West Tisbury builder killed in Florida

Charles Morgan was allegedly stabbed to death by a convicted killer.

Charles Morgan, a West Tisbury carpenter, was killed during a visit to Florida. - Courtesy Jackie Flynn-Morgan

West Tisbury builder Charles Morgan was killed in a Florida motel on August 2. Morgan was staying at the Rodeway Inn and Suites in Dania Beach when he was allegedly stabbed, according to his wife and a press release issued by the Broward County Sheriff’s Department. Alphonso Washington, 59, a homeless man who had been living at the hotel under a rental assistance program, has been charged with the killing.

Morgan’s widow, Jackie Flynn-Morgan, said he went to Florida to visit his father and brother. She said Morgan originally planned to fly to West Palm Beach but his plans changed, and he flew into Fort Lauderdale, and wound up lodging in the vicinity due to foul weather. 

“I don’t have any words, except that we are just devastated and I will miss my husband so much,” Flynn-Morgan said in a conversation with The Times.

Before the interview, she had prepared a statement. “We loved Charlie dearly and his loss is an unbearable tragedy,” she said. “His family will cooperate fully with the authorities so we can learn what happened and do what we can to ensure that justice can be done.”

On August 2 at 3:30 pm, Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue personnel responded to a call regarding an adult male found on a bathroom floor at the Rodeway Inn and Suites in Dania Beach. Inside, they found Morgan suffering from multiple stab wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Crime scene and homicide detectives responded, and preliminary investigations indicated the victim sustained multiple lacerations to his body,” according to the sheriff’s report. The sheriff’s office identified Washington as the suspect, and took him into custody at the Rodeway Inn and Suites on Wednesday. Washington faces charges of murder and a probation violation.

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Washington was staying at the Rodeway Inn as part of a program aimed at getting the homeless off the streets during the pandemic. Washington came to the Rodeway Inn after the city of Fort Lauderdale handed out free hotel vouchers to dozens of homeless people. The free voucher program ran out in mid-July after the city ran out of money.

But Washington was able to stay, along with 38 other people, after the political group New Florida Majority stepped in and paid for their rooms.

The Sun Sentinel reports that the murder occurred on the same day New Florida Majority stopped paying for the rooms.

The newspaper also reported that Washington is a convicted killer with a lengthy criminal record. He was convicted of killing a woman in Miami-Dade in 1985, the newspaper reported. The woman’s naked body was found by children arriving for a school music practice, according to the newspaper.

Attempts to reach the sheriff’s department on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Rodeway Inn general manager Izzy Fintz said he and the rest of the Inn management and staff were “devastated” when Morgan’s body was found.

In a phone conversation with The Times, Fintz said it appeared Morgan and Washington had struck up a friendship at the hotel.

“That night they were seen together smoking. They were at the front of the hotel, the side of the hotel, they were on the patio in the courtyard, they were walking together,” Fintz said. “There was nothing suspicious in any form or way. It looked like they developed a friendship and a bond.”

“We are appalled. We can’t believe this happened,” Fintz said. “We really regret this happened. We feel sorry for the loss.”

The Morgan family is well known on the Island. Charlie Morgan was a builder and Jackie Flynn-Morgan was the co-proprietor of the Bite in Menemsha with her sister, Karen Flynn. Michael Flynn, their brother, was also part of the “hard work” dynamic at the Bite, Flynn-Morgan said. The couple has a daughter, Mary, who is a college student.

“Mary was our miracle in life,” Flynn-Morgan said.

Islanders reached out to the Morgan family as the news of Charlie’s murder, first reported by the Sun Sentinel, was shared on social media. “I don’t want to have to explain anything to anyone. It’s so painful. How do you tell people that someone’s been murdered?” she said. “I appreciate, of course, the outpouring and love that Mary and I [have received].”

Charlie Morgan was born in West Palm Beach and lived there until he was a young adult, his wife said. He was headed to see his father, Virgil Morgan, and brother, Dennis Metivier. He hadn’t seen them since his father’s 89th birthday in March. “He was worried with everything going on,” she said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically, the family would only see him once a year during school vacation.

It was by chance that Charlie Morgan was at that hotel. He had been scheduled to fly into West Palm Beach, but missed that flight. He was able to get a flight into Fort Lauderdale and told a cab driver to take him to the nearest hotel in Fort Lauderdale where he would spend the night before going to see his father and brother in West Palm Beach.

Charlie Morgan moved north from Florida in the 1980s. The couple rented on the Island for years before Charlie built a house for the family in 2006 and 2007 on land deeded to them by Flynn-Morgan’s mother. She recalled rushing home during a two-hour break at the Bite to help her husband with construction. They lived in a doublewide trailer on the site, tired of paying the exorbitant rents on the Vineyard, she said.

“It’s bittersweet. Charlie made our beautiful home. It’s just so special,” she said. “Everywhere I turn I just see Charlie. It was his house.”

The couple met on May 30, 1993, introduced by mutual friends. “We had stuffed shells, salad, and Budweisers,” she said. “And then we went to Lampost and he planted a kiss on me … That’s when I met my Charlie.”

Flynn-Morgan said no memorial arrangements have been made yet on the Vineyard. 

“I will be holding a service at some point,” she said. She said it would be a Catholic service. “He will be celebrated in the church in time,” she said.

Chilmark hand-nail roofer Joe Keenan, a friend of Morgan’s, said his death was “shocking.”

Keenan described Morgan as an “old school” woodworker and a “salt of the earth” person.

“He was gifted as a carpenter,” he said. “He worked with me on jobs, and I loved him.”

Keenan said he had known Morgan for at least 20 years. “He was a really positive person,” he said. Morgan would never break his concentration for banter when engrossed in a finish carpentry project, a focus Keenan described as similar to “zen” discipline. Keenan described Morgan’s energy as “so important and so subtle,” and radiating from an “old soul”. 

For the Vineyard, he described Morgan’s passing as a “big loss.”

“I just loved him,” he said.