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Could a woman accused of murder be appointed guardian of a disabled man? – Company press

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Michelle Morris Kerin (courtesy Riverside County DA)

Just months before Michelle Morris was arrested for murder and obscene conduct, she was gloating in an email.

His letter to a county-appointed therapist for his deeply disabled adopted son, Ryan Morris, expressed his heartfelt thanks for his support in his legal fight to keep his son isolated from his biological family.

“I think you’ve really given the court and Ryan’s attorneys what they need to eliminate visits from Monica and Ronald even though, of course, we know they won’t be going away quietly,” Morris wrote. “We hope this is the gateway for Ryan to go home with Sean.”

Sean is Sean Spicer, the man Morris allowed his son to marry, despite the young man’s inability to understand marriage. A judge impeached Spicer as Ryan Morris’ legal guardian in 2019, saying the evidence showed Spicer was abusive. But a petition to make Spicer and Morris the legal guardians of the disabled young man is nonetheless before a Riverside County judge.

Ronald is Ronald Moore, the identical twin brother of Ryan Morris. The twins were separated and the entire biological family cut off, shortly after Morris adopted Ryan, which the court approved over the biological family’s vehement objections. Twin Ronald, a healthy young man, has a pending petition to also be the legal guardian of his disabled brother.

And Monica is Monica Mukai, Ryan Morris’ biological aunt, who fought to “free” Ryan from Morris’s grip long before Morris was charged with the second degree murder of one of her children. adoptive, as well as sexual abuse of people with disabilities.

Brittany Spears’ plight has drawn attention to the abuses that can be associated with guardianship, the official California lingo for legal guardianship. But the twists and turns of Ryan Morris’ highly unusual case raise much larger questions, squarely pitting two fundamental rights against each other: the hard-won right of people with disabilities to marry and have a sex life, like everyone else, and their right. to be protected against abuse and undue influence.

The tough issues were probed in a three-part series, “Twins, Divided,” by the Southern California News Group in 2017, but the twists and turns keep coming.

Ryan Morris, right, and husband Sean Spicer, at their 2014 wedding (Photo courtesy of probate court file)

Missing context

Morris, who operated a group foster home with her husband in Orange County before moving it to Murrieta and eventually shutting it down as his legal tangles grew, wrote his emails to licensed clinical social worker Richard Rowe in March. He had submitted a report to court criticizing members of Ryan Morris’ biological family, and Morris expressed hope that they would soon be definitively exonerated.

His emails do not reflect well the professionals in Riverside County and his Office of the Public Guardian, whom the court has appointed as temporary curator of Ryan Morris while the case continues in court.

“I spoke with the court investigator for Ryan and she was very open to the county’s contempt for Monica,” Morris wrote. “Ryan is struggling to keep his cool with the ongoing visits with Ronald and Monica… we pray that this is over before Ryan can take it anymore (and Sean too.)”

What Morris didn’t tell Rowe was that Spicer was ousted from Ryan Morris’ legal guardian job because of what the judge called abusive behavior. Spicer would threaten to return Ryan Morris to his foster mother when he behaved badly, threaten to remove his ring and end the marriage, threaten to send him for emergency mental health treatment and punish him by limiting visits with his biological family and taking his phone with him so he cannot contact them. Ryan Morris learned that his biological family was bad and wanted to end his marriage.

Ryan Morris has the intellectual capacity of a 5-6 year old, psychological assessments have been found and is easily manipulated. In 2019, a psychologist asked him, “Why get married? Ryan Morris first spoke about his PlayStation Portable, then said, “Because it’s fair. … It is right that people get married. The psychologist insisted, “Before you met Sean, did you think you would like to get married?” Ryan Morris replied, “We made a deal. That if I got married, I would have a cell phone, ”according to the report filed with the court.

Ryan Morris with his aunt Monica Mukai during a Christmas lightning in San Juan Capistrano. (Photo courtesy of Mukai)

The psychologist concluded that Ryan Morris did not have the capacity to enter into a marriage due to his concrete thinking and limited understanding of the institution.

