A Baltimore jury convicted Christopher Rather Monday of the second-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend, finding he stabbed and strangled her on the football bleachers of a Northeast Baltimore high school.
When the jury read the verdict, Rather, 23, hung his head. Jurors also found him guilty of one weapons charge.
He faces 43 years in prison. The jurors acquitted him of first-degree murder.
In June of last year, a neighbor was walking her dogs when she came upon a body. Jasmine Pierce-Morris was slumped on the bleachers of the practice football field for Reginald F. Lewis High School. She had been beaten and bound with ropes.
Doctors performed an autopsy and found she had a fractured skull. The 20-year-old woman had been repeatedly stabbed in her neck. Doctors found tiny hemorrhages, indicating she had been strangled.
Pierce-Morris had not been seen since she left the previous evening for her shift overnight at the Amazon warehouse. She never showed up.
Detectives found a clue in one of the last text messages she sent a friend.
“Soooo, Chris wanted to talk to me today right. I’m meeting him at this football field. I think this goin be our last conversation,” she wrote. “He told me he was leaving, might be going to California or Hawaii. Imma find out when he get here but ain’t that good news?!?”
Meanwhile, friends and family remembered Pierce-Morris for her love of poetry and drama. She had performed in childhood plays “The Lion King” and “The Nutcracker.” In 2016, she became a member of the first graduating class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.
During trial last week in Baltimore Circuit Court, prosecutors recounted a tumultuous romance. The couple had been dates to the junior prom, but prosecutors said Pierce-Morris had found someone else. They described Rather as a jilted lover.
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His defense attorneys, meanwhile, argued investigators had mishandled evidence. They claimed police blamed Rather from the start and became blind to other suspects.
“As a mother of two young girls, this heinous murder broke my heart."— Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby
In charging documents, detectives wrote that Rather had offered up two alibi witnesses. But one of those witnesses admitted to police that Rather asked him to lie, detectives wrote.
Pierce-Morris’ family packed the courtroom for the verdict. Some cried and wrapped their arms around each other when the foreman read “guilty.”
Unlike first-degree murder, second-degree does not require premeditation. The jury deliberated for two days before reaching the verdict.
Circuit Judge Jennifer Schiffer is to sentence Rather Oct. 8.
In an email, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby wrote that she hopes the verdict brings some relief.
“As a mother of two young girls, this heinous murder broke my heart,” Mosby wrote. “Jasmine was young, full of promise, and did not deserve for her life to tragically end so soon.”