Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Thursday, January 8, 2015


            Unit 1012 sends our utmost condolences and sympathy to the loved ones of Terri Winchell. She was murdered by Michael Morales on this date, January 8, 1981. Morales is currently on San Quentin Death Row, California. We will make Terri Winchell one of the 26 Christian Martyrs of Unit 1012 and not forget her in our prayers.

Terri Winchell
             See the words in blue ink to remember how Terri lived on the earth:

Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.
- Psalm 116:15 (NKJV)

Eternal pain

Teen's murderer may be executed, but for two families, the heartbreak will never end

Posted:   02/18/2006 06:27:00 AM PST | 

In this undated photo released by the California Attorney General's Office Terri Winchell is shown. (AP Photo/California Attorney General's Office)

STOCKTON - Not feeling well, Barbara Christian prepared for bed early on the evening of Jan. 8, 1981. Her daughter, 17-year-old Terri Winchell, offered to drive to a nearby restaurant on Pacific Avenue to pick some seafood up for dinner.

Leaving the house that mother and daughter shared in the 9100 block of Dalewood Street, Terri told her mom she wouldn't be long. It was the last time Christian - a one-time clerk with the Stockton police and fire departments - saw her daughter alive.

Pictures of Terri Winchell show an attractive young woman with olive-toned skin and thick brown hair that fell past her shoulders. She had a bright smile and friendly eyes.

In a letter last month to state officials, David Winchell - one of Terri's four brothers - described his younger sister as having ``a beautiful heart ... filled with God's love and compassion.''

Mother and daughter enjoyed a close and loving relationship. In a family of boys, Terri was Barbara Christian's little girl. The day after Terri vanished, Friday, police found her body about 2 miles northwest of Stockton in a vineyard off Bender Road.

Clad in nothing but a shirt and bra, her body had been savaged, court records said. Someone had bashed in her head, shattering the base of her skull and fracturing her jaw and cheek bones.

Deep bruises covered her face and body, according to court documents.

She had been stabbed four times in the chest. Much of the skin on the front of her body had been ripped and torn.

Numerous wounds to her hands and forearms suggested Terri fought vigorously. She had been raped.

``The police and sheriff's officers said that it was the worst murder/mutilation they had ever seen,'' Terri's mother wrote 18 years after the killing in a short story about her daughter's life.

``She had been led like a lamb to the slaughter.'' Life for Christian and her family has been dark ever since.

``I have never been the same,'' Terri's father, Mack Winchell, wrote last month in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. ``It was months before I could look at her picture without having my heart torn out. I still can't listen to the tapes of her singing.''

The investigation into Terri Winchell's murder was not a long, drawn-out process, thanks to a phone call she made before leaving her home that night. Within two days, police had arrested the two men - Michael Morales, then 21, of Stockton and his 19-year-old cousin, Ricky Ortega - who would eventually be convicted of the crime. Ortega is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Morales, 46, is scheduled to die early Tuesday in the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

The killing

Ortega led investigators to Terri's body in the pre-dawn hours of that Friday morning after the murder, court records said. The motive for the killing: simple jealousy.

Terri's boyfriend, Randy Blythe, 19, of Stockton - unbeknownst to Terri - was Ortega's lover, court records said. Wanting Terri out the way, Ortega asked Morales to kill her for him.

Morales did so, according to reports, out of ``family loyalty.''

In a hand-written bid for clemency to Schwarzenegger last month, Morales said he is not the violent killer many believe him to be.

``I don't feel my soul to be that of a monster or evil man as some have suggested,'' he wrote. ``That's not who I am. I wasn't raised to be a person of hate or violence, and I think my past history will bare (sic) that out.'

' San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Charles Schultz begs to differ.

``It's unusual in any kind of murder to have this much violence done to somebody,'' Schultz said. ``This man took three weapons - personal weapons. He didn't give her the dignity of a quick death. The amount of violence in this case is just atrocious.''

According to court records, Ortega called Terri at home shortly before she left the house to fetch food for her mother. Ortega told Terri he wanted her help selecting a gift for a girlfriend.
Police said Terri met Ortega at a nearby shopping mall. He convinced her to ride with him to discuss her relationship with Blythe, who had played shortstop for Lincoln High School's championship baseball team a few years prior.

