Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2001 | 11:06 a.m.
Maybe Diana Leone just decided to leave. Maybe she would leave behind her 7-year-old daughter. Maybe in the year since she left her family behind without a call, she started a new life.
But it's not likely, says Metro Police Detective Mark Reddon.
The more Reddon searched for reasons that she left, the more the missing persons detective started suspecting she might have been killed.
"She was very close to her daughter, and everyone I've talked to said she wouldn't just leave her daughter behind," Reddon said. "If she was going to leave, people who knew her said she would have taken her daughter with her."
Beyond leaving her daughter and a 14-year-old son behind, Leone disappeared some time last February without taking her car, money or any clothing.
"It has been nearly a year with no contact of any kind with relatives," Reddon said. "It's pretty likely that she's not alive. We may not be able to prove that without finding a body."
Police found that Leone lived through several violent bursts of domestic abuse during a 14-year relationship with her live-in boyfriend, David Morgan. Morgan was charged with attempted murder and accused of severely beating Leone in 1989, but the charges were dropped after she refused to testify.
"Because of the past history of violence, it gives us concern about what happened to Diana Leone," Reddon said. "We suspect (Leone) may have been killed."
Leone's sudden disappearance was never reported by Morgan. One of Leone's family members called police in October after asking around and not finding anyone who had seen or heard from the 36-year-old.
"Any reasonable husband or boyfriend would report the mother of their children missing," Reddon said.
Morgan, reached at his business, declined to comment.
Morgan never spoke with police about the disappearance of Leone. Instead, Reddon said, he referred all questions to his attorney, Thomas Pitaro.
Pitaro would not comment on the case when called by the Sun.
But police talked with Leone and Morgan's daughter, Lea, when they served the search warrant in November.
The little girl said she has not seen her mother in a long time and remembered that right before the last time she saw her mother, there was a fight between her parents.
"Lea stated that (David Morgan) shoved (Leone) through a plate glass window in the patio area of the home and then smashed Diana's head into the refrigerator," according to the search warrant affidavit. "They were arguing over David's belief that Diana was having an extramarital affair."
Leone's son, 14-year-old David, told police "all he knows is that his father told him that his mother ran off with another man," according to the search warrant affidavit.
"We found (the alleged boyfriend), and we determined he had nothing to do with her disappearance," Reddon said. "The relationship didn't appear to be what it was said to be."
Leone's sister said Diana Leone had left Morgan on previous occasions. But the times before were always different in one key way: The sister, who requested that her name not be used, said Leone would always call her.
In November, detectives searched the home of Morgan, who lived with Leone since 1986, and some units of a mini-storage business Morgan owns on West Teco Avenue.
Reddon and other detectives continue to find turns in the case that cause them concern about Leone's well-being.
Morgan was suspected and investigated -- but never charged -- in connection with the 1980 disappearance of his wife, Marie Morgan.
Metro homicide detectives also suspected Marie Morgan met a violent end. She was reported missing not by her husband, but by an employee of the Women's Crisis Center.
"Marie Morgan was having domestic abuse problems with David and was seeking assistance from the Women's Crisis Center," according to an affidavit for the search warrant. "Marie Morgan was never found and has not been heard from since 1980. The case was referred to (Metro's) homicide section when several people came forward to give statements that implicated David (Morgan) in the murder of Marie Morgan and her boyfriend, Gabriel Vincent."
Marie Morgan was never found, but after her disappearance, David Morgan said she ran away with Vincent and accused her of infidelity.
Three women -- including Morgan's sister and sister-in-law -- told police David Morgan had confided to them he had killed Marie Morgan, according to court records.
In 1980 Marie Morgan's sister, Kim Smith, told detectives that David Morgan confessed to her that he killed Vincent after learning of an affair with Marie Morgan, according to the court records.
Smith relayed a well-planned tale she says Morgan told her. In the statement, Smith claims, Morgan told her he waited in the bushes by the storage units of his business for Vincent to arrive to talk to him about the affair, according to court records.
But all police had was Smith's unsubstantiated story until 1985. Then Deloris Morgan, David Morgan's sister, told detectives a grisly tale about her brother forcing her to help dispose of Marie Morgan's body.
Deloris Morgan said David Morgan confessed to her that he killed Vincent and then killed his wife because she was going to leave him. She said Morgan in 1980 forced her at gunpoint to go to the area near mile marker 124 on U.S. 95 past Indian Springs, where they uncovered a body wrapped in a blanket.
Deloris Morgan told police they moved the body farther into the desert and buried the body in a deep hole.
Deloris Morgan tried to show detectives the grave site, but was unable to find it. Deloris Morgan, who had several nervous breakdowns, died of natural causes in March 1997.
"The investigation into the disappearance and possible homicide of Marie Morgan and Gabriel Vincent was unable to substantiate a prosecutable case, and no charges were ever filed against David Morgan," according to the court records.
Allegations of infidelity were also made by Morgan in 1989, when Morgan was charged with attempted murder with the use of a deadly weapon and accused of beating Leone with a pipe.
"David Morgan returned home unexpectedly from an out-of-state trip, and upon entering their residence, he hit (Leone) on the right side of her face with a metal pipe," according to an arrest affidavit filed in 1989.
Morgan accused Leone of infidelity, continued to beat her with the pipe and stated several times he was going to kill her, according to the court record.
Morgan later took her to a doctor's office to be treated, but the doctor refused, saying she needed immediate emergency trauma treatment. The doctor called 911 for an ambulance, and Leone was taken to University Medical Center, where she was treated for two broken bones in her right leg, a fractured left arm and fractured facial bones on the right side of her face, according to the court records.
The charges against Morgan were later dropped when Leone refused to testify.
Police also arrested Morgan on domestic violence charges in March 1999 and May 1997 and child endangerment in January 1992.
Reddon is continuing his search for Leone, but says the circumstances of the case don't add up to a woman just running away.
In a city where there are more than 200 missing adult cases a month, Leone's disappearance never made headlines. But Reddon is still poking at the case hoping someone will remember something or new information will come in.