Morgan Jack sentenced for death of taxi driver
By Katy Sweeny -- Staff reporter 05/24/2010 Lake County Recorder
LAKEPORT A Nice resident kept his chin down Monday as family members of the man he admitted to killing read letters to the court and a judge imposed the upper limit of 12 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.
Morgan Matthew Jack, 33, was remanded to the sheriff to be transferred to the prison system. He pleaded no contest April 1 to killing Paul Joseph Womachka June 27, 2007 after Womachka picked up Jack as a taxi fare after midnight at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino.
Womachka's father, mother and son read letters to the court asking for the maximum sentence.
The victim's son, Quinn, choked up as he read a letter on behalf of himself and his brothers.
"To be drunk and commit a crime is no excuse," the son said.
The son said their family will have to explain to younger generations why they don't have a "Grandpa Womachka." He asked Judge Arthur Mann to punish Jack.
"Cage the monster who took our father from us," the son said.
Womachka's mother, Amie, said their family will never recover from losing him, especially his children.
"Shame on you from taking Joe away from them," she said to Jack.
Mann said a number of factors led him to impose the upper term limit, including Jack's prior offenses increasing in number and seriousness, that Jack served prison time in the past and was on parole when he committed the crime.
The judge also imposed fees, restitution and fines requested of more than $18,000.
Jack served about two years in jail and received credits, so he has a maximum remaining sentence of about eight years in prison.
Witnesses said and surveillance tape showed Jack was at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice late the night of June 26, 2007 and he appeared extremely intoxicated, chief deputy district attorney Rich Hinchcliff said.
Patrons and security staff assisted Jack in getting a taxi ride from the casino to Konocti Vista Casino, Resort & Marina with a Hey Taxi van driven by Womachka.
Video obtained from Konocti Vista Casino showed the Hey Taxi van passing by Konocti Vista Casino about 15 minutes later toward the residence where Jack was staying.
Neither Womachka or the Hey Taxi van were seen until the van was discovered June 29, 2007 submerged in Clear Lake in the marina next to Konocti Vista Casino and near Jack's residence, the District Attorney's Office reported. When law enforcement pulled the taxi from the marina they found Womachka's body inside the van.
An autopsy revealed four sharp force injuries to the victim's neck.
The Sheriff's Office investigated and arrested Jack. The investigation continued for the next two and a half years pursuing evidence. Investigators did not find witnesses or the weapon, Hinchcliff said.
"The evidence we had in the case was a tiny speck of the victim's blood on Morgan Jack's shoe, so small that it was entirely consumed during testing for DNA," Hinchcliff said.
Hinchcliff said he, the District Attorney investigators and Sheriff's Office investigators weren't sure the evidence could convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt to convict Jack of murder.
"I, myself was extremely worried, if not convinced, if we went to trial at best we would get a hung jury," Hinchcliff said.
After getting the OK of investigators and Womachka's family, Hinchcliff offered the manslaughter deal in order to ensure Jack received prison time and that he would take responsibility for the crime, Hinchcliff said.
"I'm still sad that we weren't able to put him away for longer," Hinchcliff said.
Contact Katy Sweeny at [email protected] or call her directly at 263-5636, ext. 37