Man convicted of 2001 murder

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2002


EDGARD – The testimony of two pre-teen children confirmed the case against Danny Eugene Winston, recently convicted of the second-degree murder of Sydonna Morris on Jan. 5, 2001.

Winston, 39, faces a mandatory life sentence for the crime. Sentencing by 40th Judicial District Judge Mary Hotard Becnel is scheduled July 2.

“It was an appropriate verdict,” prosecutor William O’Regan commented after the verdict. “It’s what I expected.”

The jury had been out an estimated 90 minutes before returning its verdict, a time period which also included lunch and selection of a jury foreman.

“It was a long trial, with a lot of evidence,” O’Regan added.

Winston’s main defense was claiming he had “blacked out” during an argument with Morris and “woke up” weeks later in Atlanta, Ga., with Morris’s car. He also claimed he could not have hurt anyone.

“Either you believed it or you didn’t,” O’Regan said of Winston’s defense. “The amnesia didn’t help him.”

Instead, according to the testimony of her 8-year-old daughter and 7-year-old nephew, ages 7 and 6 at the time, he had been there at the time, they heard the gunshot and they saw him leave.

“The children were very good witnesses; very well-spoken; very sure of themselves,” O’Regan added.

Morris was severely beaten and shot in the couple’s home at 8874 Sunnyside Drive. Deputies who discovered her had Morris transported first to River Parishes Hospital. From there, she was transferred to Charity Hospital in New Orleans, where she died at the age of 26 as a result of her injuries five hours later.

The couple had argued that night in the bedroom and, according to the children’s testimony, he came out, locking the door behind him. He told the children not to disturb her as she was “resting.” Winston then fled in her 1994 Toyota.

The children heard moaning from within the bedroom and called Morris’s sister, Shannon Florent, who called the sheriff’s office.

During the two-day trial, Winston recounted how his relationship with Morris began, from the time they met at Wal-Mart where they both worked. A relationship began, despite the fact he was married.

In time, the couple moved in together and had a child, who was 18 months old at the time of Morris’s murder. Later, he testified, he tried to leave her and an argument began.

During the argument, he claimed, he blacked out and came to in Morris’s car in Atlanta, Ga., weeks later. He stayed in a men’s shelter in Alabama, not suspecting he was wanted for Morris’s murder.

Just before the sheriff’s office was about to place a “wanted” alert on the television show, “America’s Most Wanted,” Winston was located in Birmingham, Ala., and taken into custody.

O’Regan’s closing arguments to the jury urged, “Nobody else was the room with her. She didn’t do that to herself.”

Winston’s attorney, Guy Lillian, unsuccessfully attempted to show the investigation failed to look for any other possible suspect and asserted there was insufficient evidence to convict his client.

The jury left the courtroom to commence deliberations just before noon Thursday and returned the verdict around 2 p.m.