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Double-murder trial halted, defendant pleads guilty

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

On day three of a double-murder trial, a man accused of stabbing to death his children's mother and her new boyfriend in 2005, pleaded guilty to two counts of malice murder, according to Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.

Immediately following the plea, Wednesday, Clayton County Superior Court Chief Judge Matthew Simmons sentenced Christopher Isaiah Durr, 26, to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, Lawson said.

Durr was accused in the deaths of 20-year-old Rashae Morgan -- the mother of his two young children -- and Morgan's new boyfriend, Dorian Roberson, by stabbing both, multiple times, on June 27, 2005, according to court records. The stabbings occurred at the Wren's Crossing Apartments, located at 500 Roberts Drive, in Riverdale.

"We started on our first witness of the morning, and about half-way through my direct, he entered a guilty plea," Lawson said Wednesday. "I met with the family of this case before I even took office, to talk to them about their feelings, and what they wanted to see happen," said Lawson, "and they had expressed that life without parole would be fine, rather than the death penalty."

Lawson said it was agreed last year that the state would not seek the death penalty. "I did that to allow the case to get reached more quickly," she said. "I have been working for over a year to try to get this defendant life without parole, and I am ecstatic that goal was reached today," she said. "Justice was served."

Lawson was assisted in the case by Assistant District Attorney Mike Thurston.

In court Tuesday, Rashae Morgan's sister, Shantae Morgan, testified that on the day before the murders, her sister received several phone calls from Durr, and that Rashae Morgan placed the calls on speaker phone. "He was telling her, 'I'm giving you another chance to be with me,'" Morgan testified. "What I heard on the speaker phone was, 'Today's the day. If I can't have you, no one else can,'" said Shantae Morgan.

In an application for an arrest warrant, shortly after the stabbings, Riverdale Police Detective Linda Lash said Durr had also told a family member that he was going to commit the crime.

"A relative of Christopher Durr provided information that Christopher said he was going to take a murder charge, because he was going to kill his baby's mama," Lash wrote in the application.

Former Riverdale Police Officer Todd Cleven, who is now a police officer with the City of Fayetteville, testified in court Tuesday that he responded to a domestic-violence call from Rashae Morgan on June 20, 2005.

"I advised her that, at that time, I did not have enough evidence to pursue charges," Cleven said. However, Cleven said he advised Rashae Morgan that she could obtain warrants on her own.

The officer said that he warned Christopher Durr that he could not return to the apartment. However, he said, on the following day, June 21, he responded to another domestic-violence call from Rashae Morgan, and determined that Durr had entered the apartment through a bedroom window. "I obtained warrants against Mr. Durr for simple battery and criminal trespass," Cleven said on the stand.

Less than 24 hours after the murders, which occurred June 26, Durr's mother convinced him to turn himself in to authorities, according to Lawson. "The mom turned him in to the station, and cooperated with the police, and with us," Lawson said.

Lawson said Durr did not make a statement in court, Wednesday, following the guilty plea.

"He [Durr] did avoid the death penalty," said Lloyd Matthews, Durr's attorney. "He made the decision of what he wanted to do. I can't honestly say the result was not a fair result, and I can't honestly say that he got an unfair trial," said Matthews.

Matthews explained why he believes Durr chose to plead guilty. "I don't think he wanted to put her family [Rashae Morgan's family] through the ordeal of seeing lots of bloody shots [pictures]," said Matthews, "and he also was experiencing his own personal level of stress about hearing testimony, about how he wrote in blood 'I love you ...'" said Matthews.

Matthews said, following the murders, Durr wrote -- in his own blood -- the words "I love you," with the names of his mother, and his two children, at a laundromat.

According to the application for the arrest warrant, "a trail of blood was followed from [the] victim's apartment, to [a] laundry room."