Is there anything more suspicious than a couple people dying after investigating an unsolved murder from over 10 years before their time? Three men were investigating the same case, only two would perish, but one got away and he believed he was supposed to be the target of a hit. If that’s true, he has not been targeted again. Who are these men? And with such a complex web of murder, where does one even start? It’s probably best to start with the man that was murdered in 1977, Charles Morgan, a businessman who’s murder would inadvertently cause two more a little over a decade later.
At the age of 39, Charles Morgan was a successful businessman. The president of an blooming escrow agency, he was a possible witness of fraud by a crime boss. Morgan was no stranger to organized crime, and allegedly did work for various bosses and families in the past. It doesn’t help that he was also a Mason, yet another tie to a relatively private and secretive organization. He testified in a secret state investigation about illegal activity in Arizona and Mexico across the border. He allegedly even went out of his way to tell people he was working under cover for the Treasury Department. It was originally classified as a suicide by the Pima County Sheriff’s department, but the Medical examiner’s Office said it was unsolved. If Morgan shot himself, it’s one of the most bizarre suicides ever. Furthermore, the sheriff’s detective told his wife that it was not possible that Morgan killed himself. His lawyer went on to say “There was no reason for Morgan to kill himself. He had everything going. He was a family man and real active in the Masonic lodge. He was well-liked in the community. He just acquired a new business which he had been trying to do for a long time.”
Morgan was found dead with a gunshot wound in the back of his head. His body was found with his .357-caliber revolver, the weapon used to shoot him, but no fingerprints were found on the gun. Additionally, he was wearing a bulletproof vest and a belt buckle attached to him concealed a knife. He also had a holster for his gun. Morgan's car was a cache of armaments, interestingly. Morgan kept several weapons and ammunition, CB radios, and one of his teeth was found wrapped in a handkerchief. The car could also be unlocked via the fender due to custom modifications. There was also a $2 bill with Spanish surnames and a map of the area scribbled on it pinned to his underwear. If you're puzzled by this description of the scene, worry not as investigators are equally baffled. The significance of the $2 bill has never been linked successfully to the case.
Morgan was also known to have spent his last days hiding out in several motels for about week. A friend of Morgan said to the police that Morgan was trying to get enough money to “buy off a contract on his life.”
Further digging in the 70’s by investigators revealed that after his testimony, several individuals were told to divest themselves of controlling ownership of Banco Internacional. Morgan then wrote two checks to the bank on a Western Title account; one for over $300k and the other over $30k, both for buying Banco stock for the individuals who dropped out, but the checks bounced. They were later made good. Morgan’s lawyer reported to police that “certain factions and individuals” didn’t want Morgan to buy Statewide Escrow. After the testimony and these transactions, Morgan expressed fear for his life to friends and associates.
Morgan’s wife said that the briefcase he normally carried with him has not been found. A woman who has yet to be identified called and claimed there was $60k in the case. Another man who’s identity that is shrouded in mystery claimed Morgan and his associates were buying gold bars and coins in Mexico.
Before Morgan disappeared and was killed, he disappeared another time, but he came home with his throat painted with hallucinogenic drugs. Morgan also claimed that the $2 bill was taken, but he got it back. He had a handcuff dangling around one leg and he was missing a shoe and his tongue was swollen from the drugs. When he disappeared this time, he lost $50k in platinum bars that he kept in his trunk. Furthermore Morgan told his wife that he had damning evidence and information on politicians working in Tucson involved in escrow and land deals. He never gave up the information in fear of his family’s life.
So if Morgan feared for his life, he could have taken his own life to avoid being captured and presumably tortured like the first time, but if that’s the case, why weren’t there fingerprints on the gun and why was the gunshot in the back of his head, a highly unusual place to position the barrel of a gun?
Flash forward 13 years later and the investigative journalist Don Devereux was working on several cases that may have threatened the mob. He was also investigating the mysterious case of Charles Morgan. He wrote an article about Morgan in the summer of 1990, but it revealed nothing new about the case. It did, however, bring light back to the old case.
