NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Suicide or murder? Forensic experts uncover new clues in 2009 New Year’s Day death 

Experts confident 2009 case was staged suicide
Posted at 7:41 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 23:36:50-04

The hanging death of Sheena Morris, 22, ruled a suicide gained national attention and broke a mother’s heart.

For more than a decade, Kelly Osborn has fought to prove her daughter did not take her own life. Osborn said she has always believed Morris’ fiancé at the time, Joe Genoese, killed her daughter. 

For the first time in 10 years, Osborn is confident she found the missing piece of the puzzle to prove that. The clue was hiding in plain sight in the original crime scene photos.

A team of experts at Forensic Pieces analyzed one photo in particular, that was taken minutes after Morris was discovered dead. Forensic expert, Jan Johnson told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska the lividity marks on Morris’ body prove that her death was a staged suicide. 

Lividity is blood going where gravity tells it to post mortem. Experts said the marks show an inverted triangle mark on her lower back. 

Johnson asked if Osborn was able to find the same type of chair at the hotel where Morris died to compare the marks with a physical piece of evidence. Osborn said she called the hotel and asked if they still had the same furniture that was there in 2009.  

She was told that the hotel was since remodeled and they weren’t sure. But, by a stroke of luck, Osborn said there was one wicker chair that matched the one in the crime scene photos on the property. Osborn drove down to the hotel, got the chair and took it to Johnson.

Johnson’s forensic report, now being reviewed by 12th Judicial District State Attorney Ed Brodsky, states their analysis is “irrefutable.”

The reports final findings after analysis states, “there is no scientific explanation for the blanched lividity pattern as occurring from any object, wall, or floor inside the shower enclosure. This pattern lividity and blanching matches the wicker weave pattern of the chair inside the condo in size, configuration, and angles. The lividity pattern and bleaching on Sheena’s back developed after Sheena was deceased with no beating heart. Sheena had to remain in the chair for a sufficient time period for gravity to take effect and dependent lividity to develop within the pattern. Then and only then… Sheena was moved by another person into the shower, and the death scene staged to look like a suicide hanging.”

Osborn said there is no way her daughter would’ve taken her own life. Osborn said she never wanted the public to see photos of her daughter from the crime scene but feels compelled to share them because she says people have to see it to believe her. She said the images, as horrific as they are told look at, hold the final clue police overlooked proving her daughter was murdered.

“I think it’s enough to indict,” Osborn said. “Let’s call it what it was it was, a homicide let’s start there let’s call it what it was. These makes are post mortem this proves she was either killed in the chair or put in the chair after she was killed for an amount of time and then staged in the shower hung.”

Genoese was the last person with Morris the day she died. They were involved in a domestic dispute that was so loud Osborn said nearby guests called 911.

Morris made the 911 call from the Bridge Walk Resort on Anna Maria Island. The call time stamp is 2:10 a.m. Morris was found dead in her room by hotel staff later that afternoon. She was found hanging in the shower with her buttocks only 6 to 7 inches off the floor and legs straight out in front of her.  

In the 911 call, Morris tells the operator, “I had deputies come out here cause he did physically hurt me. He did make me bleed and left claw marks all over me and stuff.”

Osborn said police never looked at her daughter as the victim and should’ve arrested one of the two the night of the 911 call.
“Had they done their job the right way she could still be alive,” Osborn said.  

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale told ABC Action News over the phone the original detective that worked the case is in contact with the state attorney.  

“We depended ten years ago on what experts told us,” Speciale said. “It’s not new evidence. It’s just that she had some individuals re-examine it. They’ve got their opinion on what they believe may have occurred. If physical evidence that we have does not back that up that will not change our opinion.”

Speciale said it would be up to the state attorney and the medical examiner to assess Johnson’s report and change the cause and manner of death to homicide.

We spoke to Genoese over the phone; he said, “I’m not interested in talking to anyone. I have no comment” and hung up.