From what Seattle police have pieced together, Bryson Morgan only knew 21-year-old Autumn Young a few days before he shot her five times in the head as she sat in the front passenger seat of his car, then dragged her body to the shore of Lake Washington, according to King County prosecutors.
Morgan, 23, of Seattle, was charged Thursday with premeditated first-degree murder in Young’s Jan. 14 death, court records show. Arrested on investigation of driving under the influence 1 1/2 hours before Young’s body was discovered by a passerby in Seward Park, Morgan was initially ordered held in lieu of $10 million bail, according to jail and court records.
But after prosecutors learned Morgan was arrested in recent months in Texas and California and listened to a recorded phone call he made to his family soon after he was booked into the King County Jail, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Petersen successfully argued that Morgan, who is believed to be involved in “high level narcotics dealing,” should be held without bail, charging papers say.
In April 2020, Morgan was arrested in Wilbarger County, Texas, for being in possession of more than 50 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds of marijuana, Petersen wrote in the charges. On Jan. 1, he was arrested in Los Angeles after crashing into a parked car while apparently under the influence of narcotics; when police removed him from his vehicle, a loaded handgun and a pouch containing baggies of meth and Xanax fell to the ground and was recovered by officers, according to Petersen.
Following Morgan’s arrest early on Jan. 14 in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, officers found a 9-mm handgun, shell casings and nearly a half kilogram of suspected meth inside the vehicle, which had a significant amount of blood on the passenger door, seat and window, the charges say.
Soon after he was booked into jail, Morgan called his family and asked them to post bail, saying he needed to get out and had “a plan,” Petersen wrote in charging documents.
The state, she wrote, believes Morgan has access to significant financial resources and as of 2012, the estimated value of his parents’ estate was worth far in excess of $10 million.
Court records do not yet indicate who is representing Morgan.
The charges say Morgan’s relationship to Young remains unclear.
Autumn Young’s uncle, Stephen Young, said his niece was raised by her mother, his sister, in Portland but belonged to a large, extended family from Polson, Montana.
“I used to take her Jet Skiing and boating on Flathead Lake,” Stephen Young, who lives in Polson, said Thursday. “Autumn was drop-dead gorgeous. She could’ve modeled.”
Though he hadn’t seen his niece since she was around 13, Young had heard Autumn had recently come to Seattle to visit a friend but said she planned to return to Portland.
“She was loving and kind and really smart and intuitive, just like her mom,” Young, 61, said. “It kills my heart that someone brutally took her out this way.”
According to the charges:
Just after 4 a.m. on Jan. 14, a resident called 911 and reported that a man was passed out behind the wheel of a running car at East Madison Street and 17th Avenue. The caller knocked on the car’s window but the driver remained unresponsive and the 911 caller reported there appeared to be blood inside the car and on the driver’s hands.
Arriving Seattle police officers noticed the white Toyota Corolla didn’t have license plates and saw blood spatter and shell casings inside the passenger compartment.
Officers pulled the driver out of the vehicle and after being startled awake, the man complied with their commands, according to the charges.
The driver, identified as Morgan, was arrested on investigation of DUI and taken to Swedish Medical Center to have his blood drawn, the charges say.
Ninety-three minutes after the initial 911 call, a second 911 caller reported finding a body on the shore of Lake Washington near Lake Washington Boulevard South and South Orcas Street in Seward Park.
Police arrived and discovered a nude woman lying on the grass on her back. She was obviously dead with severe head trauma.
Police also discovered drag marks through mud and feces that led from an access road to the spot where the woman’s body was found. But her feet were clean and her body was free of mud, so investigators believe she was stripped of her clothes and shoes after she was dragged from a vehicle. One black sock was found near the access road and a sock that appeared to be its match was found next to the woman’s body.
A fired bullet found underneath the woman’s body was later matched to the 9-mm handgun with an obliterated serial number that was recovered from Morgan’s car, according to the charges.
In addition to the gun, police found soiled and bloody women’s clothing and shoes on the front passenger floorboard during a search of Morgan’s vehicle, which had at least three bullet strikes to the interior.
When Morgan was arrested, the charges say he had suspected blood on his hands, pants and jacket and fecal matter, mud and blood on his shoes.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.
Editor’s note: In a previous version of this story, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Adrienne McCoy was incorrectly named as the prosecutor who authored charging documents filed against Bryson Morgan. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Petersen is handling the case.