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Friday, February 10, 2006

How could this happen to my family?

Jane Morris tells of her husband’s illness
The Narrowsburg River Reporter

Jane and William “Chris” Morris moved to Narrowsburg several years ago from Titusville, NJ. In what now seems like another life, Chris worked as an executive vice president of a banking investment firm. Six years ago, he was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

“It was central nervous system Lyme disease,” said Jane, and it affected both his brain and his immune system. “He became so sick, he could not put a sentence together. He could not walk down the road.”

Chris began an aggressive treatment of antibiotics, but as a result of the disease, “he lost his job and he lost his health.” The couple began to go through their savings as well. “At that time,” said Jane, “we wondered creatively what we could do together, to rebuild our lives.”

The couple sold their home in New Jersey and purchased what became the Riverlights Bed and Breakfast and Yoga Studio on Route 97.

They spent two years refurbishing the house and creating a yoga studio for Jane, who has over 30 years of training in Kripalu yoga and was a staff yoga therapist at Princeton Medical Center.

Chris began exhibiting erratic behavior two years ago, said Jane.

“Over that time, I noticed a shift in his personality,” she said. “I began to notice a pattern.” Chris would go from being “depressed, losing weight, having very high fevers and staying in bed” to entering a manic phase “when he wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t sleep, he spent money. And he’d have more energy than I do. One day he can’t rise from bed, and the next, he’s full of energy; all the fevers and illnesses are gone.”

Jane began to seek help for her husband. She received differing opinions as to whether his symptoms could be the lingering effects of Lyme disease. Some doctors said he was exhibiting late-stage Lyme disease syndrome. Others disagreed, saying anyone who had been taking the rigorous antibiotics used to treat Lyme could not possibly still have the bacteria in his body. Chris had taken the antibiotics for five years, said Jane.

The first police encounter

In May of last year, Jane called 911 because Chris had climbed into bed with a loaded shotgun. As a result, he was charged with a misdemeanor and jailed for 10 days. His guns (a pistol and two shotguns) were confiscated. Some time after that incident, he spent 20 days in Bon Secours Hospital in Port Jervis, where he was diagnosed as bi-polar and given medication.

“At that time,” said Jane, “he was also withdrawing from a valium addiction” that was a result of another diagnosis Chris received from a psychiatrist with whom he had been treated for a long time.

“He was diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Jane. “That doctor prescribed valium for him,” and Chris developed an addiction to prescription drugs.

During this period, Jane continued to seek medical care for her husband. They began seeing doctors in Westchester Medical Center, and went for marital counseling. Concerned with his violent behavior and subsequent incarceration, Jane told the authorities, “My husband is sick. He needs medical care.” She wrote a letter to Family Court stating the same.

But the situation did not improve. “Chris was in denial” about his condition, said Jane. Eventually she took out a restraining order and Chris moved out the house.

In July, he moved back in. Things seemed to be settling down. “Why did I take him back?” said Jane. “He’s my husband. He had been very loving and loyal to me before he got sick. In those days, he was my rock.”

Jane began a new job two weeks ago as a physical education teacher at the Family Foundation School in Hancock. On the home front, she began noticing the signs. “He was late picking me up for work,” said Jane. “He was having seizures, and he would just zone out. He wouldn’t move. He wouldn’t answer me.”

The misdemeanor charges against Chris had been dropped and several days before the stand-off, said Jane, “the township returned his guns.”

Late on Thursday night, she said, “We were having an argument. Looking back, I can see I should not have argued. He was becoming very agitated.” Jane went to bed but later got up and fled the house, and called 911. She spent the night in the police barracks in Narrowsburg while her husband engaged in a 12-hour standoff with police.

Is it possible that Chris has bi-polar disorder or is having a negative reaction to medication?

His diagnosis is uncertain, but “the stress of losing everything, of all we have gone through, has certainly led up to this,” she said.

“We are trying to find out what’s wrong. It has not been an easy journey. We’ve just been plodding along, trying to cope.

“We have been married for 21 years. Most of it has been great. He is my husband, but I can’t go on living like this.

“He’s sick. He needs help. He needs hospital care,” she said.

Timeline to a standoff

2000: William “Chris” Morris was diagnosed with Lyme disease. The family says it has affected his central nervous system, immune system and brain.

2000-2004: Morris is treated with antibiotics, loses his position as an executive vice president of a banking investment firm.

May 2004: Morris and his wife of then 15 years, Jane, move from Titusville, NJ. They renovate and open Riverlights Bed and Breakfast and Yoga Studio on Route 97 in Narrowsburg.

May 5, 2005: Morris surrenders his pistol permit and guns to the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department, after law enforcement officers were called to the residence for a domestic dispute.

May 11, 2005: Jane finds Morris in bed with a rifle pointing toward him. Jane calls 911 and 911 dispatches a call for an armed, suicidal subject. Sheriff’s Corporal Paul Slavik and Deputy Keith Stephenson talk Morris into surrendering peacefully. Deputies find an antique rifle and a shotgun, both empty, and a loaded 7 mm Savage rifle.

Morris spends 20 days in Bon Secours Hospital in Port Jervis where he is diagnosed as bi-polar and given medication. He struggles with an addiction to Valium and is diagnosed by a psychiatrist with post-traumatic stress disorder.

May 22, 2005: Morris is involved in a single car crash on Route 97, from which he sustained injuries. There is speculation that it may have been a suicide attempt.

July 11, 2005: Sheriff’s department deputies are called to the residence for a domestic dispute, which is resolved, Detective Starner says.

February 2, 2006: According to Jane, the sheriff’s department returns Morris’ permit and firearms.

February 2, 2006: According to Dave Barnes, a Narrowsburg resident and friend of Morris, the couple get into a dispute about the return of Morris’ guns and permit.

February 3, 2006: Jane flees the home around 12:30 a.m. and calls 911. At 1:09 a.m. sheriff deputies respond. The standoff is resolved at 1:45 p.m.

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