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Police suspect murder-suicide in gunshot deaths in South Tampa

TAMPA — Melissa Morrison was beaten, choked and bruised by a man she once was engaged to.

They broke up. They got back together.

Her mother, Bonnie Wilson, said she was sick over the relationship between her daughter and Mark McVicker. She begged her to walk away.

She even asked her once: "Did you know that if he took you away from me, it would rip a hole in my heart?"

Morrison, 33, was found Sunday shot dead, along with McVicker, 39, in the bedroom of his home at 1409 S Moody Ave. in South Tampa.

A neighbor heard screams and a gunshot about 6 p.m. and called 911. Police say it appears to be a murder-suicide.

Detectives have not said whom they believe the shooter was. But a medical examiner's report states that Morrison's manner of death was homicide. McVicker's is not listed.

Several people who knew the couple say their relationship appeared normal. McVicker's friend Brent Flanagan and godfather Jack Flanagan saw the couple exchange kisses and encourage each other.

But records reflect an abusive relationship that crossed continents. Beatings in St. Petersburg, Tampa and even England — where McVicker's mother lived — are documented in restraining orders and police reports.

McVicker's problem was that he didn't know when to stop drinking, Wilson said. It had been apparent for nearly a decade, Jack Flanagan said.

But he was charming and good looking. He had a British accent and could be caring, they said.

In February, Morrison told her mother she was leaving him for the last time. Friend Kelli McCan helped her find an apartment and made her promise not to return.

Morrison didn't tell McVicker her new addresses, but somehow he found out she did yoga on the beach. He followed her there.

Even as those around her worried, Morrison showed signs she still cared about him.

In March, she called to wish him a happy birthday.

Earlier this month, she reported him missing when he didn't show up at his godparents' home in Mississippi as expected.

She told the officer she was worried because he was depressed, had a drinking problem and owned a gun, a Tampa police report states.

He had bought the gun, a Beretta pistol, in March, she told the officer. He had told her it was for protection after a road rage incident, she said.

On Sunday, police found a gun at the scene. It was a Beretta pistol.

• • •

Morrison's mother lives in Georgia and met McVicker in July 2009, when he accompanied Morrison to a family wedding.

During that trip, McVicker asked for permission to marry Morrison. Morrison's parents had seen only his good side, and said yes.

It was all Morrison wanted — to be married and have children, her mother said.

Morrison followed McVicker to England in late 2009 to help care for his mother, who was dying of cancer. She passed away that December, leaving him without a parent. His father, a military man, died in a bombing in Beirut when McVicker was young.

In March 2010, Morrison and McVicker fought and he stormed out of their home in Reading, England. He was drunk when he returned. She told him she was leaving him.

His reaction is detailed in an injunction Morrison filed for protection from him.

McVicker shoved her and slammed her hand in a door as she tried to escape, she wrote. He threw her back into the foyer and started choking her. She struggled to get free, but he put her in a headlock and dragged her to the ground, she wrote.

Police came and took pictures of her bruises, she reported. She left the country the next day.

The next month, he joined her.

She made him seek alcohol treatment, but sometime before August, she reported, he had gone back to drinking. They were once again living together, this time in St. Petersburg.

And he was still beating her, records show.

Morrison called her mother in tears, saying she couldn't take the abuse anymore. She filed the injunction in Pinellas that month, but court records show she didn't show up for the hearing. The case was closed.

They broke up once again.

Then on Christmas Day, Morrison told her mother she was back with McVicker.

She was flabbergasted.

"I said, 'Melissa, he's attacked you four or five times. He tried to choke you. Are you crazy?' "

But Morrison told her mother she loved him and they were seeking counseling. Though they had broken off the engagement, they'd make it work, she said.

• • •

Morrison's mother says she hopes other women escape abusive relationships before they lead to the worst.

She encourages women to seek counseling and stop going back to partners who beat them.

"He was garbage," Wilson said. "I hope he just sits down at the police station and just rots."

Times staff writer Lorri Helfand and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Ileana Morales can be reached at (813) 226-3386. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or [email protected]

>>Fast facts

Get help

If you are a victim of domestic violence, call the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 1-800-500-1119 or visit, which lists shelters in each county.

Hillsborough: The Spring of Tampa Bay, (813) 247-7233.

Pinellas: CASA in St. Petersburg, (727) 895-4912 ext. 1; the Haven of RCS in Clearwater, (727) 442-4128.

Pasco: Sunrise of Pasco County in Dade City, (352) 521-3120; Salvation Army Domestic Violence Program of West Pasco, (727) 856-5797.

Police suspect murder-suicide in gunshot deaths in South Tampa

04/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 12:01am]
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