Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Twenty-six-year-old accused murderer Rylen Quinn Svane-Morris walked out of County Jail this Friday a free man, having been held behind bars for two months on charges that he beat his former girlfriend’s father, Terry Lee Wilson, to death. But on the day of Morris’s preliminary hearing, the homicide charge was dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office.

Rylen Quinn Svane-Morris | Credit: Courtesy

At the time of Morris’s arrest, it was held that he had been stalking his former girlfriend — Jennie Wilson — broke into the Santa Ynez house she lived in with her father, and got into the shower. When Wilson’s father, 72, discovered Morris’s presence in the house on October 8, it was alleged that a fight broke out during which Morris allegedly stated, “I’ll fucking kill you, old man.”

Murder charges were dropped suddenly on the day the case was scheduled for a preliminary hearing. A press release issued by the District Attorney‘s office stated this precipitous about-face occurred because “new information regarding Terry Wilson’s cause of death” had come to light. Deputy District Attorney Lara Clinton said she could not disclose what that new information was.

But defense attorney Erica Sutherland — with the Public Defender’s office — stated that evidence that was available at the time Morris was arrested demonstrated that Morris had, in fact, been invited to the Wilson residence by Jennie Wilson and that he did not break in. More to the point, she said, Terry Lee Wilson had not been murdered.

At the time of Wilson’s death in early October, it was reported that Morris had been charged with domestic violence and had been the subject of several restraining orders to stay away from both Wilson and her father. But text messages on Morris’s phone — seized at the time of his arrest, Sutherland said — indicated that Morris had been invited to the Wilson house. According to Sutherland, there were multiple text messages and phone exchanges between Morris and Jennie Wilson on the day of her father’s death “He didn’t break in,” Sutherland said. “He was invited.”

Morris, Sutherland added, had been there three to four hours before law enforcement was called. Sutherland acknowledged a fight did, in fact, ensue, but she said it did not go as previously reported. Instead, she said, the elder Wilson went after Morris armed with a crowbar. Whether Morris suffered any damage, Sutherland said she did not know. But she said the forensic record clearly indicated that the elder Wilson had not been struck. “There were no marks on the decedent,” she said.

Sutherland added that the elder Wilson had been suffering acute cardiac problems at the time of this struggle and had serious health issues. Two days prior, he had been transported by ambulance to the Cottage Emergency Room for heart problems. Those issues were serious enough, Sutherland stated, that attending physicians had recommended Wilson be hospitalized. The elder Wilson declined and checked himself out, Sutherland added, against the advice of medical professionals.

The coroner’s report has not yet been finalized, Sutherland said, but she said the picture is clear: “It becomes very clear that my client was invited and there was no murder.” In the meantime, she said, her client had been incarcerated for two months on a no-bail murder charge that would have made him potentially eligible for the death penalty. “As you can see it’s been catastrophic for my client. He is innocent.”

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