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Jury convicts Melissa Morgan of murder and arson in fatal fire that killed Zachary Hayes

Melissa Morgan leaving courtroom by Jorge Rodas.jpg
After several days of deliberation, a jury convicted Melissa Morgan of murder and arson in a fatal fire that killed Zachary Hayes. She left the courtroom Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (WWMT/Jorge Rodas)

Jurors in the Melissa Morgan murder trial convicted her on both murder and first-degree arson Thursday after deliberating over several days.

Morgan faces up to life in prison at sentencing, which was scheduled for March 16.

Morgan, 33, was tried for arson and the murder of Zachary Hayes, 31, after Hayes was killed in a house fire Feb. 3, 2019.


"The verdict was very disappointing and yes, Ms. Morgan will definitely appeal. I believe that there were several errors made in the introduction of evidence by the prosecution that will warrant a reversal of the verdict and a new trial." — Eusebio Solis, Morgan's attorney


"Thank God. I was completely shocked," said Sarah Hayes, the victim's sister. "We kind of prepared ourselves for the worst case scenario, which would have been just her being released and going back out her regular daily life."

"To me, I found that unacceptable. I think the rest of my family did, too," she said. "We are really glad she's been held accountable."

Eusebio Solis, Morgan's attorney, alleged that Hayes had raped his client on the night of the killing and that Morgan was the victim. Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Detective John Stolsonsburg testified he didn't believe Morgan's story.

The prosecution's top witness in the trial was Justin Flegel, who testified that he was at Hayes’ home the night of the fire.

Solis argued Flegel is the one who set the fire to Hayes's house.

After the verdict, Solis said: "The verdict was very disappointing and yes, Ms. Morgan will definitely appeal. I believe that there were several errors made in the introduction of evidence by the prosecution that will warrant a reversal of the verdict and a new trial."

Morgan's trial lasted three weeks. Jurors began deliberating Feb. 5, 2020.

"I was kind of expected, and I'm glad they did take a long time because it's a hard decision," Sarah Hayes said.

Sarah Hayes said now her family can focus on healing.

"It's been hard," she said. "He had a lot of little nieces and nephews that loved him."

"I feel like if anything he would have just wanted to continue living and remember him in good ways and not let the end of his life be just kind of a stopping point to our lives," she said.


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