Terri sat in the front passenger seat of Ortega's car, court records said. Michael Morales sat in the back seat with a belt, hammer and kitchen knife.

The three drove to a deserted area near Lodi, where Morales commenced the attack, records said.

First, he attempted to strangle her with the belt - but Terri fought back. Morales pulled on the belt with such force, he tore it in two. He then proceeded to bash her in the head with the hammer 23 times.

Terri screamed at Ortega to help her and ripped out some of her own hair as she struggled to break free of Morales's grip, records said. Morales - a gang member and convicted burglar - beat Terri until she was unconscious, splattering the inside of the car in blood.

He pulled Terri's body from the car and dragged her into a nearby vineyard, where he raped her before stabbing her four times in the chest and leaving her to die, records said.

``This was an extreme act of brutality,'' Schultz said. ``It's something that makes people stand up and say, `My God.' The viciousness of it all is the reason Michael Morales should die.''

Meanwhile, back at the house on Dalewood Street, Terri's mother grew increasingly worried. After several hours passed and her daughter had still not returned home, she called police.

``Terri had been such a caring and obedient daughter that it was unlike her not to let her mother know where she was,'' Terri's father, Mack Winchell, wrote in his letter to Schwarzenegger.

In the wake of the crime
The ensuing investigation moved along quickly.

After Terri had spoken to Ortega on the phone, she had called a girlfriend and told her about the conversation, reports said.

Police interviewed a number of Terri's friends, including the young woman Terri had called just prior to leaving the house.

Police interviewed Ortega on Friday night. When his alibi for the night before failed to ring true with investigators, he broke down and confessed, reports said.

Using information obtained from Ortega, police went to Morales' home in the 3800 block of Ryde Avenue in Stockton and arrested him, according to records. Searching the house, investigators found the broken belt, a hunting knife and the victim's purse.

In the kitchen, police found a hammer lying in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator, records said. Morales and Ortega were arraigned on Monday, Jan. 12 - the same day 1,300 students gathered in the gymnasium at Tokay High School to remember Terri.

Ortega cried during the arraignment, reports said. The two cousins were charged with murder - with the special circumstances of rape and robbery - along with infliction of torture and killing while lying in wait.

``The trial for Mike Morales was held in July 1983,'' Christian later wrote. ``I could not look at him. I did not want to see the last face Terri had ever seen as she was being murdered.''

Morales places the blame for his actions on ``a dark period of my life'' brought on by drugs and alcohol.

``A person of loose conduct and poor attitude, I lacked any real direction or purpose,'' Morales wrote. `` . . . I became a good-for-nothing man . . .The truth is there is no excuse for such a senseless crime as the one I've been found guilty of.''

A petition for clemency filed by Morales' attorneys characterize the condemned man as an ``unwitting inebriant,'' an individual manipulated by his cousin, Ortega, who gave him drugs.

Change in personality

Morales' friends have said narcotics caused dramatic changes in his personality.

``He is a very good person,'' friend Lydia Lopez wrote to Schwarzenegger in January. ``The person that killed that young woman all those years ago was not Mike. At the time it happened, Mike was under the influence of drugs . . . Mike was not himself. He turned into a very different person.''

Before drugs took hold of him, Morales was a ``kindhearted, thoughtful, respectful and generous man,'' according to Lopez. Talking to investigators in 1992, Stockton resident, and long-time Morales friend, Julio Marquez, said Morales smoked ``kj'' - PCP-tainted tobacco rolled into a joint - the week of the killing.

The year before the murder, Morales frequently drank and consumed LSD, Marquez said.

These drugs, friends contend, transformed Morales from the gentle person they knew him to be into the killer who took Terri's life.

Schultz said the drug explanation is simply another excuse.

``This is just another case of violence behind Morales,'' he said. ``This case would have been his third strike had strikes existed at the time.''

Schultz said the killing was not Morales' first act of violence, but declined to go into specifics.

``The type of wickedness he perpetrated is in the core of his being, and that never changes,'' Schultz said. ``Most of us can't even think of doing to someone what he did.'' 

Words from both sides

The mother of the killer and the mother of the victim have written to Schwarzenegger. One woman is pleading for mercy, the other is urging the state to exercise its toughest form of retribution.

``Picture your heart hurting so bad, you can't breathe and your stomach in knots,'' Josie Morales wrote. ``That is what we have been going through from day one of this mess.''

