Throughout the 1970s, Arizona had become the go-to place to funnel drugs and to launder ill-gotten funds. This was largely due to lax state laws which allowed individuals to purchase land through anonymous trust accounts, unwittingly making Arizona the perfect state to hide large sums of money without anyone being the wiser. Once word of this loophole got around, the area became a haven for crime syndicates to set up shop. By 1977, over 500 racketeers were calling Arizona home and caught in the middle of it all were the escrow agents.
Charles “Chuck” Morgan had been one such escrow agent. Chuck had once alluded to his wife that he had sold land escrows to a certain mafia crime family and was also believed to have helped facilitate the transfer of funds from cash into gold and platinum bullion, but Chuck had refused to go into specifics. According to Ruth Morgan, Chuck’s wife, Chuck told her that the less her and their girls knew about the deals, the better.
Ruth thought little else of the conversation until March 22, 1977. Chuck had left for work that morning as usual and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary until Chuck failed to return home that night. During the time of Chuck’s disappearance, Arizona had begun to crack down on many of the area crime bosses who had been utilizing escrow services like Chuck’s to hide their money. Chuck was alleged to have been a key witness in a state land fraud case prosecutors had been building against the head of Mafia crime family.
Miraculously, Chuck reappeared three days later. Stumbling into the front door, Chuck had been unable to speak. Ruth encouraged Chuck to write down what he had been attempting to communicate with her. According to Ruth, Chuck wrote that he had been kidnapped and his throat had been coated with some form of a hallucinogenic drug. Chuck continued to write that this drug could possibly render him clinically insane or shut down his central nervous system entirely. Alarmed by Chuck’s story, Ruth insisted that they call and report the kidnapping to the police or at least call him a doctor. Chuck was adamant that no one else could know of his ordeal and that doing so would put a price on everyone in the family’s head.
It would be a week before Chuck’s voice would return. Once again able to speak, Chuck told Ruth that his kidnappers had taken his treasury identification. Chuck explained that he had been working with the federal government for two or three years as a covert agent assigned to assist in the prosecution of the many organized crime rings that had set up shop in Arizona. Chuck may have narrowly escaped with his life this time, but he knew his days were numbered.
After Chuck’s recovery, he began sporting a bulletproof vest at all times and insisted that no one else could drive his girls to and from school each morning. In spite of Chuck’s caution, in May of 1977, he vanished once again. Ruth held out hope that Chuck would come springing through the door, just as he had the last time he disappeared. Nine days had passed when suddenly the phone rang. Ruth picked up the phone and on the other end she heard a female voice. The caller said, “Chuck is all right. Ecclesiastics 12, 1 through 8.” before hanging up the phone.
The passage reads:
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” — before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are enclosed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper dags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him — before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!”
Unsure of what sort of code might be hidden in the message, Ruth could only pray that her husband would once again return home safely. Two days after the mysterious phone call Chuck’s body was found in the desert. He died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head. Police determined it was a suicide but Ruth refused to believe that explanation.
Ruth told Unsolved Mysteries, “There is no way Chuck would’ve committed suicide, and if he had even contemplated suicide, he would’ve left a letter for his girls and for me.” At the site where Chuck’s body was recovered investigators found a map to Chuck’s body drawn by Chuck, himself, as well as a pair of sunglasses that did not belong to him.
A $2 bill was also found pinned inside of Chuck’s underwear. On it appeared to be some perplexing code. The names Acevedo, Bejarano, Caiero, Duarte, Encinas, Fuenteh, and Gradillas were written on it. Above the names, “Ecclesiastes 12” had been written, with the eight verses indicated by arrows marked on the bill’s serial number. The back of the bill had the signers of the Declaration of Independence numbered one through seven and it appeared that there had been a map drawn leading from Tuscon to Mexico, possibly indicating a drug smuggling route.
Two days after Chuck’s presumed suicide, a woman calling herself “Green Eyes” called the local sheriff’s department and reported that she had some information into Chuck’s death. According to the woman, it was she who had been the mysterious caller who phoned Ruth shortly after Chuck’s disappearance. She told investigators that she had met with Chuck at a hotel on the night he disappeared. He had been carrying a large briefcase full of money. Green Eyes said Chuck believed that the money would be enough to buy him out of a paid mob hit that had been placed on him.
Some believe that when Chuck when to meet with the hitman he handed him the money and expected to walk away. Instead, the hitman took the money and killed Chuck anyway.
After Chuck’s death, Ruth says several individuals claiming to be from the FBI showed up at her home and appeared to be looking for something. What the FBI had been doing there or if the people who came to Ruth’s home had even been employed by the FBI remains a mystery. Some believe that if Chuck really had been working with the federal government then the message written on the $2 may have been a coded message to pass along to other agents. Chuck’s death remains unsolved but has since been tied to two other mysterious cases.
Don Devereux had been a Phoenix reporter who took an interest in Chuck’s mysterious death and is currently one of the foremost experts on this case. In 1990, Doug Johnston, an employee of a computer graphics company, was found shot to death in the parking lot across the street from Devereux’s building. At the time of his death, Johnston drove a similar make and model to the car Devereux drove and it is believed that Johnston may have been mistaken for Deveraux. An area medical examiner could not determine for certain whether Johnston’s death had been a suicide or a homicide and the case remains unsolved.
Danny Casolaro was an investigative reporter living in Martinsburg, West Virginia at the time of his death. In 1991, Casolaro was found in a hotel bathtub with both of his wrists slit. Investigators believe that he had committed suicide, while others aren’t so sure.
Casolaro had been investigating a clandestine government organization known as “The Octopus.” Some believe that Casolaro had stumbled upon information about security software that the government had been tampering with in order to spy on other nations and that on the cusp of this breaking story Casolaro had died under mysterious circumstances. Casolaro had also been in touch with Devereux prior to his death, but before Devereux had a chance to mail Casolaro some of his research he was found dead.
Had Chuck Morgan gotten himself involved with a rogue government agency? Had the mob taken a hit out on the prosecutor’s star witness who would send an organized crime ring to a grinding halt? Sadly, we may never know for certain.