Supporters speak up for delegate

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, September 28, 2016

People who know accused Del. Richard “Rick” Morris say collectively they cannot believe the charges of abuse that been brought against him. Accusations of hurting both his wife and a child compelled two arrests last week. Supporters describe him as a loving father who, they add, could not possibly be guilty of being violent to anyone in his family.

The 47-year-old father of nine children was arrested twice on 14 counts of crimes including felony cruelty and injuries to children, and a misdemeanor domestic assault involving an adult female family member.

Since then, Morris has hired Nicole Belote of the law firm of Kozak, Davis and Renninger, P.C., to represent and defend his interests concerning the serious pending charges.

“Del. Morris adamantly denies these allegations which are nothing more than distortions, misrepresentations and lies, and he is confident that the truth will be revealed through the legal process,” Belote stated in a press release on Tuesday. “Del. Morris is very thankful for the numerous kind words and the showing of support for him and his family. We will be moving forward expeditiously to have these charges dismissed.

“Further, Del. Morris respects Speaker [William] Howell’s decision to request his resignation; however, Del. Morris knows he is innocent and fully believes in the rule of law and the legal process. As such, he will not resign and will see this matter through to its conclusion.”

Morris is a Republican and represents the 64th District, which includes parts of Franklin and Suffolk as well as Southampton, Isle of Wight, Prince George, Surry and Sussex counties.

In an exclusive to The Tidewater News, four people offered to speak publicly on his behalf, including former wife Cristina Morris of Isle of Wight County.

“He has always been a loving father. He just adores the children. [He’s] a very thoughtful father. He wants to give the children a lot of experiences,” she said. “This whole thing is pretty unbelievable. I know this has to be devastating to him.”

Cristina Morris said she’s never met the current wife, Kathryn, but, “I have a great relationship with the children, particularly the two oldest [belonging to Kathryn].

As for why these charges have been made, Cristina Morris added, “I would assume they have to do with custody. The allegations don’t make sense. I don’t believe any of it.

“There’s never been any abuse or violence. He’s a great guy.”

Tim Mitchell, who has been Morris’ legislative assistant for the 2 ½ years, said his boss has “been nothing but a loving father to them [the children]. They’re around the office a lot. They definitely adore him.”

As far as the child who’s made the allegations of abuse, Mitchell said he knew that person has “been going through things,” adding that Morris and Kathryn have told him there had been trouble in school in the past.

Mitchell recalled, “I went to the house the morning after arrested. I’m close with all the kids. I even talked to ––– [name of child withheld]. I expected the child to be very awkward and silent, but ––– was happy as ever, playing music — overly happy, given the situation.”

The other children, Mitchell added were “their normal selves, but not as cheery,” given the circumstances.

Overall, Mitchell said, “His kids absolutely love him.”

The aide said he has witnessed the father disciplining the children, but that it has been verbal.

“I have never seen him hitting them (nor Kathryn) by any means.”

Lisa Marshall, the delegate’s sister who lives in Pennsylvania, said, “I’m sick over this. He’s the best parent.”

Marshall recalled when she and her husband watched the children for Rick and his wife when they went to a marriage boot camp in July 2015.

“Rick called three to four times a day, plus texting to check. He’s a wonderful, wonderful person.”

In contrast to his attention, Marshall said that Kathyrn never once called to check or text or anything

“Rick is the primary caregiver of the children. He’s the one who cooks the meal, does the laundry, gets the kids to school. With Kathryn, there’s a huge disconnect.”

She remembered that on the day the Morris’ were to leave for the retreat, she saw the wife be physically and verbally abusive to Rick, screaming and cursing in front of all eight children present.

Marshall said that Kathryn told her after calming down that her own mother and sister are bi-polar and maybe she is, too. Marshall also said that Kathryn told her that the child in question might also have psychological issues.

Going back to her brother, Marshall said, “He is a really good dad. He is strict. Our dad was a military man. Rick’s a military man.”

The only disciplining she’s witnessed has been along the lines of jumping jacks and other exercises as “punishments.” That or toys were taken away.

“Still,” she said, “Rick’s a good dad. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his children.”

Doug Warner is a neighbor with his property across the street

“No, I have never seen him be abusive.”

He did recall one time seeing one of Morris’ youngest children had gotten outside the house without permission. The child was told to face a wall for two minutes.

“There was no spanking, nothing physical,” Warner said.

His children have often played with the Morris children, and the neighbor said the child in question is “very bright. Really sharp.”

Disbelief was the Warner’s reaction when his brother told him the news.

“My first thought was that “That child is smart, cunning. I wouldn’t be surprised if the child may have exaggerated some things.”

“I can’t speak of what happens behind closed doors, but I haven’t seen anything that would get my attention,” Warner said. “He [Morris] has rearranged his life to accommodate their lives. They go places and do things.”

Further, “I don’t see Rick and his wife being bad people in any way. I think things have gotten blown out of proportion. Maybe family therapy might help. I wish them the best.”

A trial date has been scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 15.

Kathryn Morris could not be reached for comment.