Morales is the oldest of four children, his mother wrote. When he was 12, Morales got a job delivering the local paper in Stockton.

``The newspapers were bigger than he is,'' Josie Morales wrote, adding her son became a father to three children at a young age.

Morales has done what he can to be close to his children, writing to them from prison and doing his utmost ``to guide them the best he could,'' his mother said.

In her letter, Josie Morales said drugs are to blame for what her son did.

``The regret of what he had done when he came out of that drug stupor was killing him,'' she wrote. `` . . . He never made excuses for himself.''

Even if Morales is allowed to live out the rest of his natural life in prison, his circumstance will continue to be a source of anguish for the family, Josie Morales wrote.

``It will . . . tear our hearts every time we go to see him,'' she wrote. ``And it will continue to tear his heart out, not only living with what he did, but not being able to really be a part of his family.''

Michael Morales' daughter, Maria, said her father has been a guiding influence.

``He is still part of my life today,'' she wrote to Schwarzenegger. ``Through the years he has taught me so much through letters.''

Morales has missed the milestones - from the first day of school to high school graduation - other fathers enjoy with their children, Maria Morales said.

``Most recently, he was not able to walk me down the aisle when I was married in April,'' she wrote. ``This is his suffering that he has lived with on a daily basis because he knows they were brought on by his mistakes.''

For Barbara Christian, the fact Morales is still alive - while her daughter lies buried in a Lodi cemetery - has been a constant source of pain.

The modest plaque marking Terri's grave reads, in part, ``Her last deed was one of love. We'll see you again, Sweetheart.''

``Her murderers have lived after they committed this atrocious crime longer than her lifespan!'' Christian wrote more than a decade after the killing. ``It hurts to know that they have been allowed to live, breathe and eat while she lies cold and buried in the ground, and her family lives day by day with only memory and broken hearts.''

In a poem titled ``Without You,'' Christian writes to her daughter: ``I'd climb the stars of Heaven's gate, and pray on bended knees for just a chance to see you once again.''

Writing to Schwarzenegger, Christian said nothing has filled the hole in her heart since Terri's murder.

``She can never be replaced,'' she said. ``She was our only daughter and sister. There is always an empty seat at our meals. When I hear a little girl call `Mama,' I turn and look around. Pain strikes my heart like the knife he used on Terri. Agony! The Agony will never end! The knife will never leave my heart.''

The sentiment of ceaseless pain is echoed in letters from Terri's brothers and friends of the family.
``I have seen the pain behind Barbara's dark eyes since the day I met her,'' Christian's sister-in-law, Jessica Chalk, wrote last month. ``Terri is remembered at every family gathering and her picture can be found in almost every room of our house.'' Schultz, with the San Joaquin County District 
Attorney's office, said all the apologizing in the world from Morales won't reverse the damage he's caused.

``This is par for the course,'' he said. ``I think Michael Morales is only sorry he got caught. Saying sorry doesn't change one thing. It doesn't change the feelings of the victim's family and the brutality of Terri's death. Maybe he does have some feeling - if it's the truth - like a normal human being.''

Apologies, Schultz said, should not be used as an excuse for clemency.

``If every time someone on death row was granted clemency because they said they were sorry,'' he said, ``we'd never have any executions again.''

If the Morales execution proceeds on Tuesday, the state will have avenged the death of a young woman. The pain for two families, however, will linger on.

Staff writer Simon Read can be reached at (925) 416-4849, or sread@angnewspapers.com. 

The grave of Terri Winchell

LOVE TRIANGLE GONE VICIOUS / Terri Lynn Winchell had no inkling her beau's jealous boyfriend would exact a horrible revenge

Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer

Published 4:00 am, Monday, February 20, 2006 

Brian Chalk of Sacramento, brother of murder victim Terri Lynn Winchell, talks about his sister's life and death. Her murderer Michael Angel Morales is scheduled to be the next inmate to be executed at San Quentin. San Francisco Chronicle photo by Kim Komenich 2/7/06 Copyright 2006 Kim Komenich/San Francisco Chronicle
2006-02-20 04:00:00 PDT Lodi, San Joaquin County -- Terri Lynn Winchell left home on the last night of her life in January 1981 to help a boy she knew hated her. 

