"Help, call Vernon police," she wrote in a text message sent Sunday at 11:50 p.m. "Jim just dragged me in our room put loaded gun to my head. Hurry please he would hear me on the phone. I talked him down." The friend, who requested anonymity, immediately called police.
Alice Morrin, 43, had filed for divorce from James Morrin, 45, on April 13 at Superior Court in Rockville. Morrin had worked for about three years as an assignment editor at Fox61 News and a week ago had begun a new job as executive assistant to Richard Graziano, publisher of The Courant and general manager of WTIC-TV and WTXX-TV.
What brought about Sunday night's violence remains unclear. The couple's two daughters, Erica, 15, and Shannon, 9, were home.
After the friend called police, another text message arrived. It was getting worse.
"I am back in bedroom. Erica in basement. Shannon front bedroom. He has large knife too, hurry. No joke he is going to kill me."
A moment later, she texted again. "Hurry please, are they coming."
Then at 11:55 p.m., she texted, "Police are they coming. He showed its loaded. Held me down, hurry I need to get Shannon."
Police said that Morrin called 911 at 11:54 p.m., reporting the dispute and telling them that two children were in the house. They then heard her scream.
Morrin's final text message came at 11:56 p.m. "What should I do if he hears me," she texted to her friend. "I'm dead. God."
Just as the first officer arrived at the Morrin house at 106 Gerald Drive, he heard two shots in quick succession. After a moment, the officer heard a third shot.
As more officers arrived, they set up a perimeter and called for the regional SWAT team. But before the team assembled, the Vernon officers on the scene decided to force their way into the house to find the children.
As they approached the house, Erica was fleeing. The officers spoke with her briefly, then whisked her to safety. They then went into the house and found James Morrin dead in an upstairs bedroom, the shotgun near him. They continued searching and found Alice Morrin dead. She had been shot twice.
They then found Shannon in a third bedroom. She was physically OK. An officer wrapped his arms around her, covered her eyes and got her out of the house.
Officers did their best to comfort the two girls at the scene. They then took them to Skinner Road School, where the SWAT team and medics were getting ready, and then to police headquarters to meet with relatives who would care for them.
Police are calling the incident a murder-suicide, although a final determination will be made by the medical examiner. Autopsies are scheduled for today.
Court papers do not specify why Alice Morrin was seeking a divorce, other than to say that the marriage had broken down. The divorce was to become final Friday.
It's not unusual for divorcing couples to live together, as long as there is no violence between them, no restraining order and no arguing over the children, said Pamela Bacharach, a divorce attorney who practices in Willimantic. It's especially common during the first 90 days after someone files for divorce, a period known as "pendente lite," Latin for "while the action is pending."
Vernon police said they had no record of domestic violence complaints from the Morrin house.
Detectives spent the day gathering evidence and conducting interviews. The state police Major Crime Squad also collected evidence in and around the house.
Friends at Fox61 were devastated, and a counselor was called in.
Graziano, in a memo to the staff of Fox61 and The Courant, described Morrin as "smart, funny and kind with a caring heart. She touched the people she encountered with a unique quality of grace and class."
On Monday night, friends and relatives gathered in front of the Morrin house for a candlelight vigil. They also expressed shock and sadness.
"She was the nicest, sweetest lady," neighbor Steve Sequist said. "I was just really shocked."
If you're in a bad relationship:
>> Have a safe place to go if an argument occurs - avoid rooms with no exits or rooms with weapons.
>> Make a list of people to contact.
>> Keep change with you at all times.
>> Memorize important numbers.
>> Establish a code word or sign so that family or friends know when to call for help.
Compiled by Tina Bachetti, senior information specialist