VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The suspect in the killing of Virginia Beach woman Marie Covington has been found guilty on all charges in the case, including first-degree murder.
This comes two days after Gary Morton pleaded guilty to concealing a dead body in the case during the bench trial. He was also charged with use of a firearm in a felony, attempted malicious wounding, shooting into an occupied vehicle and abduction by force, threat or intimidation.
Prosecutors argued Morton’s story didn’t match up with the physical evidence and testimony from witnesses.
“This is one of those cases where people came forward, people testified, people gave the prosecutors and my office the evidence that we needed,” said Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi.
Judge Joseph C. Lindsey said he considered all the evidence and believed Morton came across as focused on telling the story that would benefit him both in the short term and the long term.
Covington’s brother told Ten On Your Side his family is happy with the verdict.
“We are very happy with the verdict and how the case was presented — we’re just ready to start the healing process,” said Jeff Covington.
“To watch their loved one abducted in front of them, taken, killed and then to hear the horrible facts of the case and sit through the trial, I just can not imagine, they’ve been immensely strong and I’m grateful to them,” Fatehi said. “We hope that when we have a conviction in a case like this, guilty as charged … that it offers one piece of the closure that victims or victim’s families need.”
Morton’s attorney, Chris Bettis, gave the following statement:
“The death of Ms. Covington was a horrible tragedy, and it was also an accident. Mr. Morton has been frank and consistent about how this accident happened … Throughout the investigation and prosecution of this case the Virginia Beach Police Department, the Norfolk Police Department, and the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office have never been able to offer an alternative explanation for what happened. I appreciate the Court’s time and consideration in this matter and I respectfully disagree with the Court’s verdict.”
The deadly shooting of Covington happened back on Aug. 17, 2022 in Norfolk, after Morton abducted Covington from her Virginia Beach home, and her body was dumped by Morton in a trashcan on Galt Street.
Morton claimed he shot Covington in the head by accident after getting into a shootout with another man. However, the man who Morton said he got into a shootout with said he never shot at Morton, and that he can’t have a gun because he’s a felon.
Covington’s daughters testified during the trial that they heard Morton tell their mother he “could kill her and no one would ever find out.”
Morton, who was taken into custody by police after a high-speed chase days after the shooting, was also found guilty this July of strangulation, abduction, assault and destruction of property in a separate case.
Earlier this year a jury found Morton guilty of strangulation, abduction and other charges in a separate 2020 case in Norfolk involving a woman he was dating.
Fatehi said Morton’s behavior is extremely dangerous. He said the most common violent crime they deal with is domestic violence.
“Victims of domestic violence need to remember you are not alone, we are here for you, the police department is here for you,” said Fatehi. “Find a way out so that the abuse does not turn an innocent and deserving life into a statistic.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. WAVY-TV 10 has covered several stories this month from victims of domestic violence.
Sentencing in both cases is set for Dec. 15. The cases were tried separately, so Morton will be sentenced by two different judges that day.
If you or you know someone who may be a victim of domestic violence or child abuse, click here for a list of local and national resources.