Real Name: Joseph Eli Morrow
Wanted For: Murder
Missing Since: June 24, 1993
Case[edit | edit source]
Details: When Donna Morrow met her husband, Joe, he appeared to be an ideal partner: charming, wealthy, and kind. Within months of meeting, they were married. They soon started a large and loving family that they always wanted. They moved into a luxurious home in Menlo Park, California and Donna became a mother and housewife. For thirteen years, she appeared happy with her family. However, during Thanksgiving 1991, she told her mother, Shirley Rubio, that she was done with Joe and was planning to divorce him after the holidays. According to her friends, he was possessive and abusive. Her family believed that he was arrogant and condescending.
A few weeks later, on Christmas Day, the Rubios called the Morrows to wish them a Merry Christmas, but Joe told them that Donna had left several days earlier after having an argument. When interviewed by the Menlo Park police, he claimed that she had abruptly left after an argument at around 10pm on December 19, 1991, taking her purse and keys. Detectives thought it was strange that she didn't take her car. Joe had no explanation for it. He maintained that she had left him and their four children voluntarily to start a new life.
Joe also believed that Donna was having an affair. An investigation revealed that she did have a close "friendship" with another man. Police discovered that she had called him at 7:30pm on the night of her disappearance. He claimed that she wanted to meet him that night. However, he declined. He provided an alibi and passed a lie detector test. He was ruled out as a suspect.
The Morrows' eight-year-old daughter told detectives that at around 9:30pm on December 19, she heard her parents yelling at each other. The yelling got quieter and quieter and then stopped completely. She then heard one of them storming out the front door, but couldn't tell which one. She said she saw Joe asleep in bed alone later that night. Despite his insistence that Donna left voluntarily, her family and friends believed that she had met with foul play. They believe he was responsible, especially because he was violent and abusive towards Donna. Also, they didn't believe that she would leave with another man just weeks before she was planning to divorce.
Police searched the Morrow residence and found a suspicious blood splatter on the side of a bucket in the garage. It didn't match Joe or the children, but without a sample of Donna's blood to test, they couldn't prove it was hers. Three weeks later, at a hotel room ninety miles from the Morrow home, Joe was found unconscious. He suffered from an overdose of barbiturates and was surrounded by numerous suicide notes addressed to several friends and family. Interestingly, none were addressed to Donna. However, none of them mentioned her disappearance either. He soon recovered from the overdose and continued to deny involvement in her disappearance.
Two years later, Donna's family, on behalf of her children, sued Joe in civil court for wrongful death. At the same time he pleaded guilty on an unrelated fraud charge. He was scheduled to surrender on June 24, 1993, but he never showed up and has not been seen since. Afterwards, his estate settled the wrongful death suit for $2 million. Guardianship of the children was given to his brother and sister-in-law. Finally, in 1997, an arrest warrant was issued for him on Donna's murder, although her body was never found.
Donna's family and friends believe that Joe became enraged after he found out that she was leaving and seeing another man. They believe that he killed her, dragged her body to the garage, and then drove away with it, burying it in an unknown location. Now, police hope to find both it and him.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the August 27, 2002 episode.
Results: Captured. After a decade on the run, Joe was finally arrested living in the Philippines on January 14, 2003. Information from one of his children led to his arrest. He was brought back on an unrelated fraud charge and the murder warrant. In September 2003, a tip led police to Donna's body which were found on the property the Morrows once owned in Los Gatos. Her wedding ring was missing; however, it was later found in Joe's mother's possession. After the discovery of her body, he was charged with her murder. Prosecutors believed that he killed her because she was planning on divorcing him and taking half of their financial resources. His previous wife claimed that he had violently assaulted her when she asked for a divorce.
In September 2007, shortly before Joe's trial was set to begin, he pleaded no contest to second-degree murder along with seven counts of assault. He accepted responsibility for Donna's death, but declined to reveal the circumstances surrounding it. He was sentenced to twenty-five years to life in prison; however, due to a plea deal, he will be eligible for parole in 2019.
- Joe Morrow on Unsolved Archive
- Arrest Warrant Issued For Menlo Park Man
- Search renewed for missing husband, wife
- Eight-year-old murder case dusted off
- Fugitive on run for 11 years is caught / Man a suspect in wife's killing
- Tip leads to body of Donna Morrow -- missing for 12 years
- Missing woman is found dead / 12 year old Menlo Park Case
- Pretrial hearing in 1991 slaying
- 1991 murder case still stands, for now
- Reporter called to testify in Morrow trial
- Man to stand trial in wife's 1991 death
- Man set to go on trial in wife's 1991 slaying in Menlo Park home
- Morrow defies attorney, pleads "no contest" to murder
- Menlo Park man pleads no contest in wife's slaying
- Morrow gets 25 to life for killing wife
- Dad gets 25 to life for killing wife - kids beg for parole
- Menlo Park man sentenced in wife's murder 16 years after her death
- Wife killer asks forgiveness