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SYSTEM FAIL: The Unsolved Murder of Rickie Jolene Bowen Morgan

M. Dante

On July 16, 2016 in the Kensington Corridor of   Philadelphia Rickie Jolene Bowen Morgan (Rickie Morgan) was murdered after being lured to a back lot alley under false pretenses. Kensington is considered the dividing line between is the Lower Northeast section of Philadelphia and North Philadelphia. A neighborhood that,  despite aggressive gentrification and enforcement efforts, is known to be  plagued by opioids and a pharmacopoeia of street drugs.

Philadelphia Police Officers responded to the 2400 block of Jasper Street and found Rickie Morgan lying in the street. Rickie had been stabbed several times in her neck. Medical personnel arrived and pronounced Rickie deceased at the scene. Rickie Morgan, 35 year-old White female, resided on the 2900 block of Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia, PA.

Rickie Jolene Bowen-Morgan was named after her father and great uncle was born on October 08, 1980 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. A vibrant third tier city located in Western Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland County,   Latrobe is home to Rolling Rock beer, Mister Rogers and golf icon Arnold Palmer. Rickie’s parents Carol and Richard were ecstatic at the birth of their first child together. Richard previously had a son who had died due to complications from a premature birth. Rickie was a welcome addition to their struggling though loving family. Being their first daughter of two she was nicknamed “Baby-Angel” by her father.  “Baby-Angel” sent from heaven to give [him] hell!” Richard would joke. July 14, 2016 Rickie’s Mom Carol’s last words to her daughter as they concluded what would be their final phone call were: “I love you Baby-Angel” 

 According to the coroner's report Rickie was hit in the head with a brick, stabbed eight times; with  the slashes on her neck cutting the carotid artery and jugular vein. Despite the severity of her injuries Rickie managed to escape the lot, running naked from the Northwest corner of Cumberland Street and  Letterly Street, collapsing from blood loss before her death at 2468 Jasper Street. 

 At 11:22PM the responding EMT, Medic 31 of Battalion 8 (Kensington),  pronounced the 35 year old mother of two dead. News articles have speculated that she may have been raped. DNA evidence offered that she had unprotected sex shortly before the murder. Police records suggested that interaction was consensually transactional. Rickie had been working as a street based prostitute, and was struggling with addiction. 

Half naked photos of another raped and murdered woman found dead on the street within the confusion of  construction debris and trash were posted on Reddit with Rickie’s name attached to the gruesome crime scene image.  It is not clear how crime scene photos found their way from police custody to Reddit.  Rickie’s family struggled with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Victim Services Unit for months in to get them to order the post taken down to no avail.  The post was removed after extensive ugly public back and forth between the City, the family, and Reddit.

Rickie’s mom Carol desperately plead  through emails with the assigned homicide detectives in trying to find answers to her daughters murder. Assistant District Attorney for  Homicide Anthony Voci stated in direct conversation with Rickie’s mom that the City of Philadelphia  would not press charges against the suspected sport predator, Byron Shamor Allen, jr. (Byron Allen).  Voci said that since  Rickie was known  as a street based prostitute trading sex for drugs he  feared the case would lead to a mistrial. He further stated that the City of Philadelphia was unwilling to pay the high cost of the trial. Victim services did assist with the expense of the funeral, though it would take four months for that determination to be approved, and only  after the family covered the cost laying Rickie to rest  in the cold November morning. 

A year later, Rickie’s two children would be placed into foster care. Rickie’s younger sister took in the children for long as she could manage. Finally, due to the lack of  transitional guidance and trauma sensitive initiatives, the children were placed in the foster care system. Rickie’s life legacy is lost. Both of Rickie’s parents had looked forward to the day of enjoying  being grandparents.  Rickie’s father was lost to  suicide in 1996,   and Carol’s last hope for that family legacy now is to be able to contact Rickie’s daughter after she turns 18. Rickie’s son has suffered such behavioral challenges and traumas that his future fate is unclear.   

  April 19,  2016 through October 01, 2016 violence throughout the Kensington Corridor left chaos. There were  a total of six  known assaults, leaving  four survivors and two known dead. The surrounding communities still shrouded in fear from the 2010 Antonio Rodriguez case,  more than a half a dozen new attacks were eventually confirmed and suspected to be Byron Allen.

  As law enforcement, media and local nonprofits stepped up efforts to find potential supect/s, on September 22nd, 2016, 32 year old Natasha Gibson, was brutally slain. Gibson was the single mother of a then 11 year old daughter in Yeadon, Delaware County.  She was viciously attacked and murdered while she was approaching a friend's home at the close of a social evening out. Because she was  stabbed an approximate 22 times, police were able to follow a blood trail to a nearby convenience store.  After he was viewed on surveillance video with a  bloody hand  purchasing a beer, Byron Allen, was  identified as the only possible suspect for the attack on Gibson. Meanwhile, in Kensington, another attack on the first of October left an ominous sense of urgency to the fear of an area impacted by escalating violence. Connected by the shared fate of their daughters, Rickie’s mom and Natasha’s mom are in contact and support each other, both  hoping to see justice prevail. 

On  December 19,  2016 Byron Allen was picked up in Philadelphia County for a moving violation. DNA linked Byron Allen to the attacks, allowing for law enforcement to charge Byron Allen with the murder of Natasha Gibson; and also the violent series of assaults in the Kensington Corridor. On December 21, 2016 WHYY reported Byron Allen as the predator. However the cases would not close so cleanly and easily. Though forensic evidence clearly led to the Gibson murder, available evidence did not support the Philadelphia charges.

Most of the charges for the Kensington attacks have been dropped by the District Attorney’s office despite the best efforts of the detectives involved with the investigations. DNA evidence links Allen to at least one other attack in the area..  Three other cases have been rolled into one with a rape charge resulting in an assault conviction. 

For over a five year period, Bryon Allen has been  housed between Norristown State Hospital and prisons in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties. He appeared in court in Philadelphia September 2021 to stand trial for aggravated assault in only one of the handful of attacks. The  jury found Byron Allen guilty of only one count. According to sources, two of the other victims have since overdosed, leaving three attacks rolled into one. He was sentenced  to serve 9 to 18 years, though still has to stand trial for the murder of Natasha Gibson. 

 Currently as of September 2021, Allen is five years into his current sentence. According to a  records check on  September 29,  2021 he is housed within Delaware County (Del-Co) Prison awaiting potential transfer to Pennsylvania State Prison (PSP). He is expected to stand trial again in December in Delaware County for the murder of Natasha Gibson. Rickie’s murder still remains unsolved.