published Friday, May 18th, 2012

Former UTC student sentenced for hidden cameras in dorm rooms, burglary

A 24-year-old former resident assistant at UTC was sentenced to three years in prison by a Criminal Court judge on Thursday.

Bernard Morris has been in custody since his March 2011 arrest, he will receive credit for that time.

Judge Don Poole also ordered that Morris receive counseling and be placed on a Global Positioning System tracking anklet upon his release as he serves probation for previous offenses.

The Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole will determine when Morris can be released.

Morris entered at least four dorm rooms an placed cameras inside of fake clocks, which female residents of those rooms later found and reported to police in late March 2011, according to court records.

A chief explanation Morris’ attorney Mike Caputo offered for the behavior and his prior criminal history was that he suffers from an autism spectrum disorder. Morris was diagnosed with the disorder at age 9.

Mitizi Ganus, mother of Kristin Ganus, one of the female students who had a camera planted in her dorm room, testified about the effects of the incident on her and her daughter.

“She was terrified and five hours away,” Mitizi Ganus said. “I couldn’t protect her and I’ve protected her all her life.”

She said that her daughter wouldn’t go anywhere alone for a year after the incident and moved off campus shortly after Morris’ arrest.

Ruth Morris, Morris’ mother and head of undergraduate services at Southern Adventist University, testified Thursday on her son’s behalf.

She told Caputo that her son showed symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome since he was very young.

She said that she thought he was improving at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Ruth Morris said since he’s been in custody her son has faced intimidation and violence in the jail and been on suicide watch on at least one occasion.

Local psychologist Gregory Williams testified that Morris likely didn’t understand how his actions were being interpreted by others. Morris told his mother since he’s been in jail that he planted the cameras to get back at other students who’d been “messing with him.” He later realized the women whose rooms he entered were not those people and he was remorseful for what he did.

Morris originally faced 14 counts of aggravated burglary and one count of arson. On March 1 he pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated burglary and two counts of related burglary charges in this case.

This was not the first time Morris faced such charges.

He pleaded guilty in 2006 that he burglarized a female friend’s home and went room to room before setting fire to the front door.

In 2007, Morris pleaded guilty to harassment of a fellow Ooltewah High School female student’s house on Prospect Church Road two years before.

He also pleaded guilty to stalking against another female teen, who reported receiving text message that were sexual in nature.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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