That's just the way she was, friends and family said. Good-hearted. A devout believer in turning the other cheek, in giving people a second chance. 

But this was a chance she should not have given. 

By the end of the evening, the 17-year-old church choir singer and high school beauty lay raped, hammered and stabbed to death, her corpse sprawled between two rows of grapevines. 

She had no inkling of it, but she had been caught in the middle of a love triangle gone hideously bad. Her boyfriend, unbeknownst to her, had been involved in a gay relationship with another man -- whose jealousy drove him to recruit a street thug who would take Winchell out of the picture. 

Twenty-five years later, that early-'80s thug, Michael Morales, is due to be executed at San Quentin State Prison for a crime that capped years of running with gang-bangers and snorting, gulping or smoking every mind-twisting substance he could get his hands on. He would be the 14th person to be put to death in California since executions resumed in 1992 after a 25-year halt. 

Morales is 46 now, and by his supporters' accounts he has transformed himself into the sort of mild-mannered, devout Christian that his victim Winchell was. In his family's eyes, he is a gentle artist, a remorseful, very loving and caring man who deserves a last-minute reprieve to avoid his appointment with the lethal injection chamber at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, and should instead live out his years in prison without parole. 

Not in the eyes of Winchell's family. 

No amount of apologies or personal transformation can make up for what Morales, then 21, did to Winchell, they say. 

"It's been so long, but ever since I was a kid, I told myself I'd be front row to see him die -- and now it's time for that to happen," said Winchell's brother, 34-year-old Brian Chalk. "You lock somebody up for that long, sure they're going to change. But that doesn't change what happened. Or the loss." 

Chalk stood in the living room of his tidy south Sacramento suburban home and fell silent. He gazed at a walnut table along one wall, bristling with family photos -- pictures of get-togethers, weddings, children born to his three brothers, all things that happened after the death of his only sister. 

Winchell's portrait stood in the center, a pretty girl frozen forever in adolescence, her early-'80s-style black hair falling below her shoulders to frame a confident smile. Chalk's eyes moistened as they settled on it. 

"I don't want to sound vengeful or angry," he said. "But enough is enough." 

"Wholesome." "Peppy." "Classy." "Someone who was going places in life." 

That's how classmates at Lodi's Tokay High School described Winchell after she was killed halfway through her senior year. And the memories are fresh today, even after nearly three decades. 

"She wasn't just beautiful, she had this beautiful alto voice," said Jodie Bluhm, who sang in the Tokay A Cappella Choir with Winchell. "Everybody liked her. She would sit down at the piano and start to sing, and everybody stopped what they were doing just to listen." 

Winchell was a straight-A student, excelled at tennis and swimming, and sang everywhere she could -- in churches all over the Stockton-Lodi area, at school, at parties. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was one of her signature tunes; cassettes preserved by the family reveal a gentle, crystalline vocal talent. 

She had just become lead singer of a rock band called Hit and taken a part-time job at an El Torito restaurant to raise money for college. Her mother, Barbara Christian, had retired in 1980 as a dispatcher for the Stockton Police Department, and with her newfound time she laughed and shopped with her only daughter like a fellow schoolgirl. 

"Terri had everything going for her," Chalk said. "She was my mom's best friend. Every girl wanted to be her, and if they were boys they wanted to be near her."
One of those boys was a 19-year-old baseball player at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton. He was a churchgoer and a good student, like Winchell, and after she met him on a church-choir gig they began dating. But something seemed a bit off. 

"We had a funny feeling about him, even though he was a good ol' American-looking guy and seemed nice to Terri," Chalk said. "It seemed like he always had his head down, never looked us in the eyes. Like he had something to hide." 

It turned out he did. 

While dating Winchell, the boyfriend was carrying on a secret affair with 19-year-old Ricky Ortega, whom he had met when the two were at Lincoln High School in Stockton. Ortega hung out with Winchell and her boyfriend as part of their group of pals, but his jealousy soured so deeply he began needling her all the time, making it clear he disliked her. It didn't help that Winchell kidded Ortega that he seemed gay -- never knowing how close to the truth she was. 

The boyfriend was becoming terrified of Ortega as well, he said in an interview last week with The Chronicle. He begged the paper not to name him, saying he is now happily married with children who have no idea what happened all those years ago. 

