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Pilot found dead along 5 Freeway in Burbank missed morning flight

Lee Clifford Morris found dead along 5 Freeway

The 55-year-old man found dead in Burbank along a 5 Freeway off-ramp Tuesday evening was a longtime Alaska Airlines pilot scheduled to fly back to Seattle that morning, the airline said Wednesday.

A passerby spotted the body along a fence at the Scott Road off-ramp about 6 p.m. Tuesday and called authorities, said Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn. Paramedics arrived and pronounced the man dead.

He was identified as Lee Clifford Morris of Richland, Wash., a Seattle-based pilot who worked for Horizon and Alaska Airlines for 26 years, said Paul McElroy, an Alaska Airlines spokesman.

Morris flew from Seattle to Burbank mid-morning Monday and checked into a hotel, where he was supposed to stay the night before flying back to Seattle Tuesday at 7 a.m., McElroy said. He did not show up for the flight, McElroy said, which is when Alaska officials contacted the hotel and local authorities.

McElroy described Morris as a "highly regarded and respected pilot" survived by family, including his fiancee and grandsons.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lee's fiancee and other loved ones," Gary Beck, Alaska Airlines vice president of flight operations, said in a statement. "He will be greatly missed by his fellow pilots and all employees at Alaska."

Detectives were waiting on coroner's officials to determine a cause of death, Ryburn said. There were no obvious signs of injury — no gunshot or stab wounds, and no evidence Morris had been struck by a car. His wallet and identification were also with him, indicating robbery was probably not a motive.

"We absolutely don't know," Ryburn said.

An autopsy would probably be completed by Thursday, he added.

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-- Kate Mather

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

Photo: American Airlines pilot Lee Morris with two of his grandsons. Credit: Alaska Airlines

 
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