Anne Arundel County

Questions linger for Anne Arundel pastor after judge’s ruling to overturn cause of daughter’s 2012 death

More than a year after winning a major victory in discovering the truth about her 22-year-old daughter’s death, an Anne Arundel County pastor is unsure where the case goes next.

It was March 2021 when, after years of letters, lawsuits and legal inquiries, the Rev. Marguerite Morris finally broke through. An administrative law judge proposed the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner change the manner of her daughter Katherine Morris’ 2012 death from “suicide” to “undetermined.” It was the first update in the near-decade-old case.


Little has happened since then. Morris hasn’t asked Anne Arundel County police to reopen the case since the decision. But she’s asked for the department to seek more information from the public, even requesting the case be discussed on a new cold case podcast.

Police from Anne Arundel and other jurisdictions, as well as local prosecutors, had reviewed the case several times in the years leading up to the judge’s ruling, all finding that Katherine had died by suicide. Although Katherine’s manner of death has changed, Anne Arundel County Police still consider the case administratively closed.


Katherine Morris was found dead in her car on the Anne Arundel Community College campus in Hanover on May 6, 2012. Police who responded to the scene said they found two lit charcoal grills and a bottle of sleeping pills inside the car, which was still running. They found a note on her phone indicating she intended to end her life. Working with the information police had at the time, the medical examiner’s office ruled her cause of death to be carbon monoxide inhalation, and the manner to be suicide.

Marguerite Morris had doubts about that determination and began investigating the case on her own. Her daughter had secretly married Army Specialist Isaac Goodwin in August 2011. Shortly before her death, Katherine discovered Goodwin had cheated on her, according to Administrative Law Judge Susan A. Sinrod’s March 2021 decision, and confronted him, threatening to notify his chain of command as adultery is a crime in the military. Attempts to reach Goodwin by phone were unsuccessful.

Reviews of the case came to the same conclusion — that Katherine had killed herself and that her death could not have been a homicide. Then last year, Marguerite Morris spent several days presenting a case in the Office of Administrative Hearings, where a judge found that inconsistencies during the investigation and uncertainty about other suspects should have led the medical examiner’s office to change Katherine’s manner of death to undetermined.

For police, there’s not much more to do after several investigations under five police chiefs have resulted in little movement in the case. Morris, convinced the department will not open an unbiased investigation into the case, said she was offering the department an “olive branch” by asking them to list the case online as an unsolved death investigation, or feature it in the department’s cold case podcast, in hopes the public can shed light on what occurred. She doesn’t believe the police department can reinvestigate the matter itself, but seeking information would be a sign of “goodwill,” she said.

“There’s no reason for them not to do this,” Morris said, adding that she was “kind of shocked” about the department’s refusal.

“I can’t ask them to reinvestigate. But I can ask to work with them, and they’ve refused that,” she said.

Police Chief Amal Awad wrote in an Aug. 30 letter to Morris that the department believes the case “does not meet the criteria” to be featured online as it has not been ruled a homicide.

“When circumstances dictate, the Department will close the investigation even when ruled ‘undetermined’ as in this case,” Awad wrote. “This case was fully investigated, and reinvestigated, and closed with a finding consistent with the evidence.”


It’s not unusual to close an undetermined death investigation, according to department spokesperson Lt. Jacklyn Davis. Police often do that in overdose cases when the intent of the person who overdosed was unclear.

It’s also unusual for a medical examiner’s ruling to be changed following a legal dispute.

In a 58-page proposal issued last March, Sinrod suggested the Department of Health change the manner of death on Katherine Morris’ death certificate.

Her decision did not require any further investigation but noted details of the case in which further investigation “could bring some clarification” to the events that led to Katherine Morris’ death more than a decade ago.

The note on Katherine Morris’ phone, as well as numerous tweets that appeared to show her intention to end her life, could have been typed by someone else, Sinrod wrote. The fact that they were typed, combined with several people having a motive to stop Katherine from reporting adultery to the military, “bring into question the validity and authenticity” of the notes, Sinrod wrote.

“Certainly, further investigation into these discrepancies and anomalies could bring some clarification,” Sinrod wrote of the typed notes.


She questioned the lack of complete video footage from a camera already in “poor proximity” to Katherine’s vehicle, while noting there were no flames visible on the video footage, which “alone should have been investigated or explored.”

“The manner of death should be changed to undetermined until further investigation can ensue,” Sinrod wrote, later adding that “further investigation could likely resolve the multitude of inconsistencies and siphon out the extraneous evidence to arrive at a more factually accurate conclusion.”

In her attempts to find out what happened to her daughter, Morris has unsuccessfully sued the county police department, as well as Goodwin and his associates on wrongful death grounds — claiming they drove Katherine to take her own life through emotional trauma and distress caused by the troubled marriage.

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Morris said Katherine’s case led her to fight for a police accountability board with investigatory powers while local leaders debated how to organize the panel. She said doing so would allow an independent board to “look at both sides of the story,” such as in her daughter’s case, in which she believes the Anne Arundel Police Department has refused to hold itself accountable for failures during the investigation.

During the debate over strengthening the board’s powers, County Executive Steuart Pittman said he understood the reasoning behind the request but believed giving the board investigatory power would violate state law. The bill establishing the board passed the County Council without including investigatory powers.

“They gave us nothing,” Morris said.


Morris, distraught by what she sees as local leaders’ “refusal of accountability,” said she is unsure where to go next.

The police department has maintained that it will only seek additional information on open death investigations that are ruled homicides. Davis said the several reviews of the case, which have included additional forensic analysis and a cold case review panel, have exhausted any avenues for a homicide investigation.

Morris’ ultimate goal is to find out what happened to her daughter that night. Last year’s decision was the first victory in that quest, possibly opening the door to further investigation.

“There may be someone who saw something, or heard something, who could come forward,” Morris said. “What harm would it do to seek more information?”