An unemployed Scottsdale electrician made death threats against a neighbor two weeks before killing the neighbor’s brother in a dispute about a barking dog, according to statements on a complete version of a 911 tape released Tuesday.
The neighbor’s wife, Kathy Morris, called police just an hour before the April 6 shooting death of Mike Morris, her brother-in-law, to report angry behavior by Alan McMahon, 47.
Kathy Morris told the dispatcher, “He told me he was going to have my husband killed, and we’d never find his remains.”
Scottsdale police released the unedited copy of Kathy Morris' call about McMahon. A previously released version of the tape omitted the roughly 30-second portion during which Kathy Morris said McMahon had made a death threat against her husband on March 20.
McMahon’s body was found April 10 on Camelback Mountain, where he apparently jumped to his death after the shooting, police said.
The new version of the tape also includes a segment in which Kathy Morris discusses her previous attempts to tell police about the death threat.
“I didn't get a call back right away until the middle of the night,” she said on the tape. “I tried to call back in the morning. I left messages with different officers that are supposedly in charge of our block watch. Everyone was on vacation. (She laughs.) It was spring break.”
A police dispatcher called the family back between 11:15 and 11:30 p.m. on March 20, which was too late for a couple with four young children, husband Rick Morris said in an interview Tuesday. They intended to call back in the morning, but never did.
“I guess after me and my wife talked about it, we didn't know if talking to the police would inflame the situation or not,” Rick Morris said. “Prior to all this happening, I thought it was just my neighbor talking trash.”
He said the family is investigating possible legal action in his brother's death, but declined to say if they believe police responded appropriately to his wife's subsequent call to police.
On April 6, she called police and calmly reported that McMahon was screaming at her and shaking a hammer at their barking dog and that she was afraid of him. A dispatcher told her it would be three to four hours before an officer would arrive. To feel safe, she called her brother-in-law to stay with them until her husband got off work, Rick Morris said.
Mike Morris was found dead less than an hour later in the alley behind the two homes in the 8400 block of East Clarendon Avenue.
“You get someone in a traffic accident, (police) show up in two or three minutes,” Rick Morris said. “Just a little fender-bender. This was a little more serious.”
Police on Monday said the dispatcher acted appropriately in assigning the call a secondary priority. Scottsdale officer Scott Reed said the death threat does not change that opinion.
“The case has been reviewed by the supervisor and I would say that no, with the other conversation that was included with that . . . there didn't appear to be an immediate threat,” he said.
Reed said the threat was edited out of the first release of the 911 call because McMahon was at large at the time.
“It was information that in the event McMahon was found alive, he could be questioned about without having prior knowledge of her report to police,” Reed said. “In other words, he wouldn’t have time to prepare any type of alibi or rebuttal, if you will, to that threat.”
Additionally, police believed publicity about the threat could further anger McMahon or prevent him from turning himself in to police, Reed said.
New information in the case released Tuesday suggests Mike Morris and McMahon jumped the back fences to get to the alley between the homes, where the shooting took place and where police found the victim’s body, Reed said. The backyard gates were locked, he said.
“We can only assume the victim did not know there was a gun involved,” Reed said.
Rick Morris said McMahon made the death threat while talking to Kathy Morris about an unfinished fence between the properties. Morris said his wife's recollection of the threat was that he could have him dismembered and taken to the desert where no one would find him.