One of the men charged in the two-year-old murder of Ke’lei Morris was slapped with additional felony charges Friday after a grand jury found probable cause he had attempted to orchestrate the murder of at least three witnesses from inside the Mobile County Metro Jail.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.
More than two years later, Steven O’Brien Mason, 33, was charged in connection with the murder on March 20. According to prosecutors, Mason was also a nurse at Mobile Infirmary who had dated Morris, though the pair broke up shortly before the murder.
When discussing Mason’s bond hearing with local reporters in April, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright said prosecutors believed he potentially posed a threat to the witnesses in the case — some of whom were members of the victim’s immediate family.
Mobile County Circuit Judge Jay York set bond in the case at $600,000, though Mason has been unable to pay and has remained in Metro Jail since his arrest. However, prosecutors say that didn’t stop Mason from soliciting another man to kill those witnesses for him.
Specifically, the indictments handed down by a local grand jury on June 16 list three new and separate charges for “solicitation to commit murder” — each of which is a Class A felony carrying a potential sentence of “no less than 10 years and no more than 99 years in prison.”“Steven Mason has been served with these indictments within the Metro Jail, and he has been moved within the jail to a more secure area to ensure the safety of all of the witnesses in this particular case,” Wright said. “These are witnesses that will testify in the murder case. They have been in contact with us and with the police department working this case.”
Though Wright confirmed the targets were witnesses, they were only identified in the indictment by their initials. However, Derrick Myles’ name is clearly stated in the indictment, but much less is known about the man Mason allegedly asked to commit multiple murders on his behalf.
Wright declined to address any specifics about Myles, including his relationship to Mason, when and where their conversations occurred, whether Myles could face charges himself, whether he’s been cooperating with investigators and whether he was offered money in exchange for the murders Mason was allegedly seeking from his cell.
Though a timeline of the allegations was not disclosed, records indicate only one inmate named Derrick Myles has passed through Metro Jail since Mason’s arrest March 20 — a 31-year-old who was arrested May 5 on a number of charges ranging from robbery to sexual abuse.
He was released on his own recognizance June 9, though authorities have not confirmed whether he is the same Derrick Myles named in Mason’s June 16 indictments.At this point, the solicitation charges against Mason are being treated separately from his pending murder trial. It will be up to Judge York to decide if those charges will become part of trial he faces in Morris’ death and whether prosecutors can present those charges to the jury.
No matter how they proceed, though, some say soliciting a murder isn’t a common occurrence in Mobile, according to Wright, who called it “an extremely rare situation.”
“Going back and looking, we were only able to find about four other solicitation-to-commit-murder cases that we’ve handled since the late ‘90s. It’s not something we come across every day, and certainly not with respect to witnesses in a homicide case,” Wright said. “It’s upsetting that there would be any attempt or any plan to harm or cause the death of any witnesses in any case. We take any threat like that very seriously.”
Earlier this week, Wright said the family of Ke’lei Morris had been notified about the new charges against Mason, saying they were “certainly upset, disturbed and concerned” by them.
“They just want justice to prevail,” she added.
While Mason’s new indictments are the biggest news in the two-year-old investigation of Morris’ murder, other developments have occurred behind closed doors. On May 4, a motion was filed seeking to have the case sealed from the public — one that appears to have been granted.
Files previously available through Alacourt are no longer publicly accessible, though Wright declined to comment when asked about that change. It’s unclear whether it is related to the case’s sealed status, but prosecutors have previously sought to access sealed records from a 2002 juvenile case when Mason was charged with murder for the death of 17-year-old Mesha Anglin.
Mason, who was 18 at the time of Anglin’s death, was granted youthful offender status in that case, sealing the records and limiting his ultimate sentence. Other media have spoken to Anglin’s family, who claim Mason served just three years behind bars for the murder.
Earlier this month, Mason’s lawyer filed a motion seeking records from Mobile Infirmary he claimed would prove Mason was working at the time of Morris’ death on Feb. 2, 2015. It also sought clarification about which of two suspects prosecutors believe killed Morris.A second suspect, 26-year-old Adam Tyler Miller, attended high school with Morris in Biloxi and, according to Mason’s attorney, was one of her patients at Mobile Infirmary when he was admitted there from Dec. 26, 2014, through Feb. 4, 2015 — two days after Morris’ death.
According to jail records, Miller currently lists an address in Denver and was arrested by police in Aurora, Colorado, nine days after Mason was first indicted. Both suspects are charged with murder.