"Ricky threatened me, and he threatened to kill my mother if I didn't do it with him," he said. "He broke my windows out at 1 a.m. once, he was so mad. I just didn't know what to do." 

The stress of the forced relationship, he said, was in direct opposition to his romance with Winchell. "She was so talented, so full of life and energy," he said. "She was my refuge away from the craziness." 

But where some saw beauty and talent, Ortega saw only rivalry. By late 1980, he'd had enough. He began scheming on how to get rid of his romantic competition, according to court testimony, but felt he couldn't do it himself. 

So he called the toughest guy he knew: his cousin Morales, a member of the Little Unity Latino gang. 

Morales, prosecutors say, told Ortega he'd be happy to help administer some payback. 

Morales, like Winchell, grew up in Lodi in a big churchgoing family, one of six children. He was a quiet, gentle boy who delivered newspapers at 12, court recollections of friends show. However, as he became a teenager, he began clashing with his father for drinking beer and wearing gang fashions of the time -- Pendleton shirts buttoned at the throat and baggy pants. 

At 15 the relationship imploded, and Morales was thrown out of the house. He dropped out of high school and bounced through a group home before hitting the streets of Stockton. 

There he took up with the gang and began abusing alcohol and every drug he could find, from amphetamines and cocaine to the powerful psychotic PCP. Along the way, he fathered three children and supported himself by committing petty crimes. 

"The fact is that in my youth I did lose myself for a few years," Morales wrote recently in his petition to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for clemency, the words so neatly inscribed they look as if they were from a printer. 

He called it "a dark period in my life" and described himself in those days as "a person of loose conduct and poor attitude." 

Then, right around New Year's 1981, came the request from Ortega. 

According to court testimony, Morales began plotting ways to kill Winchell, practicing how to strangle someone by wrapping a belt around a female roommate's neck and cranking it tight. Once he had the technique down, he waited for the call to action. It came on a Thursday, Jan. 8, 1981. 

Ortega, pretending to want to ease tensions with Winchell, called her house around 5:30 p.m. as she was heading out the door to buy food for her mother, who was ill. He told her he wanted her help buying a gift at a local shopping center. Eager to mend fences, Winchell agreed to go, relatives testified. 

Ortega picked her up around 6 p.m. In the back seat was Morales, with a claw hammer, a belt and a 7-inch kitchen knife hidden and ready. He was already stoned and agitated from guzzling cheap Thunderbird wine and smoking a PCP-laced cigarette. 

As night fell and the Central Valley tule fog formed, Ortega drove his car out of Lodi along lonely Peltier Road. According to court records, they were a few miles out of town when Morales suddenly cinched his belt around Winchell's neck and began strangling her. She fought back fiercely. The belt broke, so he pulled out the hammer and began bashing her head. 

"She screamed for Ortega to help and attempted to fight off the attack, ripping her own hair out of her scalp in the struggle," according to a state attorney general's account. Ortega ignored her pleas and as Morales told him to keep driving he smashed her 23 times in the head, crushing the base of her neck and bloodying her arms and hands as she tried to ward off the blows. 

By the time Ortega pulled over at the corner of Bender and Peltier roads, 7 miles outside Lodi, Winchell was unconscious and slumped against the passenger door. According to investigators, Morales hopped out of the car, and saying it was a shame to waste "a good piece of ass," he told Ortega to leave the two of them, drive away and come back in 15 minutes. 

Morales dragged the still-unconscious Winchell face-down across the road into a vineyard. There, in the chilly darkness, he stripped her of everything but her sweater and bra, which he pulled up to her neck. Then he flipped her onto her back and raped her in the dirt. 

Just before he headed back to the road, he plunged his knife four times into her chest to make sure she was dead. 

Ortega picked Morales up and drove him home to Stockton. Then, investigators said, they celebrated separately: Ortega picked up Winchell's boyfriend and had sex with him in the car, and Morales got drunk on beer and wine he bought with $11 from Winchell's purse. 

It didn't take long for authorities to figure out what had happened. 

Winchell's mother called police when her daughter didn't come back and told officers the last person the girl had talked to on the phone before leaving was Ortega. Investigators found him at home the next day, he quickly confessed, and when they burst into Morales' Stockton apartment they found all they needed. 

