Judge Sentences Man to Over 106 Years in Prison for 2020 Domestic Strangulation, 2022 Murder of His Girlfriend, and 2022 Attempted Shooting of a Good Samaritan
Corrections: Judge Lindsey presided over both sentencing hearings, Mr. Morton's sentences will run consecutively, and Mr. Morton was convicted by Judge Lindsey of Ms. Covington's murder at the conclusion of a bench trial.
NORFOLK, Va. — Today, Gary Morton was sentenced to an active term of 106 years and 10 months in prison in two sentencings in Norfolk Circuit Court, the first for the strangulation of a woman in 2020 and the second for the abduction and murder of his girlfriend in 2022.
On July 25, 2023, a Norfolk jury convicted Mr. Morton of strangulation, abduction, intentionally damaging property, and assault and battery, after Mr. Morton attacked a woman inside her downtown apartment on Sept. 26, 2020. On Oct. 12, 2023, a Norfolk Circuit Court judge convicted Mr. Morton of the first-degree murder of 40-year-old Marie Darshaun Covington, the concealment of Ms. Covington's body, Ms. Covington's abduction leading up to her murder, the attempted malicious wounding of a man shortly after Ms. Covington's abduction, and associated firearm charges from a series of events last summer that culminated in Ms. Covington's body being found in a trash bin.
This morning, Judge Joseph C. Lindsey sentenced Mr. Morton for the 2020 incident to serve an active sentence of eight years and 10 months in prison, plus additional suspended sentences. That sentence was at the midpoint of Mr. Morton's advisory sentencing guidelines for that case. Later this morning Judge Lindsey also sentenced Mr. Morton to an active term in prison of 98 years for the abduction and murder of Ms. Covington and the attempted malicious wounding of the good Samaritan. That sentence was 24 years above the high end of Mr. Morton's advisory sentencing guidelines.
The two sentences will run consecutively, meaning that Mr. Morton was sentenced to a total active term of 106 years and 10 months.
"Gary Morton committed serious crimes that called for a serious sanction, and that is why he will now serve a sentence of over 106 years," said Commonwealth's Attorney Ramin Fatehi. "My heart goes out to Mr. Morton's victims—living and dead—and my appreciation goes out to the witnesses and surviving victims for their testimony and to the Norfolk Police for their work in helping us hold Mr. Morton accountable. I will keep the victims and their families in my thoughts as they continue on their journey of healing from Mr. Morton's crimes."
Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Gordon C. Ufkes and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorneys A. Robinson Winn and Anthony J. Balady prosecuted Mr. Morton's cases on behalf of the Commonwealth, and Norfolk Police Detective Kyle D. Austin served as the lead investigator. The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office would like to thank Virginia State Police Trooper T.R. Mills, the Virginia Beach Police Department, and all other law enforcement officials who contributed to the investigation of Ms. Covington's disappearance and death as well as Mr. Morton's arrest.
If you have or someone you love has fallen victim to crime, including but not limited to domestic violence, resources are available at the Norfolk Family Justice Center. For more information, please visit norfolkfj c.org, call 757-330-0376 or stop by the NFJC inside the Park Place Multi-Services Center at 606 W. 29th St., between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. If you are in crisis, call the 24/7 hotline by dialing 757-251-0144. In an emergency, please call 911.
Judge Convicts Man of Girlfriend’s First-Degree Murder, Hiding Her Body in Trash Can, and Shooting at Norfolk Man in 2022
NORFOLK, Va. – Today, a Norfolk Circuit Court judge convicted 44-year-old Gary Morton of the first-degree murder of 40-year-old Marie Darshaun Covington, the concealment of Ms. Covington’s body, Ms. Covington’s abduction leading up to her murder, the attempted malicious wounding of a man shortly after Ms. Covington’s abduction, and associated firearm charges from a series of events last summer that culminated in Ms. Covington’s body being found in a trash bin.
Ms. Covington was in an abusive, off-and-on romantic relationship with Mr. Morton. The night of Aug. 17, 2022, Mr. Morton had a heated exchange with Ms. Covington and her family members outside of Ms. Covington’s home in Virginia Beach. Mr. Morton left the home and got in the driver’s seat of Ms. Covington’s white Ford Escape, and Ms. Covington joined him in the passenger seat to calm him. At some point, Ms. Covington tried to exit the vehicle, and Mr. Morton sped off without giving her a chance to get out of the car.
