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Four days before Halloween in 1991, James Wesley “Jimmy” Morris — a.k.a. James Morise and Jimmy Morise — was found beaten to death in his Ames, Iowa apartment.
Morris rented an apartment on the second floor at 203 E. Lincoln Way, a building next door to the Tip Top Lounge in Ames.
The following case information was compiled by Luke Jennett, a staff writer for the Ames Tribune, for the article, “Mid-Iowa Unsolved Murders” published in the Tribune on June 4, 2011:
James Morris, 58
Found dead in his home on Oct. 27, 1991
Mark Wheeler is one of two people at the Ames Police Department who worked the James Morris case and is still around today.
“We’ve chased it down about as far as we can go, witness-wise and evidence-wise, unless something else comes up,” he said.
Wheeler says the call came in on a Sunday. Morris’ friend, a person who lived near him, went to check on Morris in his apartment because a group of friends hadn’t seen him for several days. The neighbor found Morris laying in bed, deceased. The cause of death was a blunt object that fractured Morris’ skull.
Wheeler said the case was declared a homicide, and everyone, all the investigators with the department, were called in to work it.
Morris was described by a neighbor at the time as somewhat of a loner and “kind of weird.” He had previously been arrested on a terrorism charge after he had a standoff with police while armed with a shotgun. He was a retired refrigeration and air conditioning technician, and Wheeler said he earned money by doing refrigeration repair work and selling things flea-market style out of his home, which was next to the Tip Top Lounge.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation was requested for assistance, and agents came to Ames and processed the scene. It was obvious from the blood spatter that the attack took place in the bedroom, and some items in the house had been gone through, including a jewelry box.
“Other than that, it didn’t look like the house had been gone through a whole lot,” Wheeler said. “Of course, we didn’t know what it looked like before.”
The search began for Morris’ killer in earnest, as leads were tracked down and witnesses were interviewed. But the case soon stalled, and now it sits cold with the Ames Police Department.
The police did, at least, have something to work with, including some blood that was recovered at the scene that is not believed to be Morris’. But it wasn’t of good enough quality for a DNA profile.
Wheeler said several strong suspects were considered, but there was never enough evidence to charge them.
Now retired but working part-time as an evidence technician for the department, Wheeler says he’s accepted that the case may remain open for some time.
“You can’t solve all of them,” he said. “You want to, especially homicides, but … you do as much as you can do.”
Copyright 2011 The Ames Tribune
James Wesley Morris was born November 16, 1932 and lived in Peoria, Illinois, prior to moving to Ames.
If you have any information about James Morris’s unsolved murder please contact the Ames Police Department at (515) 239-5533 or the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.