Family says new clues in old evidence prove woman was killed in Bradenton Beach motel

Updated: Aug. 19, 2019 at 8:44 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The death of Sheena Morris was ruled a suicide more than 10 years ago, but Monday, her family said new evidence proves what they have always believed: Morris did not kill herself.

So, what happened to Sheena Morris?

Bradenton Beach Police quickly determined she killed herself. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement did, too. But new clues in old evidence have other experts ‘certain’ - Morris was murdered.

It was January 1st, 2009, just after 2 a.m. “911 what’s your emergency?” asked the operator. “Hi my name is Sheena," Morris told the 911 dispatcher over the phone. "[Joe] left here probably about half an hour ago, I had deputies come out here, because he did physically hurt me.”

Morris tells the dispatcher that police had already been called to the Bradenton Beach motel where she and her fiance, Joe Genoese, were staying. Neighbors had heard them fighting and called 911.

“I filled out a police report here in Manatee County because he just made me bleed," said Morris to the dispatcher.

She went on to explain that she was calling police again to tell them Genoese had taken her entire purse and was now claiming he was on his way to trash her home.

“He’s like, ‘I’m gonna go to your house and ruin your house, because you ruined my life,’” Morris told the operator.

Just hours later at 2 p.m. that same day, Morris was found hanging in the motel bathroom.

Genoese said he left in the middle of the night to care for his daughter.

“No, you left in the middle of the night because you murdered my daughter," said Kelly Osborn, Morris’ mother. "Even in the crime scene photos, that purse shows back up in the room.”

Osborn never believed for a second that her daughter committed suicide. She said the police didn’t even file the initial domestic abuse report.

“That not being handled, I think they had to cover it up and make it a suicide, because that alone, them not handling the domestic dispute, she could still be alive," said Osborn.

Numerous other crime scene investigators and experts have looked at this case, including Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst Jan Johnson, owner of Forensic Pieces. She poured over the same photos everyone else did, but this time she noticed something different.

“She had to have been positioned in the chair for a period of time for that mark to have set as a lividity pattern," said Johnson.

A lividity pattern that Johnson said can only happen after death.

“That means the blood that’s settled around," Johnson explained. "So she has to be in a fixed, seated position in the chair for that pattern to have... it’s like tattooing.”

When Johnson was finally able to measure the same type of chair that was in the motel room the night Morris died, she said it matched perfectly with those marks on Morris’ backside. But the chair was nowhere near the bathroom where Morris was found hanging.

ABC7 asked Johnson if this is a clear indication to her that Morris did not commit suicide.

“Yes it is,” Johnson said. "How else would we explain that there’s nothing in the shower, there’s nothing on her clothing, there’s nothing that’s consistent with that pattern, except for the chair in that condo?”

“And I’m like oh my gosh. I just couldn’t believe it," said Osborn about the finding.

But after all of this time and what Osborn calls intentional negligence by Florida law enforcement, she’s lost all faith that they are interested in justice for Morris.

“At first a lot of people say to you time will heal and that is absolutely not true," Osborn said. “Time never heals. As a matter of fact, as time goes on, it gets harder and harder and harder because you miss them that much more.”

Osborn said at this point, she’s calling for someone else to see this new evidence and open an unbiased investigation.

ABC7 reached out to the Bradenton Beach Police Chief, the lead detective on this case at the Bradenton Beach Police Department and Joe Geonese. None returned our phone calls.

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