The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a Grant County woman who lured a man to his death in a state forest.
Brittany Morris appealed her conviction for aiding, including or causing murder in the 2018 case. A jury also convicted her on a felony count of and aiding, inducing or causing robbery and a misdemeanor count of theft.
While she was 17 years old at the time of the crime, she was tried as an adult. A judge sentenced her to 48 years in prison.
Investigators said Morris, with the help of Ethan Cain and Joshua Kean, plotted to rob 22-year-old Drake Smith in May 2018. Morris lured Smith into a wooded area for what he thought was a night of partying. Instead, Kean retrieved a breaker bar and Cain hit Smith repeatedly in the head with it.
During the assault, Morris, Kean and a third person ransacked Smith’s vehicle. Morris took a Bluetooth speaker; the group also stole beer, marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy from Smith. Cain removed Smith’s shorts, which contained his wallet and additional marijuana.
The group then left Smith to die along the Okie Pinokie Trail. Mushroom hunters found his body hours later.
The perpetrators helped themselves to Smith’s drugs and money. The next day, the group traveled to Muncie. Morris used some of Smith’s cash to buy a swimsuit and an auxiliary cord for the stolen Bluetooth speaker.
Cain and Kean later burned the clothing they’d worn during the incident. Kean dropped off Morris at her home before he and Cain fled to California, where they were apprehended.
During this time, Morris searched Google using the phrases “what is accessory to a crime” and “how many years can you get for accessory after the fact,” according to court documents.
A jury convicted Morris in March 2022. She learned her sentence the following May.
Morris appealed, arguing there was “insufficient evidence” to support her conviction of aiding, inducing or causing murder. She said she had no way of knowing Smith would be beaten to death or that her friends had access to a weapon.
But the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled it was clear she was at the scene of the crime and had incited Cain and Kean to rob Smith. The court noted that Morris implied to Kean and Cain that Smith would be an easy target because he “can’t fight.” Further, Morris didn’t try to stop the attack and stole items from Smith’s truck during the assault.
“Following the commission of the crime, Morris witnessed disposal of the evidence, smoked Smith’s marijuana, and counted and spent Smith’s cash. And she later spent time researching the crime of accessory, along with its penalties. From this evidence, a reasonable jury could conclude Morris is guilty,” the court wrote.
The appeals court issued its opinion in June 2023 and certified it on Friday.
Cain pleaded guilty to aiding, including or causing robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison in October 2022. Cain pleaded guilty to murder in February 2022, resulting in a 55-year sentence.