Friday, November 6, 2009

Georgia Tech Student Mystery-What Happened to Joseph Morse?


I have been doing a bit more research on missing persons in Georgia. There are quite a few. One of my readers has sent me information on a missing person from Douglas County from several decades ago, and I am doing some research on that one now. But not long ago, in a webpage where I had been looking at a theory about what happened to Tara Grinstead, I spotted something that caught my eye. It was about a young college student from Ohio who had enrolled and completed a year of classes at Georgia Tech, but disappeared in the spring of 2000.

His name is Joseph Morse. He was from Cincinnati, Ohio and had checked out Georgia Tech with his family back in the spring of 1999 and fell in love with the school. He enrolled as a civil engineering major in the fall of that year. Later, he would change his major to mechanical engineering, but sadly enough, he would never graduate from the school.

Joe, as he was called, was an ideal student. He was a graduate of Moeller High School in the Cincinnati area, graduating 23 out of a class of 203. He ran track, had lots of friends, made good grades, and devoted some of his spare time to charitable and civic events and organizations. Anyone would be proud to have had him as a son. Georgia Teach really appealed to him because he wanted to be in an urban environment like Atlanta with good weather. It was gravy that the school had such a good national reputation in engineering. Originally, Joe had set his sights on schools like MIT and Stanford. Georgia Tech was lucky to have him. Once he arrived at Tech, he was placed in the Towers Dormitory. He even became the president of his hall council at Towers, and he even ended the fall semester with a 3.4 GPA. He was well on his way to becoming a successful student, and then, a successful engineer.

He came home over the Christmas holidays, and his family reported nothing weird. He was just Joe, they said. Once back at school at Tech for the spring semester, he changed his major to civil engineering. He even was able to land a co-op job with the Caterpillar company at a location in Illinois for the coming fall semester, which meant that he would have to take classes in the summer and stay in the dorms there during that time so he would not get behind in his studies since the co-op position would mean he would not be able to take classes that fall while working at Caterpillar. That Easter, he was able to come home, and once again, his parents said nothing was out of the ordinary. He did seem to sleep alot that weekend, but that was nothing alarming to his folks, as they thought it was normal behavior for a college student.

But things had started falling apart for Joe that spring semester at Tech, and noone understands why. First, his grades began to plummet. He did okay in his engineering classes, but he all but stopped coming to his English class and his grades reflected that. His grades in his other classes began to slip as well. He even began to call home more often. His parents said that he phoned frequently, and it was pretty obvious that he was eager to get back home at the end of the semester. His arrangements were to leave his stuff in the dorm at the end of the semester, go home for a week break, and then return to Atlanta to take summer courses at Tech before going to Peoria, Illinois in the fall for the co-op job. To do this, he would have to enroll in summer classes and make arrangements to live in the dorm during the summer. After Joe's disappearance, his parents found out from the school that he had never even attempted to register for summer classes, and that he had not applied at all for housing in the dorms for the summer. This was very unlike Joe, for he was always quite diligent about taking care of his school business. Once more, his grades were nowhere near what they had been in the fall. All of this seemed to be out of character for Joe.

On May 6, 2000, Joe was to fly home to Cincinnati where his mom was waiting for him at the Dayton International Airport. He was flying standby, and if he was unable to get a flight, he would take a bus. That morning, his friends saw him leave the dorm room, go to the showers around 8:30 a.m., and nothing seemed unusual. One student commented that he was swinging his keychain around his finger like a coach normally does, and this was quite normal for Joe as well. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Keep in mind, all of the things mentioned above (falling grades, no arrangements for summer, and poor class attendance) were unbeknown to his family. They thought nothing was wrong. Apparently, Joe never made it to the airport that morning, but he did go to a local ATM at Lenox Square Mall and withdraw 120.00 out of his checking account. This was all he had in there. ATM cameras have him on camera doing this at 10:58 that morning. Those were the last images of Joseph Morse.

His mother waited for him at the airport, but he never arrived that day. She never heard from him by phone, and there was no email to her or other family members explaining the delay. But Joe was not on a plane or bus to Ohio that day. Joe never tried to come home that authorities are aware. The last place he was seen was at the ATM. Joe's parents began to contact the school, where they found that Joe never removed any of his clothes or belongings from his dorm room. He left his room with his glasses, wallet, and the clothes on his back, nothing more. He was wearing a plaid shirt and khaki Docker shorts. The ATM pictures show that he was wearing his glasses when he withdrew the money from the ATM. Parents and authorities circulated his picture and information about him around campus and the area, but noone had seen hair nor hide of him. It was as if Joseph Morse had just disappeared in thin air. His advisor reported that he had stopped answering his emails from him asking him to come meet with him about his classes and academic work. Joe seemed to let his school work slip severely during the spring semester. Campus police asked his friends and classmates about his behavior. They saw nothing strange. His roomate said that he would sleep in some mornings because as he left for classes, oftentimes, Joe would still be asleep in bed. But he did not see that as strange.

