Charges issued in slaying of 2 Highland Township victims found dead near pond

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Clarkston — Two men were charged Wednesday in connection with last weekend’s double homicide involving two teenagers which police believe was part of an armed robbery.

Jesse James Wright, 18, of White Lake Township, and Steven D. Morrow, 18, of Highland Township are each charged with homicide — open murder, armed robbery and firearms offenses in the deaths of Drake Mancuso, 16, and Cameron Duckworth, 20, both of Highland Township.

Clarkston 52-2nd District Judge Joseph Fabrizio denied bond for both men and ordered them held in the Oakland County Jail pending a probable cause conference and a preliminary examination next month.

Steven Morrow

If convicted of the homicide charges, the pair face mandatory life in prison without parole and up to life in prison on the lesser felony offenses.

Attorneys for both told Fabrizio neither of their clients had criminal records and they should be considered for personal recognizance bonds or a high bond with house arrest or GPS tethers.

“No condition or combination of conditions could guarantee the safety of the public or their return to court,” said Fabrizio in explaining his decision to deny bond.

Jesse Wright

Detectives told Fabrizio the shootings took place after the four met Friday night and smoked marijuana.

After the arraignment, Morrow's court-appointed attorney, Douglas Hampton, would not comment on the case, explaining Morrow’s family planned to hire another attorney. Wright’s attorney, Tim Flynn, declined to discuss his client or the case.

Shortly before 9 a.m. on Saturday, White Lake Township police responded to a report of an unresponsive person near a pond in the Cedarbrook Estates Mobile Home Park in White Lake Township. Police found Mancuso and Duckworth with multiple gunshot wounds lying near the pond.

In a statement Wednesday, police said their investigation has determined that on Friday, Morrow and Wright devised a plan to rob Mancuso and Duckworth. They all drove to Cedarbrook and agreed to go to a wooded area of the park, next to a pond, about 200 feet North of La Belle Drive, police said.

“While in the wooded area, Morrow drew a pistol from his person and fatally shot Cameron Duckworth and Drake Mancuso,” the statement read. “Morrow then got back into the vehicle driven by Wright and fled the scene to dispose of evidence.”

Investigators said the suspects took cash, a backpack and watches from the victims.

Outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Duckworth’s mother tearfully told reporters she believed marijuana led to her son’s death. The victims and those charged in their deaths were acquaintances and decided to “hang out,” Emily Duckworth said. She said neither her son nor Mancuso drove.

Cameron Duckworth

“They set up a meeting (on social media)…” she said, her voice breaking. “… Look at how many things happen ... are due to drugs. It’s leading to them (teenagers) being killed.”

Duckworth said she did not know what prompted the shooting but said she has seen videos of one of the suspects waving a handgun around.

“I don’t know, maybe it was a power thing,” she said.

Police would not elaborate on what specifically led to the killings, other than armed robbery or larceny.

Drake Mancuso

“All I know is I love him (Cameron) and I’m going to miss him,” Duckworth said.

Morrow and Wright also face four counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony in addition to armed robbery and murder charges.

Fabrizio set a probable cause conference for 3:35 p.m. on June 7 and a preliminary examination for 2:10 p.m. on June 14.

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