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Dispatch: 'I felt in my gut that there was something wrong... I can't explain it'

August 21, 2009 | 10:41 am
The area at Venice Beach where Nathan Morgan was found beaten and half buried in the sand in March 2008. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times.
Nathan Alan Morgan, a 25-year-old white man, was found beaten to death and buried under a mound of sand shortly before 8 a.m. on March 10, 2008. Morgan’s battered body was discovered by a Parks and Recreation employee in an area of Venice Beach known as the drum circle.  Paramedics called to the scene pronounced him dead.
 
More than a year after his killing, the circumstances surrounding his death remain hazy.

Morgan's body was discovered just hours after he had been treated in Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center's emergency room for an injury to his left elbow. Coroner’s records show that he told hospital officials he had hurt himself while “doing gymnastics drunk.”

Nathan Morgan, who was found beaten to death March 10, 2008 in Venice. Credit: Family photo After his death, Morgan's parents learned he had traveled to Los Angeles from Portland, Ore., arriving in Southern California a few days before he was beaten to death.

His parents, who still live in the small farming town of Wauseon, Ohio, where their son grew up, said they raised him as a Christian. When Morgan was younger he would go to jails to speak to inmates about his faith and what it had done for him, said Richard Morgan, 49.

The Morgans said their son had worked a series of odd jobs since graduating from high school. He moved to Indiana, where he had a job making fiberglass swimming pools, he also worked in a steel mill and once had a job manufacturing car parts. At times he lived with his twin sister.

For several years, Nathan Morgan had worked as a telemarketer, traveling from Toledo, Ohio, to Atlantic City, then to Portland. His most recent job was selling magazine subscriptions.
 
"He moved around a lot," said his mother, Susan. "He wanted to see the world, he was always a free spirit."

Every time he would visit a new place he would save a rock to give to his grandmother, a collection that she treasured deeply.
 
By his late teens, however, his parents said Morgan had developed a drug and alcohol addiction. They acknowledge that his substance abuse could have played a part in his death.

“Nathan did have a drug and alcohol problem; it was an up and down battle for him,” his father said.  “When he was clean and sober he was a great kid. Sometimes people can’t get out from underneath it, and they relapse. If he could have gotten control of that he could be alive.”
Photo of Nathan Morgan, left, sitting with an unidentified man in a limousine. Credit: Courtesy of Richard and Susan Morgan.

Richard said he believed his son could overcome his problems because he too had struggled with addiction at the same age. Faith, he said, helped him turn his life around.

Location near where Morgan's body was found on the beach. Click to learn about the demographics of this area The Morgans said they did not know what brought their son to Venice Beach. In the period leading up to his death, they had communicated with their only son largely through text messages, Facebook and MySpace.

After he was killed, his parents learned that Morgan had stopped in Las Vegas to pick up Robert Northington, a friend from Toledo, Ohio, before continuing on to California. Morgan and Northington shared a hotel room for at least several days before Morgan's body was found in the sand, they said.

Richard Morgan said he did not know whether Northington had information about his son's killing. In June, Northington was struck and killed by a train in Toledo in what local law enforcement officials described as a suicide. [Richard Morgan said he had been told that Northington had been battling cancer at the time of his death.]
Morgan's parents had not seen him since September of 2007. A few weeks before he was killed, his mother had received a text saying he would be in touch. She never heard from him again.
 
“That weekend I felt in my gut that there was something wrong….I can’t explain it,” she said. “It was a couple days later that we found out he had died.”
 
Autopsy records indicate Morgan was severely beaten in the neck, chest and legs. His eyes and upper lip were swollen, and his nose and throat had been packed with sand. He was beaten near the boardwalk, then dragged to the area where he was found and covered with sand, according to the report.
 
According to toxicology results, Morgan's blood-alcohol level was 0.27%  at the time of his death. He also had marijuana in his system. Records also show that he was wanted in Ohio and had arrest records for theft and drug possession.
 
LAPD Det. Luis Carranza said he is still investigating the homicide and could not discuss details of the case. 
 
"My only hope is that one day we can bring closure to this case and find out what happened," he said.
 
In January, Richard and Susan Morgan came to Los Angeles to try to learn more about their son's death.

"We didn't fly out to L.A. right away," Richard Morgan said. "It was a very healing process. If I had known before then how it would make me feel I would have done it sooner."
 
They looked at the place where their son was killed, spoke to the detectives on his case and wandered the boardwalk, asking people if they remembered Nathan and if they knew what had happened to him.
 
"When I went there I knew I was walking in the place my son spent the last hours of his life," Susan Morgan said. “I was hoping someone would remember him... We didn't find that person, but it was healing walking where he walked."

Richard and Susan Morgan have created a website commemorating their son at www.nathan-alan-morgan.com, where they have posted photos recovered from a disposable camera taken in the time leading up to their son's death. They have asked anyone with information about their son's killing to contact them through their website or to call LAPD Pacific Division homicide detectives at (310) 482-6316.

-- Anthony Pesce in Venice

Photos: The area at Venice Beach where Nathan Morgan was found beaten and half buried in the sand in March 2008. Credit: Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times.

Nathan Alan Morgan, a 25-year-old white man who was beaten to death at Venice Beach in March 2008. Credit: Family Photo

Nathan Morgan sitting with an unidentified man in a limousine, one of numerous pictures recovered from a disposable camera found by detectives. The photo, and others, has been placed at www.nathan-alan-morgan.com by his parents. Credit: Courtesy of Richard and Susan Morgan.
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