In our first episode, we will talk about the disappearances and mysterious 1977 death of Charles Morgan in the Tuscon, AZ area. Was it the government or the mafia? We may never know, but let’s unravel clues, cyphers and shellfish to find out!
Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/the-squonk-and-the-hag/message
Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/the-squonk-and-the-hag/support
The Start of the Charles Morgan Mystery
Charles “Chuck” Morgan was a business and family man living in Tucson, Arizona. Chuck had been working in escrow and land sales for years, having recently obtained his own escrow business. On March 22, 1977, Chuck took his daughters to school that morning and disappeared. At 2 am, Chuck showed up at his house three days later. His wife Ruth reports that he was missing a shoe, had plastic handcuffs around one of his ankles, and his hands were bound. When she asked him where he had been, he indicated that he could not talk, so Ruth brought him a notepad and pen. Chuck wrote that he could not speak due to a hallucinogenic drug painted on the back of his throat that, if ingested, would cause him to go insane or shut down his nervous system entirely. Ruth wanted to call the police and take him to the hospital, but Chuck refused to let her do any of this as it would be signing a death warrant for the whole family. He asked her to move his car to the back of the house so “they” wouldn’t know he was home.
Ruth nursed Chuck at home, and as he recovered, he explained more of the situation to her. He claimed that he had been a secret agent for the treasury department for 2-3 years, helping fight against organized crime in the area. He said he had been abducted and tortured the three days he was gone, somewhere near Pheonix’s Sky Harbour Airport. In one account, Ruth says that he was flown out of time during this time, and when he was flown back was when he got away. Chuck noted that during this time, they took his treasury department ID.
This began a time of intense paranoia for Charles Morgan. He started wearing a bulletproof vest anywhere he went and went from being someone who was always clean-shaven to having a full beard to mask his face. Chuck did not allow his daughters to go anywhere unescorted and ensured that strangers never came to the house.
Charles Morgan Vanishes Again
June 7th, Chuck vanished again. Ruth took the girls to school that day, and Chuck had supposedly gone to work. However, in the late afternoon, he called his office from a payphone to say he would be at the office in about a half-hour but never showed up.
Before he disappeared, he had alluded to a letter that would explain everything if anything happened to him, but as far as we know, no such letter has surfaced.
Nine days after his second disappearance, Ruth got a call from an unknown woman who told her, “Chuck is alright, Ecclesiastes 12:1-8.” and then hung up. Perhaps Chuck was “alright” when the call was made, but he certainly wasn’t when he was finally found.
A Grisly Discovery
Two days after the mysterious call, Charles Morgan was found dead in the desert near his Mercury Cougar; he was just off the highway on a dirt road, about 40 miles from his home. Chuck had been shot in the back of the head by his own .387 Magnum. One report states that the bullet traveled through his head and settled between his teeth. The gun was lying near his body when he was found and was later examined, but no fingerprints were found. Chuck was found to have gunshot residue on his left hand. Chuck was wearing his bulletproof vest, a holster, and a belt with a hidden knife in the buckle. Near the body was a pair of sunglasses that were not his.
In the car was a note written with directions to the scene of the murder, written in Chuck’s handwriting. Several weapons, a cache of ammunition, and a CB radio were also found in the car. Most unusual was a piece of one of Chuck’s teeth wrapped in a white handkerchief in the back seat. Chuck’s Mercury Cougar had been modified and could be unlocked from the fender.
According to the ME, Charles Morgan had been dead for about 12 hours when his body was discovered. Further examination revealed a $2 bill clipped to his underwear. On the front of the $2 bill were 7 Spanish names in order A to G. Additionally, Ecclesiastes 12, with arrows indicating 1 to 8 in the serial number. On the back of the bill was a list of the signers of the Declaration of Independence numbered 1-7. A crude map was also on the back depicting the roads between Tuscon and the Mexico border. Robles Junction and Sasabe were marked on the map, areas known for smuggling.
Two days after discovering his body, the sheriff’s office got a call from a woman with the nickname “Green Eyes” who had information about Chuck. She confirmed that she was the woman who had called Ruth before Chuck’s death. “Green Eyes” claimed that she had met with Chuck in a motel where he showed her a briefcase full of thousands of dollars. One article claims the briefcase had $60 o00 in it; another claimed that Green Eyes told the police that the contract was for $90,00 and was increasing by $5,000 daily. Chuck told Green Eyes that he was planning to use the money to buy out a contract that had been put on his life. Police were able to track down the motel, which was on the south side of Tucson, that Chuck had been staying in and on CCTV saw him meet with the woman assumed to be Green Eyes several times over the days between his disappearance and death. When asked if she thought Chuck was having an affair, she said she didn’t believe he was, as “A woman knows when her man has strayed, and Chuck hasn’t strayed in 19 years.”
Despite the strange nature of this case, the sheriff’s office declared Charles Morgan’s death a suicide, although the ME report listed it as an unresolved death. Investigators at the time were split on this call, as some felt it could have been a murder. However, the prevailing theory was that Chuck used his thumb to pull the trigger and that the blood and dust on the gun were why no fingerprints were found. Ruth and the family did not believe this theory and maintained that he was murdered. Ruth was adamant that had Chuck ended his own life, he would have left a note for her and their daughters.
