Weatherford Democrat

October 3, 2013

An early focus on photog

Parents say they complained to district of photographer now charged with child indecency by sexual contact


Weatherford Democrat

— By CHRISTIN COYNE

Parents of two Weatherford ISD teens say they made complaints to school officials months ago regarding the behavior of a photographer now charged with molesting a teen he met at a Weatherford High School football game.

Dax Anthony Morgan, 39, a well-known Weatherford youth sports photographer, was booked into the Parker County Jail Tuesday on a charge of indecency with a child by sexual contact regarding allegations he inappropriately touched a 16-year-old girl the night of Sept. 27 after inviting her to his house for a photo shoot.

The sheriff’s office says Morgan inappropriately touched the girl, who was at Morgan’s house without her parents’ knowledge, after taking pictures of her while dressed and undressed.

Morgan admitted to taking a photograph of the girl’s breasts but said he deleted it immediately afterward, according to a probable cause affidavit. He also reportedly said he knew the girl was 16 years old.

Two mothers of teen cheerleaders told the Democrat they also began noticing issues with Morgan’s behavior around their daughters last year and notified police and school officials but felt nothing was done to protect students.

Weatherford ISD spokesman Derik Moore said he could not immediately confirm Thursday whether the district had received prior complaints involving Morgan.

However, Morgan is no longer allowed at athletic-related events, according to Moore.

After being notified of the investigation, Weatherford ISD issued Morgan a verbal trespass warning on Monday and gave him a formal notice on Wednesday, he said.

“Our concern is for the safety and security of the students,” Moore said.

Though several parents indicated they initially believe Morgan worked for the district, Morgan has never been affiliated with Weatherford ISD and the district has never paid or contracted with him for any photos, whether group or action, according to Moore.

Morgan had media credentials through a Weatherford magazine, according to Moore. “As far as background checks, because he was a working member of the media, we rely on the media to do that.”

Others, such as the booster club representatives allowed on the sidelines to take pictures, do undergo background checks, he said.

“We limit the field access as closely as we can and he was on the list of credentialed media,” Moore said.

Moore said he could not yet address the parents’ allegations that prior complaints were made because he didn’t have that information late Thursday afternoon.



Concerns

Morgan was around more than any other youth sports photographer and attended all the Ninth Grade Center cheer functions, including a Halloween party he was not invited to, one mother said.

Though Morgan had photographed her daughter for years in a couple of groups, she said she became concerned last year when Morgan made a comment to her about the cheerleaders’ outfits “really turning him on.”

Then Morgan showed up to the cheerleaders’ swim party and took pictures of the students in their bikinis, she said, adding that her daughter told her that Morgan made an inappropriate comment regarding a tan line on her breasts that made the girl feel uncomfortable.

Another mother said she became concerned when her young daughter told her that Morgan had invited her for a private photo shoot.

The woman said she told her daughter it was a red flag when an adult approaches a child, rather than the parents, about a photo shoot and talked to her about how child predators often groom their victims.

The girl later told her mother about a comment Morgan made to her during their cheer banquet regarding her body that made her feel uncomfortable, the mother said.

She was also concerned when she learned Morgan had attended and taken pictures of the girls’ swim party, she said.

She said she contacted the WISD superintendent personally to ask whether a background check had been done on Morgan and told him what was going on.

Her concerns were dismissed, she claims.

The Democrat left a message at Superintendent Jeffrey Hanks’ office Thursday afternoon but did not receive a response by deadline.

The women said they and a third family took the issue to Weatherford police, who had more than one detective listen to their statements, but were told police didn’t have enough to press charges.

The women also said they notified school officials of their concerns, but despite a meeting and the children being told to make reports of any comments that made them feel unconfortable, nothing was done.

Coaches and others were also told of the families’ concerns but only one coach took any measures to keep Morgan away from cheerleaders during events, according to one mother.

“I would have hoped they would have kept him off the field and away from school events,” one mother said, adding that she believes the school should not have allowed him back around children given his inappropriate comments.

Attempts to contact Morgan Wednesday and Thursday were unsuccessful.