State Forced To Drop Sex Assault, Kidnap Charges After Victim's Overdose Death

A state prosecutor was forced to drop a sexual assault and kidnapping case against a Hartford man after the alleged victim, his live-in girlfriend of five years, overdosed and died.

Prosecutor Donna Mambrino told Hartford Superior Court Judge Laura F. Baldini that without a victim, she could not prove her case against Ryan Morton, 23, and that she had to nolle, or decline to prosecute, the case.

Morton, who lived on Park Street with his girlfriend, was charged in June 2017 with first-degree sexual assault by use of force, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree unlawful restraint, third-degree assault and second-degree strangulation for the Jan. 9, 2017, incident in Hartford.

According to the warrant for his arrest, Morton became enraged after seeing that his girlfriend had received a text message from a male friend. Morton beat the woman in the face, punched her in the stomach and kicked her over the course of several hours. He then forced her onto a bed and forced sex on her without her consent, according to the warrant.

He also choked the woman to the point where she nearly passed out, then held a knife to her and said "he would kill her and gut her" and her family if she ever told anyone, according to the warrant. Morton then held her in the apartment for four days, releasing her only to meet with her probation officer, according to police.

Police were alerted when the woman's cousin took her to Hartford police headquarters days after the incident, the warrant reads.

Mambrino told the judge that she made a plea offer to Morton and his lawyer, Deron Freeman, and that Morton was to make a decision on that offer last month. As required by state law, Mambrino then tried to contact the victim to update her on the status of the case.

Mambrino said she called the victim's parole officer, who told her the victim had just died. Mambrino said she checked with the state medical examiner, who confirmed that the woman died of complications from opiate toxicity.

"This was a horrific case," Mambrino told the judge. The victim was petrified of Morton and would have panic attacks during the conversations, and was especially terrified of having to testify against Morton in court, Mambrino said.

"The evidence against this individual was very strong," she said.

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