Update: Sheriff says ‘only two people know motive, and one isn’t talking’

Published 5:33 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

From Staff Reports
The man who led police on a high speed chase through Elizabethton late Thursday faces first-degree murder charges.
Deputies captured Jacob Allen Morley in Avery County, N.C., after a high-speed, multi-state chase. Officers used both road spikes and a K-9 unit to capture Morley, who fled on foot after wrecking his vehicle.
“Morley is currently in the Avery County Jail and has been charged with some crimes up there. We have issued warrants for murder and several other things including traffic violations due to the pursuit,” said Sheriff Dexter Lunceford. “Based upon what he said, I do not believe he will waive extradition and if he does not we will ask for a governor’s warrant and he will be brought back to Tennessee where he will stand trial for the murder of Cody Birchfield.”
Morley also faces charges for abuse of a corpse, aggravated burglary, felony evading arrest, reckless endangerment, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and additional charges from the Avery County Sheriff’s Office.
Birchfield was reported missing by a family member on Feb. 23. According to witnesses, Birchfield had last been seen with Morley on Feb. 21. Investigators then discovered several pieces of evidence that showed Birchfield had been with Morley shortly before disappearing. With the permission of the property owner, investigators and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents searched Birchfield’s residence and found indications that a violent crime had occurred.
CCSO investigators then obtained search warrants for Morley’s residence and vehicle, and deputies were directed to stake out his home. On Wednesday evening, deputies saw Morley’s vehicle and attempted to conduct a traffic stop. Morley began attempting to evade them at a high rate of speed. Deputies pursued Morley toward the North Carolina state line, at which point they requested assistance from the Avery County Sheriff’s Office. ACSO deputies assisted with the continuing pursuit and set up spike strips to help stop Morley’s vehicle. He was then taken into custody.
Investigators then executed the search warrant for Morley’s residence, and found Birchfield’s body inside. The body was taken to the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine for autopsy.
When asked about the possible motive for the murder, Lunceford said, “There are only two people that know for sure: one is dead and the other is in the Avery County Jail and not cooperating.”
Lunceford said that Birchfield’s home contained evidence that a crime had occurred there and that evidence shows a pistol was used. Lunceford also said that the investigation is still ongoing.

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