A 30-year-old man was found Wednesday to have been sane when he killed his stepmother with a pick axe in Lake Forest nearly a decade ago, clearing the way for the defendant to face a prison term.
Oscar Luis Morlett III was convicted March 2, but because the defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, jurors had to determine whether he was sane at the time of the crime. If he had been found insane at the time of the killing, he would have been committed to a state mental health hospital for an indefinite period.
Morlett was convicted of first-degree murder, with jurors finding true a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon. Morlett, who is scheduled to be sentenced April 3, faces 26 years to life in prison.
Morlett was convicted of killing 66-year-old Jeanne Ellen Morlett on Aug. 9, 2013.
She was living with the suspect and his father, Oscar Morlett Sr., and brother, Alex, at 21 Blazewood in Lake Forest at the time, according to a trial brief from Senior Deputy District Attorney Seton Hunt.
The defendant had been living with his mother, Lisa Powell, before that, but she kicked him out of the house in June of 2013, Hunt said. So his father and stepmother took him in, Hunt added.
The defendant was unemployed and used a bicycle to get around at the time, Hunt said.
Morlett’s father and stepmother told the defendant that they planned to “downsize” and were moving, so they suggested he move out and into a rescue mission, Hunt said.
“Defendant felt the victim was pushing him out of the house,” Hunt said.
On Aug. 6, 2013, the defendant told a neighbor, “I hate my (expletive) stepmom,” according to Hunt. He also said, “I wish she was dead,” the prosecutor added.
The next day the defendant attempted to poison his stepmother by putting patchouli oil in her water, Hunt said.
On the morning of Aug. 9, 2013, the defendant’s father and brother left for work, leaving Morlett home alone with his stepmother, Hunt said. About 10:45 a.m., a neighbor heard three loud screams or moans, Hunt said.
About 11:18 a.m., the defendant dialed 911 and reported his mother was the victim of a home invasion, but he managed to run out the back door, Hunt said. The call got disconnected and when a dispatcher called back it went to voice mail, Hunt said.
Deputies responded to the home and found the victim’s bloodied body, and she was pronounced dead at 11:42 a.m., Hunt added.
Morlett went to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, where he again called 911, picking up the phone with a bloody hand, Hunt said. He again said his stepmom was attacked by gardeners, Hunt said.
Morlett later told investigators he attacked his stepmother with a pick axe when she was in her bed, Hunt added. She sustained 17 puncture wounds, including one to the lung, Hunt said.
Morlett’s attorney, Ed Beckett, said in court papers that his client had been on anti-psychotic medications for years and was attending group meetings for substance abuse at Saddleback Church. As the defendant was awaiting trial, he was committed for 15 months at Patton state hospital until his sanity was restored and he could again assist in his defense, Beckett said.