"I been knowing Jon about twenty years," says Tibbs--the two of them used to hang out at the same crackhouses. But Tibbs claims he didn't know why Morris was in jail, even though Morris's arrest in the Ashley Gray case had been front-page news.
Morris, a friend of the Gray family, took the little girl from her Denver home on August 10, 1995, promising to buy her some candy. Her body was found the following morning in a dumpster. In an interview with Denver police, Morris claimed that he remembered Ashley lying at his feet and remembered putting her in the trash bin. Beyond that, he said, he had little recollection of the crime.
After his arrest, Morris was implicated in the deaths of two women who had been killed in northeast Denver earlier that same year. Police say he is the prime suspect in the February 1995 death of prostitute Susan Boston, who was found with her throat slit. He is also a suspect in the August 5 death of transient Norma Fisher, whose body was discovered in the backseat of a burning car near 33rd Avenue and Josephine Street.
Late one night in the jail, Tibbs says, "Jon starts talking to me. We had just gotten done watching a movie. Will Smith. Independence Day. And he knocked on the wall and called my name. He said, 'Chico. Let me talk to you.'
"It was like around December 1," continues Tibbs. "Right after Thanksgiving. He was pretty low. The first thing he said was, 'I hope they give me the death penalty and get it over soon.' I had no idea what he was in for. I said, 'Whassup?'
"He said he was in for killing that little girl on Blake Street. He said, 'I did that.' I said, 'Why?' He said, 'I didn't mean to kill her.' He said, 'I had to get my freak on. I couldn't help it.'" [Tibbs says that "to get a freak on" means to have sex while on drugs.]
Tibbs claims that his old friend explained that he'd gone to the Gray home that night looking for Ashley's mother, who apparently wasn't home. "He said he'd been smoking crack and that he'd been up all night long. He said that Ashley kept asking him to take her to the store, and he said he agreed to take her.
"He said they were walking down the street and that he picked her up and put her on his shoulders, and about how he smelled her. He said that there was something about her underclothes...and that he just had to see what it was like."
According to Tibbs, Morris said that Ashley "started to scream, and he was covering her mouth to keep her from hollering out. Then he mumbled a few things I couldn't catch."
Tibbs says Morris then began talking about Norma Fisher, who was an acquaintance of a mutual friend. "He said, 'Remember she got killed behind Bruce Mayfield's house?'" Tibbs says. "He said, 'They got me for that.' He said they got him for some girl with a slashed throat, too. He said, 'They got me for everything.'
"He said he didn't really mean to do these things, and how he was on crack."
A couple of days later, Tibbs says, he phoned Denver chief deputy district attorney Mitch Morrissey, who is prosecuting the Morris case, and told him about the alleged confession. "I thought I was doing the right thing," he says. "Somebody has to speak up for that little girl."
Tibbs insists that he didn't go to Morrissey in search of a deal. He says he ratted out his old friend Morris purely as a public service.
But when Tibbs spilled the beans about Morris, he put the Denver DA's office in a ticklish situation. Ed Pluss, yet another of the court-appointed attorneys assisting Tibbs, explains that prosecutors suddenly grew nervous about cutting deals with Tibbs for fear they would look like rewards for his tip on Morris. According to Pluss, the DA's office knew that if it allowed Tibbs to skip out on any of the charges against him, the attorneys representing Morris would have a field day, accusing Tibbs of lying about Morris to save his own hide.
In fact, Tibbs claims that shortly after he told Morrissey about his conversation with Jon Morris, he received a note from his old buddy Twining, telling him that "all deals are off." Twining denies it, insisting that he hasn't communicated with Tibbs "directly or indirectly" for a year.