SYSTEM FAIL: The Unsolved Murder of Rickie Jolene Bowen Morgan
On July 16, 2016 in the Kensington Corridor of Philadelphia Rickie Jolene Bowen Morgan (Rickie Morgan) was murdered after being lured to a back lot alley under false pretenses. Kensington is considered the dividing line between is the Lower Northeast section of Philadelphia and North Philadelphia. A neighborhood that, despite aggressive gentrification and enforcement efforts, is known to be plagued by opioids and a pharmacopoeia of street drugs.
Philadelphia Police Officers responded to the 2400 block of Jasper Street and found Rickie Morgan lying in the street. Rickie had been stabbed several times in her neck. Medical personnel arrived and pronounced Rickie deceased at the scene. Rickie Morgan, 35 year-old White female, resided on the 2900 block of Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia, PA.
Rickie Jolene Bowen-Morgan was named after her father and great uncle was born on October 08, 1980 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. A vibrant third tier city located in Western Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland County, Latrobe is home to Rolling Rock beer, Mister Rogers and golf icon Arnold Palmer. Rickie’s parents Carol and Richard were ecstatic at the birth of their first child together. Richard previously had a son who had died due to complications from a premature birth. Rickie was a welcome addition to their struggling though loving family. Being their first daughter of two she was nicknamed “Baby-Angel” by her father. “Baby-Angel” sent from heaven to give [him] hell!” Richard would joke. July 14, 2016 Rickie’s Mom Carol’s last words to her daughter as they concluded what would be their final phone call were: “I love you Baby-Angel”
According to the coroner’s report Rickie was hit in the head with a brick, stabbed eight times; with the slashes on her neck cutting the carotid artery and jugular vein. Despite the severity of her injuries Rickie managed to escape the lot, running naked from the Northwest corner of Cumberland Street and Letterly Street, collapsing from blood loss before her death at 2468 Jasper Street.
At 11:22PM the responding EMT, Medic 31 of Battalion 8 (Kensington), pronounced the 35 year old mother of two dead. News articles have speculated that she may have been raped. DNA evidence offered that she had unprotected sex shortly before the murder. Police records suggested that interaction was consensually transactional. Rickie had been working as a street based prostitute, and was struggling with addiction.
Half naked photos of another raped and murdered woman found dead on the street within the confusion of construction debris and trash were posted on Reddit with Rickie’s name attached to the gruesome crime scene image. It is not clear how crime scene photos found their way from police custody to Reddit. Rickie’s family struggled with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Victim Services Unit for months in to get them to order the post taken down to no avail. The post was removed after extensive ugly public back and forth between the City, the family, and Reddit.
Rickie’s mom Carol desperately plead through emails with the assigned homicide detectives in trying to find answers to her daughters murder. Assistant District Attorney for Homicide Anthony Voci stated in direct conversation with Rickie’s mom that the City of Philadelphia would not press charges against the suspected sport predator, Byron Shamor Allen, jr. (Byron Allen). Voci said that since Rickie was known as a street based prostitute trading sex for drugs he feared the case would lead to a mistrial. He further stated that the City of Philadelphia was unwilling to pay the high cost of the trial. Victim services did assist with the expense of the funeral, though it would take four months for that determination to be approved, and only after the family covered the cost laying Rickie to rest in the cold November morning.
A year later, Rickie’s two children would be placed into foster care. Rickie’s younger sister took in the children for long as she could manage. Finally, due to the lack of transitional guidance and trauma sensitive initiatives, the children were placed in the foster care system. Rickie’s life legacy is lost. Both of Rickie’s parents had looked forward to the day of enjoying being grandparents. Rickie’s father was lost to suicide in 1996, and Carol’s last hope for that family legacy now is to be able to contact Rickie’s daughter after she turns 18. Rickie’s son has suffered such behavioral challenges and traumas that his future fate is unclear.
April 19, 2016 through October 01, 2016 violence throughout the Kensington Corridor left chaos. There were a total of six known assaults, leaving four survivors and two known dead. The surrounding communities still shrouded in fear from the 2010 Antonio Rodriguez case, more than a half a dozen new attacks were eventually confirmed and suspected to be Byron Allen.
As law enforcement, media and local nonprofits stepped up efforts to find potential supect/s, on September 22nd, 2016, 32 year old Natasha Gibson, was brutally slain. Gibson was the single mother of a then 11 year old daughter in Yeadon, Delaware County. She was viciously attacked and murdered while she was approaching a friend’s home at the close of a social evening out. Because she was stabbed an approximate 22 times, police were able to follow a blood trail to a nearby convenience store. After he was viewed on surveillance video with a bloody hand purchasing a beer, Byron Allen, was identified as the only possible suspect for the attack on Gibson. Meanwhile, in Kensington, another attack on the first of October left an ominous sense of urgency to the fear of an area impacted by escalating violence. Connected by the shared fate of their daughters, Rickie’s mom and Natasha’s mom are in contact and support each other, both hoping to see justice prevail.
On December 19, 2016 Byron Allen was picked up in Philadelphia County for a moving violation. DNA linked Byron Allen to the attacks, allowing for law enforcement to charge Byron Allen with the murder of Natasha Gibson; and also the violent series of assaults in the Kensington Corridor. On December 21, 2016 WHYY reported Byron Allen as the predator. However the cases would not close so cleanly and easily. Though forensic evidence clearly led to the Gibson murder, available evidence did not support the Philadelphia charges.
