking in a low, almost mumbling tone.
According to Morrow’s interview, he encountered Lough, who he identified as a “meth cook” known on the street as “Hitler,” in the city on Oct. 30, and arranged to meet with him later under the Bridge Street bridge.
Lough and Morrow met later that night at the agreed site, along with Jacob Horn, 23, of Painted Post, who is also charged with Lough’s murder.
Morrow said after that, “we went over to my place and smoked a few.”
He said later in the evening, he suggested Lough, who was homeless at the time, could stay at the unoccupied Pine Street mansion.
The three went there together.
After entering the house, the men went up a staircase to a second-floor bedroom where Lough apparently intended to sleep.
Morrow said it was at that point that Lough drew a weapon, a “stiletto knife” with a swastika on it.
“I reach behind me and grab the fireplace tool holder,” Morrow told the investigators.
“Where’d you hit him?,” Kelly asked.
“In the head,” he replied.
“The second time you hit him in the head also?,” Appelbacher asked.
Morrow said after he realized Lough was dead, he attempted to clean up almost immediately.
“I tried to stop the blood from getting everywhere,” he said.
Morrow said he then tried to hide the body in a dumbwaiter shaft or laundry chute in the large house, but had difficulty getting it to fit.
He did throw the alleged murder weapon and other items into the chute, he said.
He also later disposed of several items by throwing them off the Bridge Street bridge into the Chemung River and into a pond at Rhinehart Sand and Gravel off Route 352.
Morrow was picked up after investigators discovered cleaning supplies allegedly used to try to clean up the scene of the crime were an exact match to a purchase he had made at Wegmans.
In his videotaped statement, Morrow eventually acknowledged he had purchased bleach and ammonia to attempt to clean the crime scene.
He also later says he had assembled a “kit” of items that seem intended to be used to dismember and dispose of a body, though he doesn’t explicitly say so.
The investigators went to Morrow’s home on Bridge Street in Corning around 11 p.m. Nov. 2.
They testified that he went along willingly, and wasn’t placed under arrest until his statement allegedly implicated him in the killing.
The investigators also testified that Morrow was read his Miranda rights a total of four times, three times verbally and a second time as a written and signed waiver as part of his official statement.
Central to the issue of admitting the statement appears to be a 30- to 35-minute gap in the audio/video recording of his interview.
During that period, about an hour after he was brought in, Morrow was taken outside to smoke a cigarette, provided by Inv. Kelly.
Before the cigarette break, Morrow is asked mostly about his purchases at Wegmans on Oct. 31, and though he appears friendly and cooperative, he answers in short sentences and doesn’t admit to anything incriminating.
After the three return to the interview room, he tells the whole story as detailed above.
His defense attorney, Brenda Aston, asked the investigators what they said to Morrow to cause him to confess to the killing.
Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker objected to that question on the grounds that the investigators couldn’t testify about what went on in Morrow’s mind, and Furfure sustained the objection.
Although there is a video recording of that part of the interview from an exterior surveillance camera at the Corning Police Department, there’s no audio.
The investigators said Morrow was simply “ready to talk” at the time they went outside to smoke. They say he confessed first while the three were outside, and they asked him to start over with his story when they returned to the interview room.
After the interview, investigators said Morrow showed them the locations where he allegedly dumped evidence related to the case, and that divers were sent to recover the items, but it’s unclear what they found.
In January, Morrow pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and five counts of tampering with physical evidence.
Horn pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and four counts of tampering with physical evidence.
Both are currently housed at the Steuben County Jail without bail.
A trial in the case is expected in the fall, Baker said.