Lee Morris: Body of Alaska Airlines Pilot Discovered Near 5 Freeway in Burbank

Morris with grandsons Brady (left) and Bryce Helgeson.
Morris with grandsons Brady (left) and Bryce Helgeson.
Courtesy Alaska Airlines

Updated at the bottom with the coroner's initial thoughts (hint: no foul play is suspected yet ... ). First posted at 12:22 p.m. Wednesday.

Burbank police had a mystery on their hands after the body of an Alaska Airlines pilot in town on layover was found next to a freeway offramp.

There are no "obvious" signs of trauma on the body of 55-year-old Lee Clifford Morris of Richland, Washington, but it's still an odd location for a death -- with little or no pedestrian access, Burbank police Sgt. Darin Ryburn tells the Weekly.

The case went into high gear ...

... after the discovery was reported along the Scott Road offramp of the southbound 5 in Burbank at 5:55 p.m. yesterday, Ryburn said.

Morris was fully clothed and had his ID on him, he said, adding that it didn't appear he was robbed:


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CHP was out there to assist, and it doesn't appear he was struck by a vehicle.

But "detectives considered it suspicious in nature because that's an offramp -- it's not pedestrian access way," the sergeant said.

Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy Weekly that he was on a three-day trip that included a flight to Burbank and back from Alaska's home base of Seattle. Morris arrived in Burbank at 10:20 a.m. Monday and was scheduled to fly back at 7 a.m. Tuesday, he said:

We became aware something might be wrong when he did not show up for his flight Tuesday morning. We contacted the hotel where he was staying. He had checked in.

It's possible his body had been next to the offramp for awhile, as "the speeds coming off that are at 50, and it's a straight shot to San Fernando Road," Ryburn said.

Still, it will be up to the coroner to determine if this is truly a homicide case or simply an odd death. An autopsy was being conducted.

In the meantime cops want you to weigh in if you saw anything pertinent on that offramp Monday night into Tuesday, including any vehicles that might have been stopped there. Call detectives at 818-238-3210.

McElroy of Alaska Airlines said Morris had been with the company for 26 years, starting as a short-haul pilot for its Horizon Air subsidiary and eventually becoming a captain at Alaska. Morris is survived by fiancee Eileen Hively and has children and grandchildren, McElroy indicated.

The company's vice president of flight operations, Gary Beck, said:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Captain Morris, who was a highly respected pilot and 26-year veteran at Alaska. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lee's fiancée and other loved ones. He will be greatly missed by his fellow pilots and all employees at Alaska.

[Update at 4:34 p.m. Thursday]: Ryburn says today that the coroner's office has related its initial findings, that this is "not considered a suspicious death." Yet. "Final results are pending ... ," he states.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]


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