Noone seemed to know what happened to Joseph Morse. Then, four years later in 2004, a report circulated that police in Miami, Florida had discovered a body that had been dead since around May 7, 2000. The police were looking for the identity of a man they said broke in to a construction site, climbed a 187 foot crane and jumped. Some online researchers have said this was young Joseph Morse. One website even went so far as to say it was without a doubt Joseph Morse. That same site also said that according to Florida law, records on this body and cause of death would be sealed for 50 years, but that if one had a legal reason for inquiring, the records could be opened. It was also reported that Georgia Tech police had closed his file and that they had concluded the body was that of Joseph Morse.

Was the body they found in Miami, Florida in 2004 that of Joseph Morse? If so, why did he break in to a construction site and jump from a crane of almost 200 feet? What prompted him to stop attending class and let his school work go when it seemed to mean so much to him? Was he abducted and forced to do what he did? I would imagine that an abductor would find some easier way of disposing of a person. Climbing a huge crane like that is very odd in and of itself. Or was Joe planning something else and traveled to Miami for a different reason? Did he know someone down there? Was he suffering from something that made him temporarily delusional? Was this a trip he took with friends and they decided to mess around the construction site and crane for laughs as they were in Miami and when Joe fell, the rest got scared and fled? Noone has any clue how and when he arrived in Miami. If he died the next day after having been at Lenox Square at 10:58 a.m., then he must have left Atlanta for Miami sometime on the 6th or early in the morning on the 7th. But if the body was his, and he was there, how did he get there? When did he arrive? I have not read anything about the finding of the body from 2004 except what I have repeated here. Did the family find flight records or bus records showing he had traveled to Miami? This case is quite strange. If the body in Miami did not belong to him, then he is still out there, but noone knows where.

25 comments:

Caprice said...

This is a strange one!
The first thing I thought of drugs.
Didn't someone else disappear from Lenux? Her car was found in the parking lot? Maybe it's Lenux?

The Professor said...

Yes, that was Mary Shotwell Little in the 1960s. I have blogged about that one too. She disappeared from the Lenox Square Shopping area.

The Doctor said...

And something else interesting here is that if the body found in Miami the next is that of Morse why would someone go all the way to Miami and climb a crane and jump? But if the body isn't that of the young man then something else has happened to him. I remember the Mary Little case when she came up missing at Lenox Square. There was a lot of talk that she was taken by her boss at C&S but it was never taken too far. It is also strange that one of the young ladies she roomed with showed up murdered. The Mary Little case was always a subject of talk at the dinner table at our home during the sixties. Sometimes these missing persons cases are a hard nut to crack.

The Professor said...

In the Mary Shotwell Little case, her roomates were never murdered. The lady that was murdered after Mary's disappearance was Diane Shields, the woman who replaced her at C&S Bank. Her roomates were fine, as they were interviewed by detectives and much of the information we have about Mary's activities before the disappearance came from them.

The Doctor said...

I knew it was someone involved with either one of the room mates or who ever took her job. Thanks for refreshing the memory.

The Doctor said...

You know my friend there is something else interesting about Lenox Square. The property on which it was built was owned by the Ottley Family. They were a very well to do family in the Buckhead area. Back in July 1933 Mr. John Ottley who was a banker was kidnapped at gunpoint for ransom. The two men were caught and Mr. Ottley was freed. But it is interesting that 32 years later Mary Little who worked for a banker would come up missing from this property.

The Professor said...

Wow, that is interesting. I think I will cook up a blog post on the Lenox Square mysteries. Thanks Dr!!!!

The Doctor said...

You are welcome my friend.

LaChaBenn said...

I too think it has something to do with drugs. I don't believe that he, nor anyone, would drive such a long distance to commit suicide.
Did they ever find his car?

The Professor said...

I don't think he had a car. His mother was picking him up from the airport that day, that is if he had shown. From what I have read, he traveled back and forth to Ohio by bus and plane, and he must have gotten around Atlanta by MARTA. I am pretty sure he had no car, which begs the question: How did he get to Miami? Did he hitch hike? If so, that may lead to a whole different set of questions.

The Doctor said...

Also, I wondered if there weren't enough tall things around Atlanta to jump from. This is an interesting story indeed.

The Professor said...

