FREEHOLD, New Jersey (PIX11) - He confessed to throwing his two year-old daughter off a bridge, where she drowned in the stream underneath. Despite that, however, Arthur Morgan, 29, faced the prospect of being found not guilty of murder in his trial, which ended Thursday. Once the jury spoke, Morgan’s actions in the courtroom added to the outrage caused by his deadly treatment of his daughter.
After learning his fate, Morgan actually gave a very visible wink to the prosecutors who have spent the better part of three years ensuring he heard the answer to the question that Superior Court Judge Anthony Mellaci asked of jurors.
“How do you rule on the charge…. of the purposeful or knowing murder of Tierra Morgan Glover?” asked the judge, regarding Morgan intentionally killing his toddler daughter.
“Guilty,” the jury foreman replied.
The jury of 12 found Morgan guilty of pulling his own daughter out of his car while she was strapped into her car seat, while parked on the Schoolhouse Road Bridge in Shark River Park in Wall Township in late November 2011. Prosecutors said that Morgan attached a five-pound jack from his car to the car seat, then threw the girl in the weighted car seat over the bridge and into the stream below, where she eventually drowned.
Morgan could still hear his baby crying as he drove away, according to his own confession, which was recorded by police in San Diego eight days after the killing. Morgan had fled to Southern California, setting off a nationwide manhunt in the wake of his remarkable crime.
“One of the few sources of unconditional love in the world,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni after the verdict, “is a child to a parent. And that love was ultimately betrayed, and it pains me to think about what that child was thinking about when she was thrown into the water.”
Morgan and the girl’s mother, Imani Benton, who was in court for the verdict, had a strained relationship when he’d picked up their daughter the evening of November 21, 2011. He told Benton that he was taking the girl to see the children’s movie “Happy Feet II.”
The public defenders who made the legal case in Morgan’s favor had argued during the three week trial that he had not intentionally killed Tierra Morgan-Glover. His lawyers had hoped the jury would convict him on a manslaughter charge, which would have a sentence of 5 to 10 years. They also had the option of convicting for aggravated manslaughter, which carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years.
Instead, by concluding that Morgan was fully aware of what he was doing when he threw the toddler off the bridge, the jury declared him guilty of murder.
Morgan smiled as court officers handcuffed and shackled him following the verdict’s reading. Then, seconds later, as he was led off to jail to await sentencing next month, Morgan gave that wink.
At court, Tierra’s mother did not speak. The prosecutor, though, spoke soberly about the case.
“If the death penalty were a possibility,” Gramiccioni said in a news conference outside of the courthouse, “I can tell you this. I would have asked for the case to be certified for death.”
He also ended with a tribute to the two and–a-half year-old girl whose life was ended in waters made chilly by the late November cold. “She was an angel when she was alive. I’m sure she’s an angel now.”