The broken belt, stained with Winchell's blood, was under a mattress, and the blood-splattered floor mats from Ortega's car lay in the trash. The bloody hammer was in the refrigerator vegetable crisper, and even Winchell's purse and credit card were still in the house. 

At the police station, a deputy district attorney asked Morales if he'd like to discuss the crime. "Morales just smiled," according to a prosecution report. "He stretched his arms into the air and yawned, and told the deputy district attorney that he had been up 'partying' all night and was tired." 

Two years later, Morales was found guilty of murder with the special circumstances of lying in wait, or planning the killing in advance, and murder by torture. He was sent to Death Row.
Ortega received a life sentence without possibility of parole. He and Morales refused requests for interviews. 

Winchell's boyfriend left town soon after the murder. "I felt so badly, like her family hated me after that. I left and started a new life," he said. "I just couldn't talk to Terri's folks again." 

Asked what he planned to do on the night of the execution, he let a long pause hang over the phone. "I just want to disappear," he whispered. "It's just devastating to have this come up all over again." 

Since his sentencing in 1983, Morales has radically changed his life, family and friends say. 

He kicked drugs and booze and devoted himself so rigorously to his religion that 15 years ago, members and deacons of his Stockton church began regular pilgrimages to San Quentin to study the Bible with him. He was baptized several years ago in prison. 

He has received "A" grades in English and math classes while on Death Row, and his meticulous drawings of wilderness scenes and portrait subjects are popular sellers in the prison art store. 

"Like many people, Mike has been through difficult times with his family, but his relationship with them now is strong, and he has a valuable role among them," Helen Keeler, a friend Morales has appointed as his spokeswoman on personal matters, wrote in an e-mail from her home in England. "They love him dearly. Terri's murder was committed by a man rendered unrecognizable to his family and friends through drug use. ... They feel this crime was not committed by the man they know and love." 

Morales' mother, Josie Morales, wrote in his clemency petition -- denied by the governor on Friday -- that as he mellowed behind bars, "he has grown into a very loving and caring son, brother and father." 

For his part, Morales admits what he did and says he is sorry. But he's still contesting the death sentence, saying the "lying in wait" charge that landed him on Death Row was corroborated chiefly by a jailhouse informant who lied when he testified that Morales had confessed to him in Spanish. Morales doesn't speak Spanish, his defense attorneys say. 

Prosecutors and Winchell's family say the objections are baseless -- at least two other people also corroborated the "lying in wait" charge, they say -- and add that fighting the sentence undermines Morales' claims of remorse. 

"I mean, look at the way Morales refers to killing my sister in his clemency letter to the governor," Winchell's brother Chalk said angrily, waving a copy of the three-page missive. "He doesn't ever say he killed Terri -- he says, 'I've been found guilty.' That doesn't sound like he's really owning up to it."
As the hours tick down to execution night, Chalk and his family have begun reliving the horror of 25 years ago all over again. Chalk's wife, Jessica, said she only recently saw him cry for the first time in their 13-year relationship. He and his brothers have all signed up to watch the execution, and they get more nervous and angry with every passing day, Chalk said. 

Winchell's mother, now in her 70s, speaks out as little as possible and canceled her plan to witness Morales' death. For now, she is letting a poem she wrote for her daughter do her talking: 

"You were such a rainbow full of sunshine, love and joy,
your presence filled my life and made it sweet ...
But there's a veil between us, and I cannot get across,
and your name, unanswered, comes again to me;
And I am left, amidst my tears in silence and alone,
with nothing left, but pain and memory!" 

"God only knows if this guy being put to death will make my mom, or any of us, really feel better about what happened, get that 'closure' thing people talk about," Chalk said. "But at least one thing will be for sure, and for that I know I will get some comfort. 

"He'll be gone. And that part, at least, will be over forever." 

            Please read this article from Barbara Christian, the mother of Terri Winchell:

Barbara Christian
Mother of Terri Lynn Winchell, who was murdered on January 8, 1981. Terri's killer, Michael Morales, is currently on death row in San Quentin

I had my heart cut out 27 years ago when Michael Morales murdered my beautiful daughter, my hopes, and my dreams! This has been ongoing pain and grief that is constant and never ends. Morales was tried and convicted for ending my daughter's life in a brutal, diabolical way. However he was not tried for driving a burning knife into our hearts and those of her family and friends. He was not tried for depriving a family of a loving daughter, sister, and aunt. He was not tried for the 27 years of pain and agony we have suffered because of his brutality in the murder of our daughter and sister and the nightmares he has given us.

