Samuel “Sammy” Andrew Morton Jr., 47, of Maxwell, was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Scott Rollins on a dirt road in the mountains near Stonyford on May 31, 1998. His girlfriend at the time, Camille Louise Fredericks, was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison as an accessory to the crime, and has long been released.
Morton and Fredericks, who were both convicted felons at the time of Rollins’ murder, took plea deals in the case to avoid trial.
According to court documents, the couple were passengers in a car being driven by Rollins, when Fredericks, who was riding in the backseat, handed a .22 rifle to Morton, who was in the front seat next to Rollins.
Morton shot Rollins in the right side of his head, then dumped his body over the edge of a cliff, leaving him to die approximately one hour later from asphyxiation.
Without going to trial, the true motive for the killing may never be known, although it was reported that the killing may have been connected to Rollins conviction in 1991 for lewd acts with a child under 14. However, Morton and Fredericks were also heavily involved in the drug trade at the time, court records indicate.
While Morton admitted to killing Rollins, he claimed the murder was spontaneous and not premeditated. However, records indicate that Morton and Fredericks may have plotted Rollins’ death by mercury poisoning, but they were unsure how long it would take or if it would work at all.
After his admission, Morton claimed he borrowed the rifle, which belonged to John Rogers, from Robert Ballantine, who had given it to Morton to protect himself from the Hell’s Angels, who were supposedly “out to get him” over some stolen drugs.
During the course of the investigation, Ballantine claimed he had no knowledge of the gun, but Ballentine’s mother claimed that the .22 was at her home, but was stolen in an “open-window” burglary.
Then District Attorney, John Poyner, believed the burglary story was concocted to protect her son from being implicated in the murder, although Robert Ballentine was never accused of being involved in the plot.
Morton, who admitted to shooting Rollins, was sentenced to 15 years to life for second-degree murder using a firearm, with two penalty enhancements for having two previous state prison sentences.
Morton was convicted in 1995 for possession of a controlled substance for sale, and convicted of forgery in 1996, for which he was sentenced to two years in prison on each charge.
Fredericks pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison for accessory to murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm, with a special enhancement for having a prior prison commitment.
Fredericks was previously convicted and sentenced to two years in prison in 1996 for possessing stolen property and other drug-related charges in a plea deal that dismissed several other felonies, including burglary.
Both were on probation or parole when they killed Rollins.
Morton has been before the parole board three times, the first after serving 17 of his 21-year minimum sentence at Avenal State Prison.
Colusa County Deputy District Attorney Winston Welch argued successfully for Morton to remain jailed in 2018, due to Morton’s continued heroin use while in prison. Last week, however, the parole board granted Morton’s release despite Welch’s continued objections, in part because Morton was under the age of 26 when he committed the murder.
Welch said that because Morton has still not successfully completed a 12-step program to deal with his drug addiction, the convicted killer would not likely do well out in society, even though Morton pledged not to commit another act of violence.
Since Jan. 1, 2020 the California Board of Parole has held 2,838 parole hearings, and has released 604 inmates as of May 13, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Many of those released were incarcerated for violent crimes committed when they were “youthful” offenders, officials said.