A couple months prior, at 11PM, Doug Johnston finished his night shift. At 12AM he was found dead, shot behind his left ear. At first, it was thought Johnston committed suicide. There was no gun found at the scene, no note, his family called him the “happiest man on Earth”, no signs that he was suicidal, and no motive for him to be murdered. All valuables he had were found on his person at the scene.
Two years later, it was theorized Johnston was killed by mistake and Devereux was the intended target. Both men drove similar cars, lived in similar houses, and Devereux lived across the parking lot where Johnston was killed. While this does establish a possible motive, there are no known suspects.
Not long before this, Devereux was contacted by a writer named Danny Casolaro. Both were investigating the Charles Morgan case at this point and Devereux agreed to share information with Casolaro. Before Devereux could do this, Casolaro was found dead. Devereux and many others believe he was murdered.
In the summer of 1991, Casolaro was found in his hotel bathroom. His wrists were slashed about a dozen times. There was a suicide note found at the gruesome scene. He was then embalmed not long after, which wasn’t even apparent to relatives who weren’t notified of this for a time. Family was doubtful he would kill himself, but not all flat out deny the possibility. The cause for doubt is in the means of his death, however. Friends and family note that he was incredibly squeamish, so cutting his wrists several times seemed to be out of the ordinary for Casolaro. His girlfriend also claimed he didn’t like to be seen naked, so being found in a tub without any garments was “not Danny.”
However, his career wasn’t successful. He was in debt and he was not a well known individual in the field of journalism. It’s possible that he committed suicide (more probable than Morgan and Johnston), but there are good reasons to cast doubt on the suicide theory. One of the big reasons wasn’t just the means, but he also had an obsessive motive to live.
Casolaro was investigating the Inslaw case. Inslaw is an I.T. company that markets software to the government and corporations. Inslaw’s allegation was that the Justice Department stole software from the company. Casolaro began to develop the “octopus” conspiracy theory. It aimed to expose a global crime organization. People pointed out, however, that Casolaro’s book on this “octopus theory” was going to be a flop. It seemed that a lot of his sources were not reliable and the writing was fictional at best. Yet, he remained optimistic. While his octopus theory may be dubious at best, he was involved with at least two well-known cases with suspicious activity: Inslaw and Morgan’s death. Even if the cabal was not behind it, the government and some shady criminals may have had something to do with his death.
Even then, the FBI cast doubt on the suicide conclusion. A file contradicted the Department of Justice’s notions on the motives behind his suicide. Furthermore, the FBI lied to members of Congress about not investigating his death, and agents who did investigate questioned the suicide conclusion at risk of their careers. The motive that the DoJ gave was financial. Casolaro’s mortgage on his home was due, a publisher told Casolaro his book would not advance him, and he was unemployed.
The FBI, however, said that if it was financial, why didn’t he borrow money from his many friends and his family? He was wall liked and very sociable, relatively frugal, and could have gotten some handouts.
Independent investigators beware.
“Mysterious Shooting Ended Both of Tucson Businessman's Lives.” The Arizona Daily Star, 4 Feb. 1979.
“048 - The Mysterious Death of Chuck Morgan.” Trace Evidence, www.trace-evidence.com/the-mysterious-death-of-chuck-morgan.
Kwok, Abraham. “Kin Angry, Unsure over Violent Death of 'Happiest Man'.” Arizona Republic.
NatSecGeek. “FBI File Casts Doubt on Bureau's Investigation into the Suspicious Death of Journalist Danny Casolaro.” MuckRock, 8 May 2017, www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/may/08/fbi-Danny-Casolaro/.
Star, Kimberly Matas Arizona Daily. “Cold Case: Strange Evidence Found in '77 on, near Man's Body.” Arizona Daily Star, 31 Mar. 2010, tucson.com/news/local/crime/cold-case-strange-evidence-found-in-on-near-man-s/article_e84a1034-c078-5a43-81a1-e602f52eda02.html.