Ogden theater assault suspect charged, with no hate crime enhancement

Wednesday , April 12, 2017 - 3:44 PM2 comments

CATHY MCKITRICK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — A transgender woman attacked in an Ogden movie theater will soon face the man accused of assaulting her in court.

On March 27, Ogden-based attorney John Cummings, who represents Peter Duane Morris Jr., entered a not guilty plea on his behalf to a class B misdemeanor assault charge in Ogden City Justice Court. Morris, 70, resides in Clinton and requested a jury trial in the case.

An initial Ogden Police Department incident report said during a Jan. 3 matinee at Megaplex Theatres, Marissa-Bella Satori — whose legal name is Stephen Hans Jenkins — pulled out her cellphone to see why it vibrated. A man sitting a few seats down quickly approached her to grab it away, the report said.

After a tussle over the phone, the assailant — described as an older white male with white or blonde hair — lunged at Satori, grabbing her neck and striking her, the report said. Another patron sitting behind Satori helped pull the attacker off her, and the man then exited the theater, according to the report. 

Responding Ogden police officers were unable to locate the suspect that day, but obtained theater surveillance video that would help lay the groundwork to do so. 

At the time of the assault, Satori believed the incident might have been a hate crime based on her gender identity.

Lt. Tim Scott, who oversees Ogden police investigations, said the incident was elevated to the department’s major crimes bureau because of its hate crime potential. However, the alleged assault was not deemed a hate crime.

“The case was screened with the Weber County prosecutor’s office as a possible felony hate crime, but there wasn’t anything based on our investigation that substantiated the attack was based on the victim being transgender,” Scott said. After the county prosecutor declined to pursue the case as a hate crime, the Ogden City attorney’s office took it on as a misdemeanor assault.

Scott credited eyewitness accounts and “good old-fashioned detective work” with narrowing the suspects down to Morris.

Surveillance photos were compared with financial records for Jan. 3 theater customers to identify older males of an approximate height and weight. Driver’s license photos were also used to narrow the search.

Then the victim and witnesses engaged in a process of photograph lineups, and Scott said all parties interviewed identified Morris as the suspect. Major crime detectives interviewed Morris, and details from that interview led them to believe there was cause to charge him in connection with the incident.

“And that’s how this individual got charged,” Scott said. “The victim in this case came in and gave a strong statement with a lot of detailed information, and the witnesses were strong in their statements.”

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 3 before Justice Court Judge Clay Stucki at 310 26th St. in Ogden. 

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck

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