For the second time since his arrest in March, one of the men charged in the 2015 murder of Ke’lei Morris has attempted to have witnesses in his upcoming trial killed from inside his cell at Mobile County Metro Jail.
Steven O’Brien Mason, 33, was charged with murder March 20 in connection with Morris’ death following a two-year investigation conducted by the Mobile Police Department and the Mobile County District Attorney’s office.Morris, a 24-year-old Biloxi native, was employed as a respiratory therapist at Mobile Infirmary when she was found shot to death near her apartment on Grelot Road in February 2015. Mason was also a nurse at Mobile Infirmary and had previously dated Morris, according to prosecutors.
In late June, a grand jury indicted Mason on three charges of “solicitation to commit murder,” after he asked a Metro inmate named Derrick Myles to kill three witnesses in his case who prosecutors had expected to testify against him at trial.
Each of those additional charges was a Class A felony and still carry a potential sentence of 10 to 99 years in prison, but Mason was not done. It seems not long afterward, he made another attempt to put a hit out on the same three witnesses while still locked up in Metro.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright said a grand jury returned a new indictment against Mason last month with three separate charges of criminal conspiracy to commit murder. A similar indictment charged an inmate identified as Jeremy Luper with the same offenses.
Like the previous attempt, Wright identified the targets of Mason’s most recent murder plot as James Ash, Nancy Nettles, and Kourtney Mosley — witnesses who expected to testify against Mason when he goes on trial for Morris’ murder in January of 2018.
Like the solicitation charges, criminal conspiracy to commit murder is a class A felony. Legally, the distinction is made when an “overt act” is carried out to move a planned murder forward.Wright said the overt act, in this case, occurred when Luper, who was serving time in Metro on drug and robbery charges, agreed to carry out the murders on Mason’s behalf in exchange for $2,500 to help cover the cost of his bond.
“Steven Mason directed Kim Washington to give $2,500 to Zach Luper to help make the bond of Jeremey Luper as a partial payment for the murder,” the indictment reads.
Unlike Derrick Myles, Luper was charged with the same offenses as Mason. However, at this time, neither Kim Washington nor Zach Luper has been charged with a crime.
After Mason first sought to have witnesses in his case murdered, Wright said had been “moved within the jail to a more secure area.”However, she declined to answer questions about how Mason was able to target these witnesses for the second time from within a the local jail.
While she admitted the situation is a bit unprecedented for Mobile, Wright said investigators in her office and others in law enforcement will continue to do all they can to ensure Morris’ family and any witnesses expected to testify for the government are kept safe.
“We are certainly doing everything in our power to prevent any harm to any witness in this case,” Wright said. “They were made aware of the new charges like they were made aware of the first.It’s currently unclear if Mason’s six latest related charges will be tried at the same time as his murder trial, which is set in January 2018. A second suspect, 26-year-old Adam Tyler Miller, was also charged with murder in connection to Morris 2015 death. He was arrested in Colorado just a few days after Mason was apprehended in Mobile.