Most of the charges for the Kensington attacks have been dropped by the District Attorney’s office despite the best efforts of the detectives involved with the investigations. DNA evidence links Allen to at least one other attack in the area.. Three other cases have been rolled into one with a rape charge resulting in an assault conviction.
For over a five year period, Bryon Allen has been housed between Norristown State Hospital and prisons in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties. He appeared in court in Philadelphia September 2021 to stand trial for aggravated assault in only one of the handful of attacks. The jury found Byron Allen guilty of only one count. According to sources, two of the other victims have since overdosed, leaving three attacks rolled into one. He was sentenced to serve 9 to 18 years, though still has to stand trial for the murder of Natasha Gibson.
Currently as of September 2021, Allen is five years into his current sentence. According to a records check on September 29, 2021 he is housed within Delaware County (Del-Co) Prison awaiting potential transfer to Pennsylvania State Prison (PSP). He is expected to stand trial again in December in Delaware County for the murder of Natasha Gibson. Rickie’s murder still remains unsolved.
SYSTEM FAIL: The Unsolved Murder of Rickie Jolene Bowen Morgan: Part Two
Schizophrenia. Drug addiction. Abusive behavior towards women. These are pre-sentencing determinations and evaluations from the sentencing hearing in Philadelphia September 2021 in response to the Kensington Corridor Attacks of 2016. He was charged with a single felony one aggravated assault for three rapes, with all possible charges rolled into one. What is still to be determined is if Byron Shamor Allen (jr) is guilty of murder one and all related charges down to aggravated and simple assault for the brutal slaying of Natasha Gibson in Delaware County.
The defendant, Byron Shamor Allen, (jr.), is most commonly known as Byron Allen. His name is the same as multiple other individuals in the Pennsylvania court system. His name is also shared with a successful Philadelphia area television producer. Confusion surrounding his name makes his background mysteriously unavailable. His identity often confused with the other Byron Allens, including one in Conway, Beaver County, who received publicity for an unrelated murder and was eventually charged with aggravated assault.
Byron Allen falls under the definition of a sport predator. What we do know about his criminal career is that he began to be charged for violent crimes starting in Philadelphia March 2002. A 09 March 2003 Philadelphia Inquirer article written by Jacqueline Soteropolous reported that:
Allen “turned what should have been a normal day in a residential neighborhood in this city into a very dark day,” [Assistant District attorney Mitchell] Bober told the judge. “It is only a miracle that no one was killed.”
Allen declined to address the judge before sentencing, but his attorney, Adam Rogers, told the judge that his client’s judgment that day was affected by smoking marijuana laced with PCP. Rogers said Allen pleaded guilty because he accepted responsibility for his actions.
“He has pretty much thrown himself on the mercy of this court,” Rogers said. “I would ask for the most lenient sentence that this court can find.”
“Try to use this time to the best of your ability,” the judge told Allen. “It might not feel like it now, but you will have a chance to start over.”
He was in court with his bail revoked for over 75 counts, with multiple charges of criminal conspiracy, simple assault, aggravated assault, attempted murder, possession of firearms not to be carried without a license, and robbery of a motor vehicle. He was successful in throwing himself to the mercy of the court, pleading guilty with a possible 150 years in the State Correctional Institution to run concurrently. He served less than ten years, leaving his co-conspirator Robert Lamar, sitting in prison.. For each charge that Allen pleaded guilty to, the court accepted his plea with mandatory pre-sentence mental health reports ordered. HIPAA protects those reports and thus they are unavailable to our current Right To Know requests.
From April through October 2016 he is believed responsible for over a half a dozen attacks leaving at least three people dead. According to 04 January 2017 reporting by Mike Newall for the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Philadelphia police [had] charged him with four sexual assaults between last April and October…
In Philadelphia, police say, he’d lure woman who worked as prostitutes, then slit their throats, beat them with bricks, or choke them unconscious. In most cases, he’d sexually assault them.
Police also suspect Allen of the July murder of a Kensington woman.
Three suspected murders, four assaults.
And all those red flags.
One thinks that a PCP addict with a propensity for violence against women would be under close scrutiny by parole authorities after his release from prison on 75 felony counts related to a car-jacking with a sawed off shotgun followed by a shoot out with the police. But this was not the case. As Newall’s article explains:
Law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case told [Newall] that the parole officer assigned to Allen’s case had expressed frustration that Allen was not taken off the street earlier – if just for inpatient drug treatment – but that the officer could not spur his supervisors to action. (The board ordered Allen arrested in October after police identified him as a suspect in the crimes.)
This fits with what parole agents have been telling [Newall] for a few years: In the state’s effort to decrease swelled prison populations – and reduce recidivism rates – it’s harder to lock up some people who really should be off the streets.
The pendulum has swung so far. The things that used to immediately land a parolee in handcuffs, like PCP, don’t now.
Parole authorities have been largely silent about their role in enabling his escalating violence.
Allen is due back in court February 2022 where he is said to be requesting a trial, as opposed to accepting plea, for the murder of Natasha Gibson of Yeadon, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. This legal move is against the advice of his attorneys, who urged him to plead guilty in order to avoid the death sentence in the face of overwhelming evidence.