TAMPA — Prosecutors agree that Mikese Morse was insane when he drove a car off a New Tampa roadway one day in 2018, slamming into and killing a man and injuring two young boys.
In a routine court hearing Wednesday, the state said Morse should be found not guilty by reason of insanity for crimes related to the 2018 death of Pedro Aguerreberry.
It was an official acknowledgement that Morse, who suffers from schizophrenia, was so mentally ill when the crime occurred that he could not discern right from wrong and cannot be held criminally responsible.
A judge will have to decide what’s next for Morse. A non-jury trial is set for April.
If Morse, 33, is officially deemed to be not guilty by reason of insanity, he will not go to prison, but may be committed to a hospital for long-term mental health treatment.
Morse, 33, was arrested June 24, 2018. Tampa police said he was driving a Dodge Avenger along New Tampa Boulevard when he passed Aguerreberry and his two sons, ages 3 and 8, who were riding bicycles on a pedestrian path.
Morse, police said, made a U-turn, then tore across a swath of grass and plowed into the trio. The boys were injured. Their father died.
Shortly before the crash, Morse posted videos to his Instagram account in which he rambled incoherently about “the devil” and “energies changing” inside him.
Days earlier, he’d walked into a Tampa police district office and rambled to an officer about “energy projections” and conspiracies and said he feared he might hurt someone. He was committed to a mental health facility under Florida’s Baker Act, but was later released.
A statement from the office of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said that the case demonstrates the “consequences of Florida’s broken mental health system, and the victim’s wife and kids are left holding the pieces.”
“The law is clear: you cannot convict a person who was so mentally unstable that he did not know right from wrong,” Warren’s statement read. “So we are doing everything we can to get him committed to Florida State Hospital to make sure he never hurts anyone again.”
Morse’s mother, Khadeeja Morse, welcomed the news, but decried what she said was the vilification of her son and families of loved ones who have mental illnesses.
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For years before the tragedy, the Morse family has said, they struggled to get him access to adequate mental health care. He’d never been in trouble before, was a college graduate and standout track athlete who had qualified in Olympic trials.
“I have almost lost my sanity trying to save my son’s sanity,” she said.
In a lengthy Facebook post directed to Warren, she asked that her son not be seen as a case, but as a person. She called for greater understanding and support for families whose loved ones have mental illnesses.
“It is true, the Aguerreberry family experienced a horrific loss that never should have happened,” she wrote. “However, they aren’t the only ones who are left holding the pieces.”