Accused killer pleads not guilty in court - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Accused killer pleads not guilty in court

Shawn Morgan (Dunklin County SO) Shawn Morgan (Dunklin County SO)
3-year-old Breeann Rodriguez died on Aug. 6. 3-year-old Breeann Rodriguez died on Aug. 6.

The bootheel man accused of killing his 3-year-old neighbor pleaded not guilty to charges Wednesday in front of a judge. He entered the plea just hours after his vacant home burned to the ground. Investigators say the blaze is suspicious.

Shawn Morgan, 43, faces various charges including first degree murder, armed criminal action, tampering with evidence, child kidnapping and child pornography charges.

He entered the plea in front of around two dozen members of Breeann's family, including her parents.

"We're just ready for the trial to be over so we can get past it," said Claudia Ramos, Breeann's mother.

"We are thankful for everyone supporting us," said Breeann's father, Edgar Rodriguez.

The trial for Morgan is scheduled for February 8, 2012 in Dunklin County.

Jurors will be from another county outside the area.

Morgan of Senath, was charged with murder in the suffocation death of 3-year-old Breeann Rodriguez who died on August 6, 2011.

Morgan had told police he put the girl's body in the same trash bag she was suffocated with, and drove to the floodway ditches of Hwy. 164. He told police he then threw her over the railing.

[Read the probable cause statement (PDF)]

Investigators on the scene of a fire Wednesday morning confirmed Morgan's vacant home in Senath burned down. It's another twist to a story that already has a number of turns. The house is located on Ode Johnson road just a few doors down from the home of the Rodriguez family.

The Missouri Fire Marshal was on the scene investigating the cause of this fire. According to Senath Police Chief, Omar Karnes investigators suspect arson.

"We can't say if the fire is connected to the hearing this morning," said Chief Karnes. "It could be just a fluke. We do want to stress the Rodriguez family is not a suspect in any way. They have been through a lot. We don't suspect any kind of arson retaliation or anything like that what so ever."

Wednesday's fire is the second fire this week. Monday, the home of Morgan's brother Kevin also burned.

According to Chief Karnes, Senath police feel all the fires are suspicious. He says they have a person or persons of interest, but no suspects.

In fact, these two fires add up to five homes in the Morgan family that have burned in the last decade.

"We're investigating all these cases and we want to get this figured out," said Chief Karnes. "The public shouldn't worry they are in any danger."

Fire fighter and pastor, Chuck Clark was one of the first on scene Wednesday.

"This is really stressful on the community," said Clark. "Especially after everything that's happened on this street. We think we're starting to move on and then bam."

After Breeann's murder in August, Clark says a fund set up by the community raised more than $22,000 for the Rodriguez family. A statue of an angel now stands at the little girl's grave.

"Not a day goes by that we don't think of her," said Clark. "She was a source of inspiration to all of us."

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