Don Deveraux Investigation and Unsolved Mysteries
In the 80s and 90s, Don Deveraux began investigating Chuck’s case and was involved in the Unsolved Mysteries segment that aired in 1990. Deveraux found out that Chuck’s car had been broken into while it was in police impound after his murder, as well as Chuck’s office being ransacked around the same time. Three weeks after the murder, Ruth was visited by two men who claimed to be FBI agents but flashed their badges too quickly for her to get a good look at them or remember their names. They searched the house, tearing it apart. They never told her what they were looking for, nor did they seem to find whatever it was. When Deveraux reached out to the FBI, they claimed they had no cases of knowledge concerning Chuck Morgan. While these two men were likely not actual FBI agents, it is also strange that the FBI was claiming no involvement when previous records indicated they had been involved in Chuck’s case.
There is also likely Mafia involvement in this case. During the 70s, the Mafia started operating out of Arizona due to a state law that allowed anyone to buy land through blind trust accounts. These types of sales were a great way to cover money laundering, as the nature of a blind trust meant there was increased privacy, making things practically untraceable. Gold bullion and platinum were also standard laundering methods in the area, although these transactions only existed on paper.
It was found that Charles Morgan did escrow work for a Mafia family, beginning in 1973, which had him dealing with several million in bullion and platinum. Due to the blind trust laws, as the escrow agent, Chuck would be the only one to know who owned the properties. One article claims that Chuck worked with the Ned Warren and Joe Bonanno families. These escrow sales were likely empty transactions used to move money through several escrows and “legitimized” the money. Ruth reported that Chuck told her he was aware of money laundering in the area but was not involved in it himself. He did not give many details as he did not want to put his family at risk. Still, He alluded to the fact that he had information on prominent Tucsonans and politicians involving escrow, land deals, and money laundering that would be potentially embarrassing and damaging.
After the Unsolved Mysteries episode, Deveraux was given more information, leading him to these possible Mafia connections and money laundering activities. Deveraux found out that Chuck kept copies of everything, even illicit transactions, which likely led to him being killed. Deveraux posited the theory that Chuck was working with the government, and his cover may have been blown. This resulted in the Mafia putting a hit on Chuck due to the extensive knowledge he had about money laundering in the area. The hitman let Chuck know about the hit on him, and Chuck decided to get enough money to buy off the hitman and save his life. However, when Chuck met up with the hitman to pay him the money, the hitman killed him anyway and took the money.
However, Deveraux’s investigation into this case stirred something up with some sort of group because a man was murdered across the street from Deveraux, who was in a nearly identical station wagon. Later, a potential source suspiciously died before they could meet with Deveraux and share information on this case.
While doing more research, I found a fascinating article published by the Arizona Daily Star in 1979. There was a lot of information in it that might help shed some light on what was happening here.
According to the article, Charles Morgan was involved in the local Masonic Lodge. This could explain why some reports state that the $2 had “Masonic” writings, although what that means is unclear. I also found mention of Chuck planning to go to a Masonic meeting the same evening he disappeared. According to Ruth, the $2 bill was something that Chuck typically kept on him and had been in his possession for years. Chuck told her that it had been taken from him during his first disappearance and then returned. Ruth was also quoted as saying that one of the things keeping Chuck from talking after his first disappearance was a swollen tongue, allegedly from the drugs. She also noted that a briefcase that Chuck always used had never resurfaced.
Chuck was fired from Western Title Insurance Agency 5 months before his death after arguing with a supervisor. Owning his own escrow business was a recent development, although it had been his dream for years. Getting the license for this business was not easy, as Chuck had to testify against individuals for alleged illegal activities concerning land sales. This testimony was given secretly, but Chuck told associates he feared for his life. He often refused to sit with his back to a window. There were also rumors about some not wanting Chuck to gain his own business as he would be in direct competition.
Coworkers and associates of Charles Morgan reported him often talking about having to look over his shoulder until the statute of limitations ran out on some possible illegal activities he was involved in.
When Ruth told the sheriff’s department about Chuck’s claim that he was an agent for the treasury department, they contacted the federal agencies in the area but could find no evidence that he worked with any of them. However, two days after his death, U.S. Customs reached out to inform the sheriff that Chuck and two other associates were investigated in 1973 concerning a scam to sell non-existent gold to parties in Mexico. Customs said there was not enough to pursue federal indictment at the time, but one of the associates was already dead, making Chuck the second.
Chuck was a “collector” and kept notes and records for everything. Ruth stated that she had found records showing large deposits and checks written but had not found those assets. Telegrams were found from Switzerland, England, and Mexico discussing the buying and selling millions of ounces of almost pure gold. A former gold smuggler had talked to the reporter for this article and claimed that he knew Chuck and had worked with him often. He said the night before Chuck died, he was seen leaving a known area for smuggling with one of the “big” smugglers.
In a more recent article, one of Chuck’s daughters claimed that she believed her father was killed to protect the interests of corrupt businessmen and politicians:
“My father had a lot of information about people here in Tuscon that could have been very detrimental. There was a lot of info about politicians, people who are still alive that work in our government. He had that information, and they wanted to silence him.”
INTERESTED IN SIMILAR STORIES? WHY NOT TRY:
- Lindy Sue Biechler: How DNA Solved a 46 Year-Old Cold Case | Episode 4
- Stanley Detweiler: A Murder Gone Horribly Wrong | Episode 11
Sources: Buzzfeed Unsolved Episode, Unsolved Mysteries website & wiki, tucson.com article, Arizona Daily Star story from 1979, and Morbidology.
Researched by Alley & Mo from The Squonk & The Hag