Friday, September 19, 2014

Neighbor, mother say woman was sick before body found

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/10/2013

A neighbor of a 29-year-old Ottawa woman who was found dead Sunday morning in a multi-family residence on Cedar Street said she did not suspect foul play.

“She had been very ill from a virus,” Wendi Owens said. “She had been throwing up and very sick — but I didn’t think she was sick enough to pass away. I don’t think she had been to see a doctor.”

A neighbor of a 29-year-old Ottawa woman who was found dead Sunday morning in a multi-family residence on Cedar Street said she did not suspect foul play.

“She had been very ill from a virus,” Wendi Owens said. “She had been throwing up and very sick — but I didn’t think she was sick enough to pass away. I don’t think she had been to see a doctor.”

Owens identified the dead woman as Michelle Morrissey, who lived in Apartment No. 1 at 912 S. Cedar St., Ottawa, across the street from Ottawa University, 1001 S. Cedar St. The woman’s body was discovered “by her ex,” Sunday morning, Owens said.

Kathy Gumm, Morrissey’s mother, confirmed Monday afternoon that police had said her daughter’s body had been discovered Sunday morning.

Ottawa police responded to the scene of the unattended death 9:48 a.m. Sunday, according to a press release from Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief. The woman was found in her apartment.

“The scene was secured and a comprehensive investigation was launched to determine the cause of death,” Butler said. “The dead woman has been preliminarily identified, is 29 years old, and the next of kin notified.”

The name of the woman found was not immediately released by law enforcement, pending a positive identification by a medical examiner, Butler said, adding that the woman had been dead for several days.

Butler announced late Sunday that outside agencies had been called to assist with the investigation of the woman’s death.

“As part of the investigation Dr. Bud Ransom, [Franklin County coroner], responded to examine the body and review the scene where the body was found,” Butler said. “In a joint decision with police, Dr. Ransom contacted Medical Examiner Erik Mitchell who responded from Kansas City to assist in this investigation.”

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office also was assisting with the probe into the woman’s death.

“Detectives continue to investigate information related to this case,” Butler said Monday in an email. “Also, we hope results of the pending autopsy will provide additional information that will aid in determining the cause of death and make a positive identification of the person found. We do not know when we will receive the autopsy results.”

Gumm and Owens both said they were positive Morrissey was the deceased woman.

“I haven’t seen the body yet — they took it to Kansas City for an autopsy — but I know it was her,” Gumm said. “It’s been very difficult, but everyone at the church has been very supportive.”

Gumm did not believe her daughter would take her own life or was the victim of foul play, she said.

“The last time I saw her was June 3, and she was very sick then,” Gumm said. “I think she had been suffering from a virus.”

Owens agreed with the mother’s assessment of Morrissey’s state of mind.

“She was too full of life to take her own life, and she wasn’t taking drugs that I know of,” Owens said. “I think she passed away from her recent illness.

“She was very outgoing and a very fun person,” Owens added. “She was always happy. She was a friend. I’m going to miss her.”

Morrissey also had told Owens that she had been suffering from cancer, Owens said, but Gumm could not confirm that report.

The residence where the body was discovered — a house converted to a multi-unit apartment building — features a sign over the front door that reads “Campus View” and faces the west edge of Ottawa University. Cedar Street is a major north-south residential thoroughfare through the city.

Morrissey had lived at the apartments for about three months, Owens said.

“The last time we spoke was the day of the Moore tornado [May 20],” Owens, who had lived in the apartment building for five years, said. “And I hadn’t seen her in about a week.”

Morrissey enjoyed singing at the church and “loved the Lord,” Gumm, a worship leader at the nearby Community Foursquare Church, 117 E. Ninth St., Ottawa, said.

“On the last Sunday night of the month, we have what we call ‘Singspiration’ at the church, and Michelle used to like to sing solos at that time,” Gumm said, adding her daughter had not recently participated in one of the Sunday night singing sessions. “Michelle loved to sing and dance and make people laugh. And she loved the Lord.”

Morrissey, a mother of three small children, ranging in age from 7 to 3, had battled bipolar disorder and other chemical imbalances “since a young age,” Gumm said of her daughter.

“She was not married, but she and her common law husband had three children together,” Gumm said. “They were separated, and he has custody of the children.”

Morrissey’s former partner declined to comment on her death.

“She was a very giving person — she would give you the shirt off her back,” Gumm said. “She was a very caring person.”

Morrissey’s death not only was a loss to Owens, the neighbor said, but to anyone with whom Morrissey had come in contact.

“She touched everyone she met — she was that kind of person,” Owens said. “It’s not only a sad day for me; it’s a sad day for everyone.”

comments powered by Disqus