A white teddy bear in a flower basket hangs from a tree along a path where Crystal Morgan’s body was found three months ago.
The stuffed animal’s fur is now matted after weeks of rain, but the Macon Police Department’s homicide investigation is almost as fresh as the day a passerby found her body this summer. She was found July 29 partially dressed and lying in the middle of the overgrown connector through the woods between Marigold and Pio Nono avenues.
“We haven’t had one phone call from any concerned citizen or a tipster,” police Lt. Carl Fletcher said.
It took more than 11 weeks for investigators to learn the 23-year-old single mother was the victim of asphyxia due to strangulation. The autopsy performed the day her body was discovered could not pinpoint the exact cause of death until further testing.
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The news of the strangulation didn’t come as a surprise to her father.
“I knew something had to happen to her because there was no way her heart could have just stopped,” Willie Morgan said. “She was just too energetic and bright.”
Police have uncovered preliminary evidence that Morgan was sexually assaulted and hope DNA evidence retrieved from her body will lead to a match in the state database.
The ground where she was found had been disturbed, which could indicate she struggled, Fletcher said.
Detectives are not sure how she was strangled but know it happened sometime after 10 p.m. July 28. That’s when she was last seen at the store at the corner of Montpelier and Pio Nono avenues. She was found at about 8 a.m. the next morning.
Her father said she would often walk up to the store that’s less than a block from their home at the corner of Dubose Street.
During the 13 years they lived there, Crystal would often bring home women down on their luck and offer them food and a hot shower, he said.
Morgan used to worry about those women and what happened to them after they stopped coming around.
“I would have never dreamed anything would have happened to Crystal because everybody knew Crystal,” Morgan said. “She was pretty street-wise. That’s what makes me think it was somebody who knew her.”
He thinks his daughter’s killer is from the neighborhood because if she were killed elsewhere, he doesn’t think the killer would have brought her body back so close to her home.
“I hate to think about what happened to my baby,” Morgan said.
He finds himself second-guessing whether he did something wrong in raising his only daughter. She loved to travel and had a boyfriend in Florida who was “crazy about her” and frequently sent her money, Morgan said.
Her three children, who are 9, 6 and 3, now are being raised by relatives. Their pictures line Morgan’s living room across from where he spends nearly every night on the couch. Sleeping on the couch was a habit he fell into because he wanted to hear his daughter coming in to make sure she was safe at home.
The night she was killed he couldn’t sleep. He started to walk down to the store but got to the corner of Pio Nono and turned back around.
Police are hoping someone saw something that night that could help them find her killer.
Anyone with information can leave anonymous tips through Macon Regional CrimeStoppers at (877) 68-CRIME.
Morgan said he is certain his daughter would not have walked down the narrow, heavily overgrown path on her own. Years before they were playing around outside and he playfully ran down the path, but Crystal wouldn’t follow.
“She wouldn’t come down through there. I had to get her,” he said.
Now Morgan hardly goes anywhere unless it’s to visit family.
“They just don’t value life around here anymore,” Morgan said. “I don’t know what they’re thinking out there no more.”