NJ Dad Wanted in Murder of Toddler Daughter Caught in California

U.S. Marshals arrested him in San Diego

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Arthur Morgan III, 27, was caught by U.S. Marshals in San Diego. He was wanted in the death of his 2-year-old daughter. Pei-Sze Cheng reports. (Published Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011)

    The New Jersey father wanted in the murder of his toddler daughter has been caught in California, authorities say.

    Arthur Morgan III, 27, was caught by U.S. Marshals at a friend's home in San Diego at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, officials told NBC New York.

    The U.S. Marshal's office in San Diego received a tip from New Jersey authorities that Morgan might be at the home, and surveillance was conducted there for most of the day, according to authorities.

    Morgan was then spotted on the home's back porch and, after a brief period where it appeared he might try to flee, Morgan was captured without incident.

    "We converged on the house," said Steve Jurman of the U.S. Marshals in San Diego. "He kind of did a little dance inside the house, to the front to the back, to the front to the back. When he realized he was completely surrounded and overwhelmed, we took him down and brought him out to the back porch and handcuffed him."

    He did not resist arrest, a spokesman for U.S. Marshals, Michael Schroeder, told NBC New York. Morgan is expected to go through local extradition, which could take days.

    It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

    The FBI issued an alert earlier in the day for Morgan, who's accused of tossing the body of 2-year-old Tierra Morgan-Glover into a creek during a court-approved visit on Nov. 21.

    The girl's body was found the next day, still strapped in her car seat, partially submerged in a creek in a park in Wall Township, about 20 miles north of her Lakehurst home.

    Morgan had been added this weekend as a featured fugitive on "America's Most Wanted" website.

    His friends in San Diego had no idea he was wanted and were stunned by the accusations. They told NBC San Diego he simply showed up on Thanksgiving Day and joined them for dinner, and made no reference to what happened with his daughter.

    The friends said he even played with their young children.

    "We have this baby and a 2-year-old," said Kim Lewis, an acquaintance of Morgan. "He was at the beach playing with her yesterday. It's not like you let a murderer hang out around your daughter. We've known him forever. This is a total shock."

    The FBI and the U.S. Marshal's Office were among several agencies searching for Tierra's father, who was last seen on a train station platform in Asbury Park, N.J., not far from the park where his daughter's body would later be discovered.

    The girl's mother, Imani Benton, called police after Morgan failed to return the child from a court-ordered visit. She learned of his arrest when she arrived at a friend's home on Tuesday night and heard people cheering.

    "Everybody was outside yelling and screaming — they were like, 'They got him. They got him,'" Benton told the Asbury Park Press of Neptune. "I couldn't get out of the car. I just had to sit and let the tears fall for a minute."

    Benton said she was hoping that justice would be served.

    "I hope that my story and my situation can prevent another mother going through what I have to go through," Benton said. "It doesn't matter what a person does in the streets, you never know what they are going through behind closed doors."

    At least 13 law enforcement agencies in and around New Jersey participated in the search for Morgan, covering airports, train stations, bus depots, and highway bridges and tunnels. He had an apartment in Eatontown, N.J. but had been staying on and off with a friend in Ocean Township, N.J., adjacent to Asbury Park.

    An obituary prepared by the church at which her funeral was held gave the child's full name as Tierra La'Shae Camaya Morgan-Glover, "a bright-eyed little girl with a warm smile." Clergy there said Tierra quickly became known as "the church baby" because her radiant smile and warm personality were so noticeable to anyone who attended services there.

    They said she enjoyed singing, loved mathematics, and was a quick learner.