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Morris Samit awoke in “so much pain” in a hospital bed and moments later a sheriff’s detective peppered him with questions. First off, how did he wind up with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his head less than four hours earlier?
Samit, disoriented from a dose of the sedative Propofol, offered that he tried to kill himself after fatally shooting his wife Sheila, following an argument about money in their West Boynton home. But the bullet fired through a pillow never cracked his skull.
After obtaining the murder confession on March 9, 2020, the investigator advised Samit, “obviously, you’re going to be charged.” And he was, before leaving the hospital in handcuffs the next day.
But a Palm Beach County jury won’t hear about Samit’s statements during his upcoming trial on a first-degree murder charge. The judge ruled the admissions can’t be used because Samit, 79, was too incapacitated to make them voluntarily.
A hearing is set for Nov. 12 to pick a date to begin jury selection. Samit, who reportedly suffers from high blood pressure, a heart disorder and lymphoma, is confined to the county jail’s medical unit. He will die inside a state prison if convicted as charged.
Without the confession, prosecutors will have to argue there’s still enough proof he pulled the trigger and intended for his 74-year-old spouse to die. The defense strategy has yet to be revealed.
In a handwritten letter to the court about a month after the shooting, Samit complained “the evidence presented (by the prosecution) remains weak, questionable, and problematic to me.”
Assistant Public Defender Renee Sihvola has argued Samit belongs at home, at least until the case is resolved. A former technology entrepreneur and part-time business professor, Samit has said he doesn’t get why he has been kept in custody on no bond ― though that is customary for most homicide cases.
“I have been a good citizen, never in trouble with the law, a hard, productive worker, providing for my family, only to now find myself … unable to earn a living or attend to personal and financial matters,” Samit wrote. “Why someone not proven guilty of anything may be rendered so useless and unproductive, I cannot understand or fathom.”
In 2000, the Samits bought a nearly 2,900-square foot, one-story home in the Aberdeen golf course community, property records show. They had previously lived in a Boston suburb.
Over 20 years, the couple kept to themselves and were “a complete mystery” to Fairway Lakes Drive next-door neighbor Samuel Woolf.
“I don’t remember him making contact with anybody,” Woolf said, adding that Morris Samit never said hello or even waived back to him. “It looked like deliberate avoidance.”
David Kaye, who lived across the street, said Samit ignored him for two decades.
“In all the years I’m here I never had a word with him,” Kaye said, noting he assumed Samit lived there alone until he heard about the deadly shooting.
Samit’s lawyer has described him in court papers as “a very private person.”
“Samit’s general disposition is to remain quiet around anyone, including his family,” Sihvola wrote, adding her client “is not known to ever speak of personal details of his life, such as medical issues.”
According to court records, Samit’s adult daughter has testified that her father is “not a conversationalist; in fact, getting him to have a conversation was ‘like pulling teeth.’”
He’s shared at least some health and background information with his defenders since he’s been locked up.
In Samit’s unsuccessful bid for bond, his lawyer described him as a “contributing member of society” for his entire life, who until his arrest was teaching online business courses for the University of Maryland Global Campus.
The school continues to list him on its website as an adjunct professor, showing his academic background includes a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
The 911 call came from the Samits’ daughter at 8:15 a.m. She told investigators she went to see her parents as planned that morning, but found her mother unresponsive on the floor of the master bedroom and her father in bed, moaning.
Court records and an arrest report describe what apparently led to the shooting and Morris Samit’s illegal interview with the detective:
He had financial problems and two years earlier had borrowed $100,000 from his daughter and son-in-law, unbeknown to his wife. He had managed to repay $75,000 of the loan, but was having trouble erasing the remaining debt. Sheila Samit had found out about the situation and “was very upset, and that was probably an understatement.”
Morris Samit said the couple had an argument and he went to his briefcase to get the Ruger LCP .380 caliber handgun he bought a few months before. He said he shot his wife in the head as she sat in the kitchen, and then tried to move her body to the bed, but wasn’t strong enough. He said he then went to sleep.
In the morning he texted his daughter about her visit to discuss the money, and then put a pillow next to his head and fired, grazing the right side of his head behind the ear. Samit texted again upon her arrival, inviting her inside.
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Bleeding and incoherent, Samit was taken to Delray Medical Center, where he was treated for the head wound and briefly intubated. A CT scan ruled out a life-threatening injury and at 11:45 a.m. Detective Steve Ultsh arrived to ask questions.
“I can’t afford a lawyer. But I don’t need one right now — I don’t think,” Samit said.
Assistant State Attorney Chrichet Mixon argued that Samit was “not in custody, nor illegally detained,” and he “made a knowing and voluntary” waiver of his right to remain silent.
The defense has pointed out that the groggy Samit was in no shape to be interrogated and was not free to leave the hospital. At one point, Samit asked the detective, “Why am I in so much pain?” and he gave inaccurate details of his life such as a claim he “taught in Iran.”
Circuit Judge Scott Suskauer agreed with Samit’s counsel that the confession must be tossed, because Samit “was still under the effect of powerful sedatives that were administered to treat a major injury he had sustained only hours earlier.”