He was 64, divorced 11 years, with two adult children and two grandchildren; balding, bespectacled, and wearing a close-cut salt-and-pepper beard. A district sales manager for Chicago pharmaceutical giant AbbVie, he owned a four-bedroom house backing onto the Delaware River at Washington Crossing, loved jet skiing, motorcycling, and socializing.
She was 33, a tattoed 5-foot-11 strawberry blonde who worked as a motorcycle mechanic and was a sometime dancer in the hospitality industry. She lived in various towns in Bucks County and New Jersey, had two minor drug convictions and a string of cases involving careless driving or driving under the influence.
About four years ago, Michael D. McNew met Jennifer Lynn Morrissey socializing, and a relationship was sparked. By January 2015, authorities say, she had moved herself into his home.
The relationship didn’t last long. On Friday authorities in Bucks County alleged that Morrissey shot McNew in the face on Aug. 6 after a quarrel in which he told her he was putting her stuff in storage and ordered her never to return to the house.
In a news conference in Doylestown, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said that Morrissey had been under investigation for weeks but that “this case took a while for us to develop. We could have locked her up prior to this, but we had to connect all those dots to link Ms. Morrissey to the murder of Mr. McNew.”
In fact, Morrissey was locked up — on Aug. 25, for violating the terms of her probation for her guilty plea to a 2015 motor-vehicle accident in which she hit and injured a bicyclist. Three days after she was jailed, detectives from Upper Makefield Township Police and the District Attorney’s Office interviewed Morrissey in prison about McNew’s slaying.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Morrissey said she was last at McNew’s home on July 31 and had not lived there for months. She did not admit to the killing but did try to incriminate her boyfriend, Charles Kulow, of Bensalem. Morrissey told detectives that McNew “did ‘everything’ for her and did not deserve to die,” it said.
Weintraub said that Kulow, 55, has not been charged with a crime and is not in custody.
Weintraub declined to discuss in detail the nature of the relationship between Morrissey and McNew and how they met. He said McNew had provided signficant support to the younger woman.
Morrissey had an initial arraignment Friday via video to the Newtown courtroom of Magisterial District Judge Michael W. Petrucci, who set an Oct. 16 for a preliminary hearing on murder, burglary a gun charge and tampering with evidence.
Morrissey’s attorney, S. Philip Steinberg, said Friday that he was shocked to learn that detectives talked to Morrissey in prison, when he was already representing her.
Steinberg called Morrissey a woman “who has had an abused and tragic life. She’s a mom and we look forward to getting the facts out in an actual courtroom and hearing what happened that evening.” Steinberg said Morrissey had been charged as the result of rumors and “jailhouse witnesses.”
Steinberg said Morrissey has a 6-year-old son. He confirmed that she met McNew while working as a dancer in the hospitality business.
McNew’s death was discovered on Aug. 8 after Upper Makefield Township Police received a 911 call to McNew’s tree-shaded, four-bedroom house along River Road in Washington Crossing. Police found McNew dead, sitting in a chair, shot once in the face. The house was undisturbed and there was no sign of a struggle, the affidavit reads. But while searching the home, police found mail addressed to Morrissey and learned that she had recently lived there with McNew.
Text messages on his phone — and hers — helped investigators piece together what happened, according to the affidavit. They found messages sent that day in which McNew told her he had boxed and stored her belongings and warned her she “was not welcome at the home and that he would defend himself if she came into his home.”
Morrissey responded with threats, allegedly texting McNew to “get the gun ready cause I’m coming. I already told you that I’ll be there tonight … guess your just gonna have to shoot me.”
“You have a choice: touch my stuff and I cut your throat,” Morrissey allegedly wrote.