Shortly thereafter, in the 3700 block of Larkin Street in Norfolk, Mr. Morton was seen urinating in the middle of the street by a man who was trying to drive past. When the man honked his horn for Mr. Morton to clear the way, Mr. Morton pulled out a handgun and fired several times at the man’s vehicle. One round struck the man’s windshield on the driver’s side, missing him, but the man sustained minor injuries from the glass shattering upon impact. The man sped off and called Norfolk Police to report the shooting, but he was not able to identify Mr. Morton by name. The man also indicated that the shooter had been standing near a white Ford Escape that was occupied by a female but that the female did not appear to be moving.
Ms. Covington was reported missing by her family members the following evening when she did not return home. Mr. Morton fled to Pittsburgh following the Larkin Street shooting but returned to Norfolk days later.
On the night of Aug. 20, 2022, a Virginia State Police trooper traveling westbound on Interstate 64 in Norfolk noticed a white Ford Escape driving erratically and initiated a traffic stop. After initially pulling over into a shoulder lane, the driver took off at a high rate of speed and led the state trooper and numerous Norfolk Police patrol officers on a pursuit off the interstate and through several residential areas off Chesapeake Boulevard. After eluding the officers for more than 20 minutes, the driver abandoned the Escape and fled on foot but was apprehended within minutes by the state trooper. The driver identified himself as Gary Morton, and the vehicle was registered to Ms. Covington, for whom a missing person investigation was still underway.
While being questioned by Norfolk Police investigators following the pursuit, Mr. Morton confessed to having shot and killed Ms. Covington, to hiding her body in a trash can in the Huntersville area, and to eluding the officers because he was scared to be caught.
Investigators found Ms. Covington’s body, along with used cleaning supplies and a car seat cover, in an outdoor household trash bin the following night. It is unclear when — between her abduction and Mr. Morton fleeing to Pittsburgh — Ms. Covington died. The medical examiner ruled Ms. Covington’s cause of death as a gunshot wound to her left temple.
Following Mr. Morton’s arrest and the publication of his photo on local news, the victim from the Larkin Street shooting contacted investigators and identified Mr. Morton as the man who shot at him.
On Tuesday, before the two-day-long bench trial began, Mr. Morton pleaded guilty to concealing a dead body. On Thursday, following the trial, Judge Joseph C. Lindsey found Mr. Morton guilty of abduction, first-degree murder, the use of a firearm in the commission of murder, attempted malicious wounding, the use of a firearm in the commission of attempted malicious wounding, and shooting into an occupied vehicle.
Mr. Morton is docketed for sentencing before Judge Lindsey on Dec. 15.
“I grieve for Ms. Covington and her family. Their loss is a heavy one,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi. “To the man at whom Mr. Morton shot, thank you for being a good Samaritan and for coming to court. We would not have been able to do this case without you. To the Norfolk Police and other law-enforcement agencies, thank you for your untiring work to secure justice for Ms. Covington. All people deserve to be safe from domestic violence, and we will seek a sentence that will hold Mr. Morton appropriately responsible for this terrible crime.”
Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordon C. Ufkes and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney A. Robinson Winn are prosecuting Mr. Morton’s case on behalf of the Commonwealth, and Norfolk Police Detective Kyle D. Austin served as the lead investigator. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office would like to thank Virginia State Police Trooper T.R. Mills, the Virginia Beach Police Department, and all other law enforcement officials who contributed to the investigation of Ms. Covington’s disappearance and death as well as Mr. Morton’s arrest.
If you have or someone you love has fallen victim to crime, including but not limited to domestic violence, resources are available at the Norfolk Family Justice Center. For more information, please visit norfolkfjc.org, call 757-330-0376 or stop by the NFJC inside the Park Place Multi-Services Center at 606 W. 29th St., between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. If you are in crisis, call the 24/7 hotline by dialing 757-251-0144. In an emergency, please call 911.