Carlee Jade Morse

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Above Images: Carlee, circa 2010

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: August 20, 2010 from Westland, Michigan
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: May 19, 1994
  • Age: 16 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'0, 90 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes. Carlee has a scar on her left side and a burn scar on the inside of her right ankle. Her ears are pierced.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: Pajamas and no shoes or socks.
  • Medical Conditions: Carlee has an unspecified medical condition and was under a doctor's care at the time of her disappearance.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Carlee was last seen in the 7000 block of west Bonnie in Westland, Michigan between midnight and 1:00 a.m. on August 20, 2010. She apparently left her apartment building to talk on her cellular phone, barefoot and wearing only her pajamas, never returned. She didn't take any belongings with her, including her money, purse or any extra clothes, and there's been no activity on her cellular phone since her disappearance.

    In December 2010, four months after Carlee's disappearance, Nicholas Jay Cottrell and Justin Lee Yoshikawa confessed to killing her on the night she vanished. Both were charged with first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life in prison without parole. Cottrell's mother, Tina Marie Lowe, was charged with being an an accessory after the fact, a misdemeanor; investigators stated she knew about the murder and not only failed to inform police, but also interfered with the investigation. Photographs of Cottrell, Lowe and Yoshikawa are posted below this case summary. In January 2011, Cottrell struck a deal with prosecutors. He agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and testify against Yoshikawa, in exchange for a sentence of 25 to 50 years in prison.

    Both murder defendants knew Carlee and Yoshikawa had dated her in the spring of 2010, but they had an acrimonious breakup during the summer and, according Cottrell, Yoshikawa decided to kill her as a result. He hid inside under some clothes in the backseat of Cottrell's 1998 Ford Escort and Cottrell got Carlee to come outside and invited her into the car to smoke marijuana. He drove her to an isolated spot, then Yoshikawa jumped out and strangled her with a dog leash. Together, the two men dumped her body, wrapped in garbage bags, in a trash bin behind a red brick church about an hour or two south of Westland. Cottrell said he couldn't remember exactly where, because he was in shock and under the influence of drugs. He said he thought Yoshikawa planned to kill Carlee's mother as well, and that he he killed other people before. He said he had wanted to go to the police with his information before, but didn't because he was afraid for his life.

    In November 2011, during Yoshikawa's trial, Cottrell took the stand but then reneged on his plea agreement and refused to testify. He said his guilty plea had been coerced and he wanted to withdraw it. The judge allowed the transcript of Cottrell's previous testimony to be read to the jury. Before the reading was finished, Yoshikawa pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and admitted Cottrell's statements about the crime were all true. He was sentenced to 35 to 70 years in prison.

    Carlee's body has never been located. Some agencies classify her as a runaway, but foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.

    Cottrell Yoshikawa Lowe
    Left: Nicholas Cottrell;
    Center: Justin Yoshikawa;
    Right: Tina Lowe

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Westland Police Department
    734-722-9600

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    Source Information
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    NamUs
    Click on Detroit
    The Detroit Free Press
    MyFox Detroit
    The Detroit News Herald
    The Belleville View
    Facebook Page for Carlee Morse
    Find Carlee

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    Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated August 6, 2012; three pictures added.

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