Abuse alleged after shooting in Trego

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A Trego man is being held on a $500,000 bond on assault with a weapon charges after his wife shot him following years of alleged threats and abuse at his hands.

Authorities arrested Jacob F. Morris, 32, on the felony charges after he suffered a gunshot wound to the chest Oct. 16. He is being held in the Lincoln County Detention Center pending a pretrial hearing Nov. 20.

Lincoln County Attorney Marcia Boris said a large bail was necessary because Morris “appears to believe that his religious beliefs entitle him to inflict physical injury upon the victim, up to and including injuries that could cause her death.”

Authorities initially responded to a report of a wife having shot her husband at Morris’ Fortine Creek Road home about 10:30 p.m. Oct. 16. When Detective Dave Hall of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office arrived about 12:30 a.m., Morris had been flown to Kalispell for medical care.

Morris’ wife and their four children, ages 6 months to 11 years, remained inside the home where two other deputies and Eureka Police Officer Nicole Gibson were standing watch, according to the affidavit.

In her first interview with authorities, the victim said Morris was worried and had gone outside, where he began yelling, according to court documents. He feared a trespasser and was panicking, she told them. When he returned, she imagined an intruder was coming in, court documents said.

When Morris failed to identify himself with a knock, she fired a .45 caliber handgun at him.

“I hurt him, I hurt him,” she repeated to Hall, according to his account.

The victim said both she and Morris were veterans on 100 percent disability and suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. They moved to the Trego area about five years ago, she said.

Asked whether they had argued that night, the woman told Hall they had not. Hall, however, noted in his affidavit that she had bruises on her arms.

“He protects me,” she told Hall. “He keeps me safe from the world.”

Authorities initially placed the couple’s three eldest children in the home of a friend and took the victim and her 6-month-old child to the Eureka Law Enforcement Center for a medical examination, court documents said. Gibson also reported seeing bruising on the victim, but reported that she would not talk about or show them to officers.

Soon after, the doctor charged with the medical examination documented bruising in “different stages” all over the victim’s body, according to court documents. She also said the victim began speaking about a history of abuse at Morris’ hands, documents said.

In a second interview with Hall, the victim said there was no argument the night of the shooting, but there was one several days prior. Morris, she told authorities, was upset because she cheated on him 13 years ago when they lived in Virginia.

The abuse began about five years ago, she told Hall. He considered it “discipline” and hit her with a belt, according to court documents.

The victim “went on to describe how this was OK in his mind because of religious reasons,” Hall wrote in his account. “She explained if he killed her it would be OK with the heavenly father. He would not go to hell, but would have to answer for it there.”

In that account, the victim stayed to the same basic time-line of the night of the shooting. Morris had gone out, she said, and returned to tell her that someone was outside.

He instructed her to keep the kids safe and lock the house down, she said. When he returned, she fired twice, according to court documents. The handgun jammed on the third try, she told Hall.

Authorities later moved the victim and her youngest child to a safe house. Returning to the scene, Hall found a spent .45 shell near the front door and two spent casings in the front yard. They seized multiple firearms from the home, he reported.

On Oct. 18, Hall learned the victim’s story had changed again. In a third interview with Sgt. Daniel Holskey of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, the victim said Morris had thrown a hammer at her, hitting her on the shoulder, that night. As recounted earlier, he was upset about her cheating on him in Virginia, according to court documents.

Before stepping into the night, Morris threatened her, telling her she had better give him the truth about her romantic history upon his return or he would “club her upside the head with the claw side [of the hammer] and I am not going to stop,” according to the affidavit.

“It was the look he had,” the victim told Holskey. “It was not like any other time.”

The victim recounted giving the baby to her 11-year-old, instructing her to go into the back room of the house with the other children. She told them to wait until she came to get them, court documents said.

Then she waited by the door and prayed.

When Morris returned, the victim felt his demeanor had not changed. He was more worked up, she recalled.

“[The victim] said she closed her eyes, said, ‘I am sorry,’ and shot,” court documents recounted.

When he went off running and hollering, she followed, according to the affidavit.

“She didn’t want him to die alone,” Hall wrote.

Wounded, Morris told her he was bleeding internally. The victim remembered apologizing, telling him “but you were going to kill me. I had no choice, I had to.”

Morris instructed her to call emergency responders, court documents said. When she expressed fear that law enforcement would detain her and take the children, Morris instructed her to tell them he had startled her, that it was an accident.

A review of the body camera footage taken by Deputy Maury Mckinney upon arrival showed that Morris initially told authorities the victim had shot him accidentally. He is recorded as saying “I think I startled my wife” and “don’t let her hurt me anymore, please.”

“I did not mean to startle you,” he is recorded as saying to his victim.

The two felony charges come with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison up to a $50,000 fine each. The first count stems from the allegation Morris struck his victim with a hammer. The second comes from the alleged threat he made to cause her further harm.

Sheriff’s officials first announced the shooting and subsequent investigation five days after the incident. Even then, details were scarce. Lincoln County Undersheriff Brad Dodson said at the time that officials had learned word of the shooting had made it into the community. They wanted to let residents know that there was no threat to public safety and officers were investigating the situation, he said in October.

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