Morris Solomon Jr: The Sacramento Slayer

Solomon led investigators to the body of his first victim, Yolanda Johnson, in June of 1986, just days after he killed her. Yet, authorities didn’t place him under arrest until April of 1987, and by then, he had allegedly murdered six more young women.

Childhood

From all accounts, Morris Solomon Jr. had an extremely abusive childhood. His grandmother, Bertha, raised him and his brother in rural Georgia. According to witnesses, Bertha physically abused her grandsons for every infraction you can imagine: bedwetting, mispronouncing words, crying during a beating, and sometimes she would hit them for no reason at all.

Allegedly, his grandmother would make a very young Solomon remove all of his clothing and stand on a stool. She would then beat him with an electrical cord or a switch that he collected himself. She would sometimes beat him until he was bleeding.

It is unknown why his parents left him and his brother with Bertha, he did not have much contact with his parents until he was in his early teens. When he was thirteen, the three of them moved from Georgia to a rundown part of Isleton, a town near Sacramento, California, where his parents already lived.

Moving in with his parents did not improve Solomon’s childhood; if anything, it made his life worse. His parents were extremely physically abusive, both to each other and to their sons. There is speculation that Solomon’s mother may have been a sex worker.

Solomon left home as soon as he graduated High School, paying his way through Community College, working as a carpenter, a mechanic, and a bus driver. He joined the US Army in 1965-1966 and served in the Vietnam War in 1967 before being discharged as a Sergeant. Solomon moved to the San Francisco area, got married, and had a daughter. After their divorce, he moved back to Sacramento and found work as a handyman.

The Sacramento Slayer Investigation

There isn’t information about the intervening years between when Solomon returned to Sacramento, and when he tipped the police off about the first body. We do know that he was a drifter who moved frequently and also tended to work only short-term jobs.

On June 18th, 1986, Morris Solomon Jr. contacted the police in Sacramento to report a dead body in the closet at a home where he had recently lived. Naturally, the police interviewed Solomon after he discovered the bound and partially nude body of Yolanda Johnson, a twenty-two-year-old prostitute and drug addict. He provided fingerprints and a blood sample, but also changed his story multiple times and reportedly lied about his identity.

A month later, on July 20th, 1986, a second body belonging to a twenty-five-year-old prostitute named Angela Polidore was found on another property where Morris had worked as a handyman. Police found her remains buried under a pile of debris, and she was also bound and missing articles of clothing. Although Solomon was a suspect in both murders, the authorities were not able to find enough evidence to indict him in 1986.

In March of 1987, authorities located the third body similarly bound and buried. It belonged to eighteen-year-old Maria Apodaca, who was also a prostitute.

On April 20th, 1987, Solomon gave police permission to search an abandoned car that was sitting on the lot where he lived. While authorities searched the vehicle, they noticed a patch of dirt that looked as though it had been recently disturbed. They used a shovel and discovered the body of twenty-six-year-old prostitute Cherie Washington.

Police found additional bodies two days later on April 22nd, 1987; they belonged to twenty-four-year-old Linda Vitela and seventeen-year-old Sheila Jacox. Both women were sex workers and drug addicts, and they had been dead for about a year.

Authorities found the last body, twenty-nine-year-old Sharon Massey, a week later. She was bound and buried as the other women had been, and police found her on the same lot where they had discovered Maria Apodaca a month previously.

Police arrested Morris Solomon Jr. April 22nd, after finding Linda Vitela and Sheila Jacox. By mid-May, Solomon faced seven counts of first-degree murder.

Trial and Sentencing

The case against Solomon was predominantly circumstantial, as DNA testing was not yet readily available. There were other complications with the trial, including the fact that the bodies were extremely decomposed, and a cause of death could not be determined. The case hinged on witness testimony placing Solomon with the victims, and a blood-type match with evidence found on one of the bodies.

Solomon’s murders would not gain national attention; a year after Morris’ arrest, police uncovered seven bodies on the property of a woman named Dorothea Puente who also lived in Sacramento. Her victims were between the ages of fifty-one and seventy-eight, and she defrauded the state of California and the Federal government for years by stealing her victims’ benefit checks.

The defense argued that Solomon had committed these crimes due to his abusive childhood, cocaine usage, and the time he served in the Vietnam war. Clinical psychologists Brad Fisher and John P. Wilson testified that the abuses Solomon suffered as a child led him to commit the murders.

The jury convicted Solomon on six counts of first-degree murder, the charge associated with Angela Polidore’s death had to be dropped, due to lack of evidence.

The Death Penalty

The first death penalty phase had to be declared a mistrial, however, a second jury voted unanimously to put him to death in 1992. When the case was made public, five former assault victims who had survived attacks in the 60s and 70s came forward to testify.

Solomon is the 342nd person to receive the death penalty in California, and he is on death row, currently waiting for his sentence to be carried out. He still denies any involvement in the murders.

Interestingly, the Judge presiding over Solomon’s sentencing, Peter Maring, added a 95-years-to-life imprisionment to his sentence. He did this to ensure that Solomon would never go free, even if the death sentence was later overturned.

He is quoted as saying “I can imagine no one whose release would be more terrifying to the community of Sacramento than Mr. Solomon.”

Sources:
https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1987-04-24-mn-659-story.html
https://www.amazon.com/Homicidal-Handyman-Oak-Park-Solomon-ebook/dp/B079332SM1
https://murderpedia.org/male.S/s/solomon-morris.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Solomon_Jr.
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