Crime

‘She wouldn’t have dated a killer,’ says best friend of Kelei Morris

Kelei Morris would have never dated Steven Mason, a nurse, if she had known he was a killer, Morris’ longtime best friend said.

Mason was arrested on a murder charge Monday in the 2015 killing of killing of Morris, who grew up in Biloxi.

Morris, 23, was a respiratory therapist at Mobile Infirmary Medical Center. She was found shot in the head outside Arlington Park Apartments in Mobile on Feb. 2, 2015. She died two days later.

Mason, 33, has been working as a nurse in Jackson County.

This is his second murder charge in nearly 15 years.

In June 2002, Mason fatally shot his 17-year-old girlfriend, Mesha Anglin, in the head as he stood outside her bedroom window.

Mason was 18 when he killed Anglin. A Mobile County circuit judge granted him juvenile-offender status on a murder conviction in 2003 and sentenced him to three years in prison, the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Tuesday.

Mason is held with no bond at the Mobile County Metro Jail.

“Kelei dated him just a few months, if that long,” said close friend Naquel Bennett, also from Biloxi. “She didn’t want the relationship to go any further. She wouldn’t have dated a killer.”

Background check

Mason had been working as a nurse for about a year with the Singing River Health System, SRHS spokeswoman Georgia Storey said.

He had “passed a comprehensive criminal background check required of all new employees prior to being hired,” she said. “Given the nature of these charges, he has been placed on administrative leave and will not be working on our premises pending the outcome of this case.”

It’s likely Mason’s 2003 conviction did not show up on a background check because he was deemed a juvenile offender.

‘Wanted to make a difference’

Morris and Bennett became close friends when they were pre-teens. Bennett stayed by Morris’ bedside when she was shot.

“She had a strong faith in God and a heart for people,” Bennett said. “She was smart, funny, genuine and she was one of those people you wanted to be around.

“Kelei wanted to make a difference. I think she could have had an impact on more people’s lives.”

Morris was an only child, the daughter of Kent and Waion Morris.

“Kelei was classy in every sense of the word,” said Monique Pietrowski, Bennett’s mother. “She put God first and she was always kind. I never even saw her get angry.”

Morris was born in New Orleans and grew up in Biloxi. She attended Nativity B.V.M. Elementary School and Mercy Cross High School, and graduated from St. Patrick High School in 2009.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in cardio-respiratory science in 2013 from the University of South Alabama in Mobile, where she was a member of the Catholic Student Association.

Arrest after indictment

Mason’s arrest in Morris’ slaying came after a Mobile County grand jury indicted him on a murder charge. The DA’s Office announced the indictment in a news conference Tuesday, according to live coverage from Fox 10.

“It was an indictment of two years of a long, dedicated investigation by the Mobile Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office jointly,” ADA Jennifer Wright said. “This is one step closer for Kelei Morris’ family receiving justice for what happened to her.

“As outlets have reported, she was a totally innocent victim and it was important for everyone to make sure this case was solved.”

Justin Mitchell, Sun Herald social media editor, contributed to this report.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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