A married couple from Tacoma were charged with the death of an unincorporated King County man in late September.
Jeremy James Shaw, 39, and his wife Lorena Belle Shaw, 37, are charged with multiple counts.
Jeremy Shaw was charged with first degree murder, residential burglary, second degree arson and first degree conspiracy to commit theft.
He will be arraigned at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 15 at the Regional Justice Center. His bail has been set at $2.5 million.
Lorena Shaw has been charged with residential burglary, second degree arson, first degree conspiracy to commit theft and felony first degree rendering criminal assistance.
She will also have an arraignment hearing at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 15 at the Regional Justice Center. Her bail has been set at $500,000.
The Shaws both remain in custody and are being held at the King County Jail.
Just shortly after 7 p.m. Sept. 20, Steven Morphis, 67, was found dead in a detached shed on his property by a contractor who had returned to the property to pick up some tools he had left behind.
It was reported a newly dug hole was found near the back of Morphis’ home — it looked like a grave, the documents stated.
King County Sheriff’s Office deputies contacted Morphis’ bank and were informed his debit card had been used several times on Sept. 20 and into the morning of Sept. 21 — after his body had already been located.
Late Sept. 20, an online transaction with his account number was attempted to pay Aryan Enterprises — a company listed as belonging to Jeremy Shaw. But this transaction was denied because the amount exceeded the daily limit on the account.
Then around 3:15 a.m. Sept. 21 another transaction was attempted using Morphis’ ATM card for more than $4,000 to Aryan Enterprises, charging documents stated.
During this second attempt, the bank told deputies the actual debit card had been inserted into a card reader attached to a cell phone associated with the company’s PayPal account.
The contractor who found Morphis reported his vehicle was missing, charging documents stated.
Just before 5 a.m. Sept. 21, his vehicle was located in a parking lot in University Place. The vehicle, according to charging documents, was completely burnt and the interior was destroyed.
On Sept. 21, deputies made contact with Lorena Shaw at their home in Tacoma. Jeremy Shaw was not home at the time but spoke with deputies on the phone.
According to the charging documents, he told deputies he had been at Morphis’ home a few days earlier giving an estimate for a potential job.
On Sept. 26 during a search of the home, deputies found Morphis’ bank card and driver’s license. Both had been shredded, the documents stated. Other items including some of Morphis’ Star Trek-related collectibles were located at the Shaws home.
Deputies also reported items including notes and printouts showing research had been conducted on several properties in rural King County, including Morphis’. Each property shared similarities — there were large parcels of land not visible from the street, all appeared to be occupied by a single resident and all appeared to be free of any mortgage or lien, the documents stated.
Research documents were also located on how to acquire a title through adverse possession. A warranty deed dated Sept. 6, 2018 transferring the title of the property from Morphis to the Shaws was also located.
Both Jeremy and Lorena Shaw were taken to the Tacoma Police Department to be interviewed.
During her interview, Lorena Shaw told deputies she suspected her husband had been abusing drugs lately and that the two were looking for a new place to live, the documents stated.
She continued, stating that her husband was out looking for new homes. About a month ago, Lorena Shaw said he first mentioned Morphis’ residence to her.
While he was telling her about the property, he said he had found out Morphis’ property was not visible from the street or other houses nearby and that he lived alone.
She also told deputies, her husband was “experienced in fraudulent efforts to gain ownership of other people’s property,” the documents stated. She said he even talked with her about how to acquire a property through adverse possession and selected Morphis’ property as the most attractive option.
He would even take her on “scouting” drives past the residence, documents continued.
The charging documents stated on Sept. 19, Jeremy Shaw had texted his wife that he was coming to pick her up because he had gotten a new house.
The Shaws arrived at his home in unincorporated King County and when they did, Jeremy Shaw told his wife that he had knocked on the door earlier and when Morphis opened it, he pepper sprayed him and hit him over the head.
The documents also stated, he told her not to go into the garage because “she didn’t want to see what was in there.”
She told deputies at this point, she assumed Morphis had been killed and that his body was in the garage.
Lorena Shaw told deputies she rifled through some paperwork and property at Morphis’ home but said she did not take anything, the documents stated.
The documents also stated the two assessed the property for its suitability as their future residence.
Around 1 a.m. Sept. 20, Lorena told deputies she left Morphis’ home in her vehicle. She also reported that at the time she left, there was no hole dug outside in the yard.
She told deputies around 6:30 a.m. Jeremy Shaw returned home in Morphis’ vehicle.
The documents added, he attempted to return his vehicle to the residence late Sept. 20 but when he arrived, he noticed a significant police presence.
The wife told deputies that early morning Sept. 21, Jeremy Shaw told her they needed to get rid of the vehicle. He asked her to follow him as he drove Morphis’ vehicle around the Tacoma and University Place area.
Eventually they stopped at a 7-Eleven where he told her to wait, the documents stated. He drove off in Morphis’ vehicle and then returned five minutes later on foot.
Charging documents stated, deputies were unable to locate his phone. When they checked his cell records, it was determined the phone left his home around 5:40 a.m. Sept. 20 and arrived at the Shaws around the time Jeremy Shaw got home.
The cell records then showed Morphis’ phone near his residence around 7:50 p.m. — roughly 40 minutes after 911 was notified a body had been found. The phone then registered heading back to Tacoma around 9:15 p.m. where it no longer registered past midnight, the documents stated.
During Jeremy Shaw’s interview with deputies, charging documents stated, he made a variety of different claims — he reportedly told deputies he was hired by Morphis to do work around the property, that he was there scouting the property for a place to live and that he and another male had come to the home for a home invasion robbery and that’s when the other male attacked Morphis.
He also reportedly told deputies he was at Morphis’ residence providing a bid. He then said he returned to the home but found it unsecured with the door open, charging documents stated.
He continued, stating that Morphis was nowhere to be found so he entered and took the opportunity to steal a few items. He also admitted to taking Morphis’ vehicle.
Jeremy Shaw denied causing any injury or death to Morphis, the charging documents stated.
Jeremy Shaw has an extensive criminal history and is currently facing seven pending charges out of Pierce County, documents stated. He has also been arrested on a fugitive warrant out of Kansas.
In 2012, Jeremy Shaw pled guilty to a first degree burglary charge out of Pierce County and was sentenced to 87 months which was terminated in January 2018.
Charging documents also stated he has 15 other convictions dating back to 2001.
During the search of the Shaws home, three handguns, two rifles and a number of different calibers of ammunition were found.
Aside from the weapons found at their Tacoma home, charging documents stated, they had the equipment to manufacture false identification cards as well as fake credit/debit cards.