James W. Morse

Above: Morse, circa 1982


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: February 23, 1982 from Palm Beach County, Florida
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: April 2 or April 27, 1927
  • Age: 54 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'11, 155 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian male. Gray hair, blue eyes. Morse has a scar on his head.
  • Medical Conditions: Morse is classified as disabled.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Morse was last seen in Palm Beach County, Florida on February 23, 1982. He was en route from his mother's home in Apopka, Florida to his daughter's home in West Palm Beach, Florida, but he never arrived. He has never been heard from again.

    David Lee Armstrong, a transient from Mountain View, Arkansas, used Morse's credit cards after his disappearance and sold Morse's silver 1964 Ford step van to his own uncle for $70. The van was heavily stained on the inside with Morse's blood and human tissue, including brain cells. Authorities determined that there was enough blood present to prove Morse had sustained fatal injuries. Armstrong was arrested in Illinois for forgery in connection with Morse's credit cards; he was also wanted in Arkansas on an escape charge. He eventually confessed to killing Morse. Armstrong stated Morse had picked him up hitchhiking and he beat and stabbed Morse to death. He claimed he'd dumped Morse's body in a sugar cane field or the Everglades Swamp. Armstrong pleaded guilty to manslaughter in August 1982 and was sentenced to the maximum term of fifteen years in prison.

    Morse is a World War II veteran and worked as a carpenter at the time of his disappearance. Police have searched for his body without success. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.


    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office


    Source Information
    Florida Department of Law Enforcement
    The Miami Herald
    The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    The Palm Beach Post


    Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated September 13, 2017; distinguishing characteristics updated.

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