Grand jury gets dorm spying case

Grand jury gets dorm spying case

March 29th, 2011 by Todd South in News

Bernard Morris, right, a UTC student charged with planting surveillance cameras in dorm rooms, is being held on a $310,000 bond and will have his case heard by the grand jury. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Past victims in stalking and arson cases against a 23-year-old man waited two hours Monday for a judge to send his current charges of planting cameras in UTC dormitory rooms to the grand jury.

Bernard Morris faces more than 14 felony charges connected to allegations that he burglarized dorm rooms and planted cameras, which residents later discovered and reported to campus police.

A former resident assistant in UTC dorms, he is being held on a $310,000 bond in Hamilton County Jail on burglary and theft charges in connection with the camera-planting incident.

Morris made a brief appearance in court Monday morning. Judge Johnny Houston sent Morris' case to the Hamilton County grand jury for possible indictment.

At least six victims of Morris' past crimes - on which he is still on probation - came to Hamilton County General Sessions Court on Monday to see what would happen to the man.

"We're going to be at every single case, and we want to be sure they know it's very important to us," said Lori Bledsoe, mother of a girl Morris threatened in 2007.

"We're not just going to drop it and just let them make decisions," she said. "We're going to be heard."

Bledsoe worked at Ooltewah High School while Morris attended school there. During that time, her house burned down, killing the family dog.

Morris later messaged her teenage daughter on, saying "i don't think what happen (sic) to your house or dog was an accident i just hope nothing happen to your new house in Ooltewah," according to court documents.

He was charged with stalking in the case.

Morris also was charged with arson and aggravated burglary in 2006 after investigators connected him with the burning of a Prospect Church Road house.

For both cases, Morris pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor harassment and one count of misdemeanor stalking, court records show. He was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in Silverdale Detention Center.

Pat Bartlett owned the Prospect Church home and said Monday that she was in court to ensure that Morris is held accountable for his current charges.

"He needs to be in jail, he needs to be put away; somebody's going to get hurt, somebody's going to get killed," Bartlett said.

Neither Bledsoe nor Bartlett was surprised when she heard of the new charges against Morris.

"I knew that he was going to do something else," Bledsoe said. "We were just waiting."

On Monday, a woman who was identified as Morris' mother by Bledsoe prayed in a circle of friends outside the courtroom during the hearing.

Ruth Williams Morris, a psychology professor at Southern Adventist University, did not respond to questions about Morris.

In a previous Chattanooga Times Free Press article, she denied having a son named Bernard Morris.

Though years have passed since the earlier cases against Morris, Bledsoe said she still worries about what could happen.

"I look over my shoulder a lot," Bledsoe said. "I prepare myself for the worst."

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree or 423-757-6347.