Rallies, petitions urge authorities to look into 22-year-old's death | News
TAMPA, Florida -- A rally along the Courtney Campbell Causeway on Sunday aimed to get authorities to take another look into the death of a 22-year-old woman.
When Sheena Morris was found dead three years ago, Bradenton Beach Police declared it a suicide. But after her family hired pathologists and other experts to look into the case -- convinced that Morris' death was not a suicide -- the Manatee County medical examiner changed the cause of death to undetermined.
On Sunday, simultaneous marches in Tampa and in Morris' native New York aimed to send a message to the Bradenton Beach Police Department: re-open the investigation into her death, or hand the case over to another agency that can.
They've started a website to raise awareness about her death, and have created a petition to get state and federal agencies involved. They want to be able to deliver the petitions on August 1, which is Sheena's birthday.
"Justice has not been served in the murder of my daughter," says Kelly Osborn, Sheena's mother. "We had Sheena's body exhumed, and a number of forensics experts have reviewed all the text messages, the positioning of her body, every police report, and the forensics show that Sheena's death could not have been a suicide."
It all started on New Year's Eve in 2008, when Sheena and her fiance were staying in a hotel on Bradenton Beach. Visitors in a neighboring room called police to report the couple was fighting loudly. Sheena's fiance had already left by the time officers arrived, but Sheena was still there and had taken photos of her injuries. No arrest was made in the case.
Early the next morning, Sheena spoke with a Hillsborough County dispatcher over the phone, fearful that her fiance was driving to Tampa to damage her apartment.
The next day, police were called back to the hotel room. They found Sheena dead, hanging inside a shower stall. All along, the Bradenton Beach Police Department has said their investigation points to a suicide, and that without new information from people like Sheena's mother, the case will be closed.
"[Kelly] wants to say she's not in denial. I say she is. I say she just can't accept her daughter committed suicide," Bradenton Beach Police Detective Sgt. Len Diaz said during an interview in May 2011.
But family and friends fight on, hoping to find out what really happened to Sheena.
"I proudly support our law enforcement," her mother says, "but this particular Bradenton Beach Police Department failed Sheena."