Young Terri Winchell
Terri was a beautiful 17-year-old, soft-spoken Christian girl who loved everyone. She sang with the voice of an angel and played the piano with equal talent. She was a petite five-foot tall honor roll student who loved everyone. She played the piano and sang from the time she was three years old. We played the piano together and sang duets in church through the years. She belonged to two gospel bands and sang with natural harmony. Terri was my only daughter and the desire of my heart. We were constant companions and best friends. When Morales murdered Terri, my heart was ripped out and I became like a zombie. I was dead inside!

For 27 years since that horrible night, Morales has continued to live without remorse or sorrow for what he has done. He eats his three meals a day while Terri lies cold and still in her grave! When his scheduled execution was to take place, we learned that his guards did not like him because of his evil attitude. He did not even want a priest or minister to give him last rites. I had to attend his trial in Ventura, California in 1983 and did not want to see the evil face that had destroyed my daughter. When the execution finally came due in February 2006, the face of Morales was all over TV. The news media ran the story on every station all over the nation. The face I had not wanted to see was now before my eyes constantly-those big eyes that Terri last saw as she begged him for mercy and fought for her life now stared at me through the medium of TV! I had wanted to go to the execution but instead found myself sick in bed, devastated by the story of her murder being replayed over and over. The details of her murder which I had not wanted to know now daily came before my eyes. Morales tried to strangle her with his leather belt which she broke by fighting so hard for her life in that car. Her thick, lustrous hair was pulled out in chunks from her scalp as he beat her head in 27 times with a claw hammer, her body stabbed repeatedly with a butcher knife, and then her body thrown out in the cold dark night where she was raped repeatedly as she died. This scene I have lived with now for 27 years.

As her mother, I don't want vengeance, I just want justice! As a Christian, I believe the Bible when it says that "whosoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." (Genesis 9:6.) It also says that there are souls in Heaven who shout with a loud voice: "Almighty Lord, holy and true! How long will it be until you judge the people on earth and punish them for killing us?" (Revelations 6:10.) Morales needs to pay for his crime and stand before God and be judged by Him.

I don't want another mother or parent to suffer their child being murdered by godless characters without conscience. The only way for these murders to stop is to have prompt executions. Any animal that kills someone is immediately killed and taken out of the way. Why wait 25-plus years because these "animals" have two legs instead of four? Being "put to sleep" by a lethal injection is too easy. If these monsters felt they would "suffer" during their execution, I believe they would think twice before taking a life. Would they be afraid to be beheaded as with the guillotine, and think twice before committing murder? As it stands, what do they have to fear by getting the death penalty? A long life, room, and board, and "put to sleep" sometime in the future if they live that long. It is ridiculous and does not work! For murderers who have been convicted either by confession or evidence beyond a shadow of doubt, there needs to be a swift execution and not a long line of appeals. One appeal and then execution within two years should be maximum! These murderers chose to commit the crime with its consequences. No one forced them to do this. It was their choice knowing the penalty for murder. The sentence of "life without parole" does not work rather than execution. It gives the victims' families a lifetime of pain realizing the killer is alive somewhere while their loved one lies cold and still, buried under six feet of earth, never to be seen again. As long as the murderer is alive and breathing, the crime scene is replayed constantly before the eyes of the loved ones of the victim! Let these victims see the case closed, and put to rest the murder scene. The pain and loss will never end, but they can rest by realizing that justice has been served.

Attorney Gloria Allred holds a picture of Terry Lynn Winchell as Barbara Christian, Winchell's mother, holds a candle in her daughter's honor Friday night at Tokay High School. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)


  1. Wow she is beautiful what pieces of sh*t. I cn't believe what those f*cking cowards did to her i don't care how old they were NO MERCY for them I say, since they apparently have none.

  2. so these stupid wetbacks are saying he's turned his life around since he's been locked up..become a christian..given up drugs and booze....shouldn't be hard to as he's in prison...charge his family for his upkeep and the cost of the only drugs he'll soon be having.....LOL..thank god for TRUMP....now BUILD THE WALL...