Romance between Wealthy Maverick and Prostitute ends in Tragedy

Hollywood-esque relationship takes unexpected, violent turn.

Los Angelos, California. August 15, 2003: The love affair between single millionaire Morris Etherton and veteran prostitute Kallie “Special K” Woods had all the makings of a touching romantic-comedy, friends recalled yesterday, as they quietly gathered to mourn Etherton’s untimely death. The fairy tale ended Tuesday in a nameless, dark alley in one of LA’s poorer urban neighborhoods, as the suave, quirky bachelor died in a hail of bullets fired from the gun of Woods’ alleged pimp, Maurice “G-Play” Griffen.

“It certainly wasn’t a traditional relationship,” Ira Morgenstern recalled at Hanson’s Mortuary, just outside Ventura. Etherton’s long-time stock advisor, who described himself as “relatively close” to the deceased 33-year old, Morgenstern explained how the doomed couple met two months ago.

“Morris was going home to visit his parents in Sacramento that weekend. We were in a cab on the way back from lunch, and he was telling me how tired he was of his mother harping on him for not ‘settling down’ with anyone. Then, he suddenly says ‘I’ve got it!’, tells the cabbie to pull over, and then jumps out of the car. Next thing I know, he’s helping a hooker into the cab.”

“I remember it,” Etherton’s personal assistant, Cindy Wrackers, added sadly. “He stopped by the office on his way out of town, and he introduced me to ‘Kay’, his ‘date for the weekend’. I must say I was shocked that he had hired a prostitute, but they did make a cute couple. Morris always has—I mean, had—a strange sense of adventure like that. He’s the kind of guy who could make it work.” The 27-year-old mother of one paused and said “Women liked him. He was really rich, but down to Earth, too.”

According to his friends, Etherton’s business transaction to fool his parents quickly turned into a real relationship, with the couple going on numerous “real dates” that ended in sexual contact without an exchange of money. “He bought her nice things,” explained Wrackers, “but he was no longer a client. They were really a couple. I’m pretty sure she had stopped…working, you know…having other men, at that point.”

It was apparently this breach from Woods’ normal hooking duties that incurred the ire of her long-time business manager, Griffen. The 33-year-old LA resident, who has numerous prior arrests, traveled to Etherton’s business office to confront the wealthy bachelor about his involvement with Woods, Morgenstern reported.

“I wasn’t there, but he called me and told me about it later that day. It sounded like…well…like a movie or something, you know. The guy just barged in and threatened him, saying something about how Morris was stealing the guy’s ‘best bitch’, or something cliché’ like that.” Pausing to polish his glasses, the 47-year-old investment advisor added, “I told him to watch out. It sounded dangerous.”

“But he wasn’t scared,” added Wrackers, fingering her pearl necklace nervously, as she eyed her former boss’ casket. “He just laughed it off and said he’d take care of the pimp.” Pausing again, she added, “what a waste. He was a great guy, and I really think he and that hooker had a future together, as weird as that sounds. No woman ever tamed him before, but you could just sense that Kay was special.”

While Kallie Woods has refused all interview requests and Maurice Griffen is in police custody talking only to his lawyer, Etherton’s friends—along with facts gathered at the scene of the shooting by police—helped us piece together his last hours of life. Apparently, the handsome, headstrong millionaire arranged a meeting with Griffen in a neighborhood near the purported pimp’s home.

“He thought he could talk to the pimp, man to man,” Morgenstern recounted solemnly. “You know, kind of negotiate Kallie’s release or something.” Etherton told his friend about the meeting over the phone several hours before his death. “I don’t know if he was going to buy off the pimp or what…he didn’t say. But he told me everything was going to be all right, and nothing would stand in the way of his love for Kallie.” Shaking his head with sadness, the businessman added, “I believed him, too. That’s just the kind of take-charge guy Morris was.”

Draping his arm across another grieving colleague’s neck, Morgenstern concluded solemnly, “That was the last time I spoke to him.”

Grizzly crime scene data fills in the rest of the story. Shortly after 3:15 in the afternoon, residents in apartment buildings around the alleyway reported hearing gunfire. Fifteen minutes later, police officers investigating the call found Etherton’s body, splayed over a pile of rotten garbage. He’d been shot seven times at close range and had to be identified by fingerprints due to the severe damage to his face and head. Griffen was captured a mere twenty minutes later, reportedly found by officers eating at a Taco Bell a half mile from the site of the shooting, the murder weapon still tucked into his waistband.

(c) Hylo Bates, 2003
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