Just months before Michelle Morris was arrested for murder and lewd behavior, she beamed in an email.
Her letter to a county-appointed therapist for her adopted, severely disabled sonRyan Morris expressed his deepest gratitude for supporting her legal battle to keep her son isolated from his biological family.
“I think you’ve really given the court and Ryan’s lawyers what they need to prevent Monica and Ronald’s visits, although of course we know they won’t go quietly,” Morris wrote. “We hope it’s the gateway for Ryan to return to his home with Sean.”
Sean is Sean Spicer, the man Morris married her son to, despite that of the young man inability to understand marriage. A judge removed Spicer as legal guardian of Ryan Morris in 2019, saying the evidence showed Spicer was abusive. But a petition to make Spicer and Morris guardians of the disabled young man is nonetheless pending before a judge in Riverside County.
Ronald is Ronald Moore, the identical twin brother of Ryan Morris. The twins separated and the entire biological family was cut off shortly after Morris adopted Ryan, which the court approved over the vehement objections of the biological family. Twin Ronald, a healthy young man, has started a petition to become the legal guardian of his disabled brother as well.
And Monica is Monica Mukai, Ryan Morris’s biological aunt, who fought to “free” Ryan from Morris’s grasp long before Morris was accused of it. second-degree murder of one of her foster children, as well as sexual abuse of the disabled.
The plight of Brittany Spears drew attention to the abuses that can accompany conservatorships, California’s official language for legal guardianships. But the twists and turns in Ryan Morris’s highly unusual case raise much bigger questions, pitting two fundamental rights squarely against each other: the hard-won right for the disabled to marry and have a sex life, just like everyone else, and their right to be protected against misuse and undue influence.
The thorny issues were explored in a three-part series, “Twins, Divided,” by the Southern California News Group in 2017, but the twists and turns keep coming.
Morris, who ran a group foster home in Orange County with her husband before moving to Murrieta and eventually closing it as her legal entanglements grew, wrote her emails to licensed clinical social worker Richard Rowe in March. He had filed a report in court criticizing Ryan Morris’ biological relatives, and Morris expressed her hope that they would be out of the picture once and for all.
Her emails do not reflect well the professionals in Riverside County and the Public Guardian’s Office, which was appointed by the court as temporary conservator of Ryan Morris while the case makes his way through the courts.
“I spoke to the district attorney for Ryan and she was very open about the county’s disdain for Monica,” Morris wrote. “Ryan struggles to keep his cool with the ongoing visits to Ronald and Monica… we pray for the end of that before Ryan just can’t take it anymore (and so does Sean).”
What Morris didn’t tell Rowe was that Spicer was being impeached as Ryan Morris’ legal guardian for what the judge called abusive behavior. Spicer threatened to send Ryan Morris back to his adoptive mother if he misbehaved, threatened to take off his ring and end the marriage, threatened to send him for emergency mental health treatment and punish him by limiting visits to his biological family and his phone away so he couldn’t contact them. Ryan Morris was told his biological family was bad and wanted to end his marriage.
Ryan Morris has the intellectual capacity of a 5 to 6 year old, psychological evaluations found, and is easy to manipulate. In 2019, a psychologist asked him: “Why get married?” Ryan Morris first spoke about his PlayStation Portable and then said, “Because it’s true. … It is good that people get married.” The psychologist insisted, “Before you met Sean, did you think you’d want to get married?” Ryan Morris replied, ‘We’ve made a deal. That if I got married I would have a cell phone,” the report said.
The psychologist concluded that Ryan Morris was unable to enter into marriage based on his concrete thinking and limited understanding of the institution.
But Rowe, the social worker, knew nothing about it when he wrote critical evaluations to the court. He had never even received a copy of the judge’s order to remove Spicer and put the county’s public guardian in charge. The vital background only came to his attention when he was called for a statement by biological family attorney Charles Krolikowski, a Newmeyer Dillion partner in Newport Beach, Rowe said in a statement. declaration which appeared in court on November 17.
In his statement, Rowe rejected his previous reports and accused Riverside County officials of manipulation and bias.
‘Used as a pawn’
Around March 2020, Rowe was asked by Public Guardian deputy curator Shirley Jackson to provide psychotherapy services at Ryan Morris’s conservatory, Rowe said in the statement. Jackson told him that, under a court order, his assignment would be to perform “relation-building services” between Ryan Morris, his adoptive mother, Spicer, Mukai and Moore.
“At the time, I asked Ms. Jackson several times for a copy of the warrant and other background information that might be helpful, but she did not provide this information to me,” he said.
Rowe was deposed by the biological family on Oct. 8, and Krolikowski showed him the judge’s order “and the references to the many cases of abusive behavior inflicted on Ryan by Spicer,” the statement said. “Despite my requests to Ms Jackson to review the warrant, I had never seen these findings before, nor had I seen the actual court directive that Ryan would visit several individuals in a ‘therapeutic setting’. In my professional opinion, ‘visit in a therapeutic setting’ is not the same as ‘relationship building’ (or psychotherapy sessions), which were the instruction(s) I received from Ms. Jackson.”
Had Rowe known about the court order and actual directive, he would have handled his assignment very differently, he said.
“(I) it was Spicer and Michelle who told me that Mukai, Moore, and even Mr. Krolikowski, improperly used the legal process to abuse Ryan, but after reading the warrant it seems to me that Moore (and his counsel, Mr. Krolikowski), were justified in removing Spicer as Ryan’s curator, and in fact they had the upper hand.”
After review the psychological evaluation ordered on Ryan, he came to understand “that Ryan is easily influenced by others, and…I can now see Spicer and possibly Michelle’s negative attitudes, comments and behaviors towards his biological family including Mukai and Moore.” Rowe said. “I also understand better now that much of the misinformation and negative comments I’ve received about Mukai and Moore were given to me by Spicer and Michelle. … I didn’t get the full picture of Ryan’s situation from Ms. Jackson, Spicer or Michelle.”
Rowe sent an August email to Jackson expressing concern that the Public Guardian’s Office was exceeding its role, trying to influence clinical interventions and violating its duties. “I came to the conclusion that I was being used as a pawn by the prosecution to make findings and recommendations without having all the information I needed to do so,” he said.
After Rowe challenged Jackson, he was told his services were no longer needed, he said. In an email to Jackson, he said he was concerned that her decision to end his services was not in Ryan Morris’ best interests and that she lacked neutrality towards Spicer and Morris.
An email response from Riverside County to the Southern California News Group did not address Rowe’s claims directly.
The public guardian’s mission is to protect the lives of people who cannot provide for themselves with the least possible restriction on their freedoms, and it must also protect the privacy and confidentiality of people under guardianship, Riverside County Behavioral Health said. director dr. Matthew Chang.
“Every member of the Public Guardian program takes this mission seriously and has worked hard to address new and known issues related to the program. Public trust is critical to comprehensive conservatorship, and accountability is an essential part of that trust.”
Petitions to take custody of the public guardian – Spicer and Morris on the one hand, and Mukai and Moore on the other – are pending Court of Appeal weighs in on objection to order to remove Spicer as ConservatR.
The biological family also asked the court for permission to visit Ryan Morris, even if he decided he didn’t want to, in an effort to get past the fear that had been instilled in him. Officials say the Public Guardian’s Office will continue to use its discretion and honor Ryan Morris’s wishes when visiting.