There is a website out there that is created by a reader of this blog who emailed me a while back when I blogged about the Tara Grinstead case, and he has a theory. It involves mental disorders. The website is www.visionandpsychosis.net. I would check that out and see what you think. I am not saying that I am forwarding this as the answer, but I think we should keep an open mind to it and pursue factual information and scholarly evidence about this theory that will help us decided if it is plausible or not. Unfortunately, I have not read anything about the Morse family since the disappearance. I wonder if this mystery is somewhat solved and we just don't know it. I plan on calling The Cincinnati Enquirer and seeing if I can find any recent (last five years or so) articles on this topic.

The Doctor said...

My friend I went to the site and read the information. They might be on to something that might affect some people, but I feel that more study into the phenomena should be done. I remember a few years ago the girl who shot her mother and son and then went and killed her father for no apparent reason. Then the police found her in Valdosta on I-75. My mom used to babysit this young woman when she was a child. But according to records she was not coherent as to what she had done. And you may be correct in that the mystery of this young man may already be solved.

scooter said...

I'd have to agree with the assessment of Caprice.

A drug addiction; it can change your life including your mental capacity.

The Doctor said...

You are right Scooter, Caprice has a point that it could have been drugs involved. I knew someone from high school who got messed up on LSD and it caused him to do some strange things. He would go places and not know how he got there. This drug even distorted his facial features. There are several reasons why something like this would have occurred.

Anonymous said...

Important to remember that Ga. Tech is located right in middle of downtown Atlanta - THE MURDER CAPITOL OF THE UNITED STATES!

The Doctor said...

GA Tech is in the middle of a very high crime area. But according to reports this young man went all the way to Miami and climbed a very tall crane and jumped. It doesn't make too much sense but it is hard seeing someone force this young man to climb the crane and jump.

The Professor said...

Yeah, I agree, Doctor. I would think Joseph would have NOT been killed in Atlanta. It is quite possible he was kidnapped in Atlanta and taken to Miami, but when they discovered his body in that construction site and determined that he had fallen from the 187 foot crane, it kind of rules out the possibility that he was killed in Atlanta. His death most certainly was in Miami. I am assuming he was alive when he was atop the crane. As to what he was doing up there, or who was there with him, I have no clue.

The Doctor said...

I can say this my friend, whatever forced this young man to jump from that crane was very powerful indeed.

Kristen Parks said...

I had never heard the theory that he jumped from a crane. I was friends with Joe in college and was on the hall council with him. I was shocked and horrified when I got home that weekend and heard he went missing. Thank you so much for looking into this and if nothing else, remembering Joe, I know I do.

The Professor said...

Thank you Kristen, for coming on the blog and most especially, for sharing your connection. Have you ever heard anything else about this story? Can you tell us anything else about Joe? If you do not want to share it on the blog, email me at georgiaspooks@yahoo.com.

sarki7 said...

I was a friend of Joe's at Georgia Tech, we lived across the hall from each other in our freshman dorm. It's hard to believe it's been ten years, and it's even harder to believe that this is what happened to our friend Joe. Every few years I dig a little deeper online, and this time I just so happened to come across this site, and learn that it looks like Joe may have tragically committed suicide. Unfortunately I have as many questions as all of you about how and why, Joe hid this from all of us, which makes it all the more tragic. The only thing I know for sure is that Joe didn't deserve this, and certainly his family didn't as well.

Isochronous said...

Sarki7, what's your first name? I undoubtedly know you, as I lived in the next room over from Joe. I, too, look up his case from time to time, just to see if there have been any new developments. I found the info about Joe being found dead in FL on a missing persons site two or three years ago, and it made me incredibly sad to know that such a nice, innocent, caring person was driven to deceive not only his family but also all of his friends and classmates. I remember coming back to the dorm the night we were moving out, and having (I'm guess it was you, Sarki) my across-the-hall neighbor ask if I had seen Joe since the previous night. I hadn't, of course. As I stood there and listened to all of our dorm mates stand around and talk about what had been happening - leaving for classes but never showing up in them, skipping all of his exams, disappearing without telling his parents, withdrawing all of his money... on and on and on, one unbelievable thing after another - all I could do was hope that poor Joe turned up ok, that it was all a big misunderstanding, that he had just freaked out and needed some space, SOMETHING.

But apparently he was found the very next day, dead. It took years to identify the body. In the meantime, his family had gone to such lengths to find him they even went on Maury or some talk show like that to speak to a professional psychic, who had told them that he was alive and well in South America.

I really, really wish he had been.

Auburn Avenger said...

Hi all,

I found this story at the Miami Times. It seems as if the body in Miami was indeed ID'd as Joseph Morse by dental records. What a sad story. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2009-01-29/news/at-the-miami-dade-medial-examiner-s-office-sandra-boyd-ids-the-dead/

Auburn Avenger said...

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2009-01-29/news/at-the-miami-dade-medial-examiner-s-office-sandra-boyd-ids-the-dead/