Woman Faces Potential Death Penalty For Murder Of Officer Morton
Clinton, MO – A woman accused of dealing drugs out of the home where a Clinton officer was murdered, and two other officers were wounded in March, could face the death penalty or life in prison, The Oklahoman reported.
Police responded to Tammy Dee Widger’s home at 9:20 p.m. on March 6, after they received a 911 call and heard two women screaming in the background, Missouri Highway Patrol (MHP) Sergeant Bill Lowe told KSHB.
When police arrived at the address given to them by dispatchers, the officers contacted Widger who led them into an ambush.
Once inside, 37-year-old James Waters opened fire on the police, hitting Officer Christopher Ryan Morton and two additional officers.
Officer Morton was mortally wounded.
The other officers who were wounded were rushed for emergency medical care, and sustained non-life-threatening injuries, Sgt. Lowe said.
Waters barricaded himself inside the residence after he shot the officers, and was found dead at approximately 12:10 a.m. on March 7, after an MHP SWAT team made entry into the home.
The women who were in the house at the time of the incident were not injured, and were taken into custody, FOX News reported.
Widger, who lived at the Clinton residence, was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, and maintaining a public nuisance.
Henry County prosecutor Richard Shields said that evidence found in the house suggested Widger had been selling drugs out of her home prior to the shootings.
On Wednesday, prosecutors announced that they were upgrading the charges against Widger to first-degree murder in the death of Officer Morton, WSPA reported.
She was also charged with two counts of first-degree assault for the two officers wounded by Waters.
In an interview from jail, Widger said that she thought Waters had gone out the back door of her home when officers arrived to avoid them, FOX News reported.
Widger told The Kansas City Star she had no reason to think the officers were in danger when she allowed them to come in the house to look around.
She claimed she didn't know Waters had a gun, and pointed out that she was standing there with the officers when the shooting started.
"I didn't know what was going to happen," Widger said. "In the blink of an eye, my life changed. I didn't want this."
Shortly after the incident, police learned that a mistake had led officers to Widger’s house.
The officers had been sent to the Clinton address after a call was placed to the Henry County 911 Emergency Communications Center. The dispatcher could hear women yelling on the open line, but was unable to speak with anyone directly, WDAF reported.
The dispatcher used the agency’s database and technology to trace the call, and dispatched officers to the Clinton home.
Investigators say that the call had actually been placed from a location in Windsor, a town approximately 15 miles away from Clinton, KCTV reported.
On March 9, the Henry County 911 Emergency Communications told The Kansas City Star that the mistake was due to an error in the Master Street Address Guide, which was provided by CenturyLink.
CenturyLink, the telephone company that provided service to the Henry County, disputed that allegation and insisted that the information its system provided in relation to the 911 call was accurate.
"CenturyLink takes all public safety issues seriously, particularly those involving first responders," CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen told The Kansas City Star on Thursday evening. "We conducted a thorough investigation which shows that when the 911 call was placed, CenturyLink provided the correct phone number and address."
The call was placed using a landline.
“Assuming they’re right, they delivered the right address,” Henry County 911 Emergency Communications chairman Ken Scott told The Kansas City Star, after he learned about the company’s statement. “I don’t have a reason to challenge that.”
The error may have been the result of a problem with the 911 center’s technology, he said.
At the time of the murder Waters was out on bail, and investigators had been looking for him in relation to a rape investigation, but they weren’t looking for him the night that he opened fire on police, according to Shields.