YORK COUNTY, S.C. — Matt Morgan, 17, cried through much of his court appearance Tuesday when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for setting a fire that killed his brother, 14-month old Joshua Hill in March 2015.
Morgan set a fire in the living room and to a blanket in the bedroom where Hill slept in their home on Catawba Church Road on March 6 while his parents were away.
Morgan said in a statement to deputies that he woke up from where he was sleeping on a couch in the living room and went back to the bedroom to try and save his brother but fire kept him out of the room.
However Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson said that wasn't the truth and Morgan later changed his story.
"He said then, that he actually never did go back to the bedroom to help the child. He went outside and observed the fire for some period of time," Thompson said.
Morgan watched the fire burn the house while his brother died, officials said. He had a cellphone with him but did not call 911. Eventually he went to a neighbor's home to get help.
Morgan's parents and his grandparents stood behind him and said he would have never done such a thing on purpose.
"We have always believed in his innocence because we know our son," said his mother Julie Morgan.
His stepfather Myke Hill said he'd never get over losing his baby son or losing his stepson to prison. Still, he stood by Matt Morgan and supported him.
"I'm not going to have any sheriff, any investigator, tell me to my face that he's a cold-blooded killer when he cries at Disney movies," Myke Hill said.
Prosecutors said Matt Morgan was fascinated by fire and had set a small one in his own room only two weeks earlier. On Monday, he spoke out in court about the death of his brother calling him his best friend.
Morgan was allowed to plea down to involuntary manslaughter instead of murder and unlawful conduct toward a child, instead of homicide by child abuse.
He also had a third charge reduced from first-degree arson to third-degree arson. On that charge he took an Alford plea, which means he doesn't admit to the crime but understands the court still treats it as a guilty plea.
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