Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on July 7, 2023, the Honorable Lisa A. Puglisi, J.S.C., sentenced Helecia Morris, 41, of Brick Township, to eight years New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), and Donna Jung, 57, of Lehigh Acres, Florida, to seven years NJSP, both having previously been found guilty of Endangering the Welfare of a Child in connection with incidents that occurred between April 1, 2015 and January 9, 2016 in Brick Township. Additionally, Judge Puglisi sentenced Morris to four years NJSP in connection with an unrelated charge of Theft, and eighteen months NJSP for an unrelated charge of Shoplifting. These sentences will run concurrent to one another but consecutive to Morris’ sentence for Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Jung and Morris were found guilty of Endangering on May 25, 2023, following a week-long jury trial before Judge Puglisi. Morris and Jung were remanded to the Ocean County Jail at that time pending sentencing.
On January 9, 2016, Officers from the Brick Township Police Department and representatives from the Division of Child Protection and Permanency responded to a residence on Queen Ann Road in reference to a wellness check on Morris’s biological eight-year old son. Responding Officers found the child locked in his room in abhorrent conditions. The room also reeked of urine. The eight year-old male child and two other minor children were removed from the residence. They were taken to Hackensack Meridian Ocean University Medical Center in Brick Township to be medically evaluated. All three children were subsequently placed in foster care.
An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit and the Brick Township Police Department revealed that the eight year-old male victim was locked in his room day and night by Morris and Jung. He was not allowed to use the bathroom in the residence and was excluded from socializing with the rest of the family. The room contained no bed, no furniture, no lights, and no toys. On January 11, 2016, Detectives executed a court-authorized search warrant on the residence, and Morris and Jung were arrested. Morris and Jung were transported to the Ocean County Jail and subsequently released on bail.
Prosecutor Billhimer commends the diligence and dedication of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Mara Brater who ably and skillfully tried the case on behalf of the State. The Prosecutor likewise extends his gratitude to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Advocacy Unit, Brick Township Police Department, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, and Division of Child Protection and Permanency, for their combined and collective efforts ultimately resulting in guilty verdicts – and now Morris’ and Jung’s state prison sentences.