Clergyman Surrenders in Stabbing

By Dan Morrison
July 3, 1996

The Rev. Thomas Morrow, the psychologist wanted in the stabbing of a man in his Rego Park living room, surrendered to police Monday evening and is expected to be charged with attempted murder, law enforcement officials said.

But Morrow's lawyers said the 51-year-old priest stabbed John Vasquez, 25, in self-defense after Vasquez and another man refused to leave Morrow's Rego Park home Friday night.

"It was completely in self-defense," said Michael Prieto, the Manhattan lawyer who accompained Morrow when he turned himself in at the 112th Precinct station house Monday night. "He claims that they pulled a knife on him.

"He brought two people into his house and they wouldn't leave," Prieto said. "He's like 51 years old, and these were two guys in their 20s. It's outrageous to charge him with attempted murder."

Morrow, a state-licensed psychologist, has been on a leave of absence since 1987 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which covers Brooklyn and Queens.

He was arrested June 12 for allegedly taking pictures of a nude teenage boy who was showering in his home. He was charged with three misdemeanor counts in that case and released without bail.

Police and law-enforcement sources tell a difference story of how Vasquez came to be found in Morrow's first-floor living room bleeding from a stab wound. Sources said Morrow picked up Vasquez and another man, Jimmy Johnson, that night and invited them to his house on 65th Avenue for drugs and sex.

Morrow and Vasquez smoked crack together while Johnson drank alcohol, the sources said. At one point, sources said, Morrow went upstairs and called for Johnson to join him.

In the priest's bedroom, Morrow showed Johnson a wad of $20 bills and also brandished a large hunting knife, according to sources. The two returned downstairs and Morrow began threatening Vasquez and Johnson, the sources said. When they tried to make a run for it, Morrow allegedly stabbed Vasquez once in the upper torso, and then sped off in his car, the sources said. Vasquez was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was in stable condition yesterday, police said.

He awaited arraignment last night on charges of attempted murder, assault and the attempted assault of Johnson, as well as drug charges.


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