BRADENTON BEACH – The 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office in Manatee County has declined to prosecute the Sheena Morris case as a homicide or any other crime, according to Assistant State Attorney Art Brown.
“After a painstaking and thorough review and compilation of facts relating to the death of Sheena Morris, FDLE has concluded that ‘the investigation shows no evidence of a homicide,’ ” Brown wrote in a 21-page report, concurring with the conclusions in an exhaustive, 44-page Florida Department of Law Enforcement report released last week.
Morris’ body was found hanging from a blue dog leash in a Bradenton Beach hotel room shower on New Year’s Day 2009 by Bradenton Beach police, a few hours after an argument between Morris and her fiancé, Joe Genoese, was reported by neighboring hotel guests. Police interviewed Morris after Genoese left the hotel, “clearing the call” as a disturbance, according to the FDLE report.
Officers discovered her body the next day while responding to an eviction request by the hotel due to dogs being heard barking in the room, according to police records.
Bradenton Beach Police Det. Lenard Diaz determined that her death was a suicide, but Morris’ mother, Kelly Osborn, rejected the conclusion, implicating Genoese.
She hired consultants to do a private investigation, and they also questioned the conclusion of suicide.
FDLE enters case
Osborn requested that the FDLE review the case, which she took nationwide with television appearances on 20/20 and two episodes of the Dr. Phil Show, one of which featured Genoese failing a polygraph test.
The FDLE conducted a polygraph test which Genoese passed, according to Brown’s report, which noted that the tests are not admissible evidence in Florida courts. Alibi witnesses and telephone records also confirmed that Genoese was not in Bradenton Beach at the time of Morris’ death, according to the report.
A forensic psychologist is quoted in the FDLE report stating that Morris had eight suicide risk factors, including a 10-day psychiatric hospitalization, a diagnosis of “major depression with borderline and histrionic traits,” and the loss of two friends, one who committed suicide a year earlier by hanging himself with a blue dog leash, as she did.
At a press conference last week, Osborn disputed parts of the report, including a reference to her telling investigators that her daughter was once treated for an overdose; she said that no drugs were found in Morris’ system on that occasion. She also said that the report was wrong about her telling investigators that her daughter was bipolar, saying that she had only repeated that Genoese had said that Morris was bipolar.
The report also contradicted Osborn’s contention that Morris had sand on her feet, but that none was in the shower stall, noting that photographs taken at the scene clearly show sand on the shower floor.
Insisting that the finding of suicide is incorrect, Osborn told reporters on Thursday that it is nevertheless time for her to “walk away.”
“My journey is over. I’ve taken this as far as I can,” she said, blaming Genoese for “leaving my 22-year-old daughter alone in a hotel room, taking her money and keys and leaving her in another town. I hold him responsible for this.”
At a Bradenton Beach Commission meeting last week, new commissioners Jack Clarke and Janie Robertson along with Ed Straight, the vice mayor, and Commissioner Jan Vosburgh congratulated Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale and the police department on the outcome of the investigation.
Speciale, who supported his officer’s conclusion of suicide throughout the investigation and expressed sympathy for Osborn, said that Diaz is looking forward to resuming his normal duties after assisting the FDLE over the past year.
“This confirmed they did right,” newly-elected Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said, also expressing sympathy for Osborn.
“I had a son who was 21 years old who died in a motorcycle accident,” Shearon said. “I can relate to Kelly’s grief and I feel sorry for her, but right or wrong, there’s been a final decision on it.”