But Rowe, the social worker, knew none of this when he wrote critical appraisals in court. He had never even received a copy of the judge’s order suppressing Spicer and bringing the county public guardian under control. The vital background was not brought to his attention until called to testify by biological family attorney Charles Krolikowski, partner of Newmeyer Dillion in Newport Beach, Rowe said in a statement before a judge on November 17.

In his statement, Rowe disowned his earlier reports and blasted Riverside County officials for manipulation and bias.

‘Used as a pawn’

Around March 2020, Public Guardian’s assistant curator Shirley Jackson asked Rowe to provide psychotherapy services under the tutelage of Ryan Morris, Rowe said in the statement. Jackson told her that, pursuant to a court order, her mission would be to provide “relationship building services” between Ryan Morris, her adoptive mother, Spicer, Mukai and Moore.

“At the time, I repeatedly asked Ms. Jackson for a copy of the order and any other background information that would be helpful, but she did not provide me with that information,” he said.

Rowe was dropped off on Oct. 8 by the birth family, and Krolikowski showed him the judge’s order “and references to the many instances of Spicer’s abusive behavior inflicted on Ryan,” the statement reads. “Despite my requests to Ms. Jackson to see the order, I had never seen these findings before, nor the actual court direction that Ryan was to visit various people in a ‘therapeutic setting.’ In my professional opinion, “therapeutic visit” is not the same as “relationship building” (or psychotherapy sessions), which were the instructions I received from Ms. Jackson. “

If Rowe had known of the court order and actual direction, he would have approached his assignment in a very different way, he said.

“(I) it was Spicer and Michelle who told me that Mukai, Moore, and even Mr. Krolikowski were improperly using legal process to abuse Ryan, but after reading the order, it seems to me that Moore ( and his attorney, Mr Krolikowski), were justified in proceeding with the removal of Spicer as Ryan’s curator, and in fact, they prevailed.

After reviewing the psychological assessment ordered on Ryan, he came to understand “that Ryan is easily influenced by others, and … I can now see that Spicer and possibly Michelle may have influenced negative attitudes, comments and behavior. of Ryan to his biological family. , including Mukai and Moore, ”Rowe said. “I also understand better now that much of the misinformation and negative comments I received about Mukai and Moore came to me from Spicer and Michelle.… I didn’t get a full picture of Ryan’s Situation by Mrs. Jackson, Spicer or Michelle.

Ronald Moore, left, and identical twin Ryan Morris kiss after seeing each other for the first time in 13 years at a Ryan Guardianship hearing in July 2015 (Photo courtesy of Monica Mukai)

Rowe emailed Jackson in August expressing concern that the Office of the Public Guardian was overstepping its role, attempting to influence clinical interventions and violating its obligations. “I came to the conclusion that I was being used as a pawn by the Office of the Public Guardian to make conclusions and recommendations without having all the information I needed to do so,” he said.

After Rowe challenged Jackson, he was told his services were no longer needed, he said. In an email to Jackson, he said he feared his decision to end his service might not be in the best interests of Ryan Morris and that it lacked neutrality towards Spicer and Morris.

An email response from Riverside County to the Southern California News Group did not directly respond to Rowe’s claims.

The mission of the public guardian is to protect the lives of people who cannot take care of themselves with the least possible restriction of their freedoms, and he must also protect the privacy and confidentiality of those under guardianship, a Riverside County Director of Behavioral Health Dr. Matthew Chang said.

“Every member of the Public Guardians Program takes this mission seriously and has worked hard to resolve new and familiar issues with the program. Public trust is crucial for comprehensive oversight, and accountability is a vital component of that trust. “

Petitions to resume guardianship of the Public Guardian – from Spicer and Morris on the one hand, and Mukai and Moore on the other – are pending until the Court of Appeal rules on a challenge to the order withdrawing Spicer as a preservative.

The biological family also asked the court for permission to visit Ryan Morris even if he decided he didn’t want to, in an effort to overcome the fear instilled in him. Officials say the Office of the Public Guardian will continue to use its own discretion and honor Ryan Morris’s wishes during visits.


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