BRADENTON BEACH – The Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution has agreed to investigate the apparent hanging death of Sheena Morris in 2009 in a Bradenton Beach hotel room.
At the insistence of Morris’ mother, Kelly Osborn, 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Ed Brodsky requested the review of the case, which was determined to be a suicide by the Bradenton Beach Police Department. The Attorney General’s office declined to comment on the case because it is now an active investigation, according to press secretary Kylie Mason.
Osborn has contended from the start that her daughter did not commit suicide but was murdered, possibly by her fiancé, and that the hanging was staged. She told The Sun last August, “There’s no way they’re going to keep shutting me down. Come hell or high water, I will make sure it goes to a grand jury, even if I have to get a statewide prosecutor.”
Police found Morris, 22, dead, hanging in a shower stall by her dog’s leash on Jan. 1, 2009 after hotel staff heard dogs barking and called for assistance in evicting her.
Police had been called to the hotel about 12 hours earlier after an argument between Morris and her fiancé, Joseph Genoese, who left before police arrived. When Osborn took her case to the Dr. Phil show on national television, Genoese failed a lie detector test, inadmissible in court. He was not charged with any crime, and has repeatedly denied any involvement in Morris’ death.
Osborn then hired private forensic investigators who concluded her daughter’s death was a murder, based partly on marks on Morris’ lower back resembling the pattern in a wicker chair visible in a photo of the hotel room taken after her death. Her lead investigator, Jan Johnson, said the marks were caused by lividity, a process in which blood pools in the body after the heart stops pumping at death, indicating she was placed in the chair after her death, inconsistent with suicide.
However, subsequent reinvestigations by Bradenton Beach Police Det. Sgt. Len Diaz, Manatee County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega, the 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have since reaffirmed the conclusion that Morris’ death was a suicide.