Lawman charged with murdering family
The Dispatch - Lexington NC
Friday, June 01, 1973
Garden MI [UPI] - Delta County Deputy Sheriff Dennis Murphy, 25, the only law enforcement officer within 20 miles of this Upper Michigan village of 390 residents, was held in the County jail today, charged with the murder of his wife and two young sons.
Murphy, appointed a special deputy less than six months ago, originally told investigators he had been lured away from his home early Thursday morning and "jumped" by two men shortly before his wife, Janet 20, and sons Randy, 2, and Robbie, 7 months, perished in a fire that destroyed their home.
Murphy was found by two volunteer rushing to the house fire. He was shackled by his own handcuffs to a tractor parked behind the town hall, three blocks from his house.
Nearby was a message, scrowled on the side of the town hall in red crayon or lipstick. It read:
"I will kill you Murphy. First [your] wife and kid."
No indication of motive
Delta County Prosecutor Tony Marcinkewicz gave no indication of a motive for the deaths, saying only that police were not seeking anyone else.
Volunteer firemen from Garden who rushed to Murphy's burning house were unable to fight the blaze because the gasoline had been drained from the fire truck parked at the town hall. Three spark plugs were missing from a gasoline tanker truck parked next to the town hall, and ignition wires had been pulled from the Murphy's auto, parked in front of his house.
Murphy, who was resonsible for keeping order throughout the Garden Peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan below Big Bay Do Noc, had told investigators that two men came to his house shortly after 1 a.m. to report a serious traffic accident some 15 miles away.
He told officers his wife took the message, saying someone would meet him at the town hall to drive the ambulance and help at the accident scene.
Murphy told investigators he was beaten when he stepped inside the town hall and dragged outside with his shirt pulled over his head so he cold not see his attackers. He said he was then shackled to the tractor and left helpless as his house burned down nearby, though he said he did not know of the fire until later.
He can't believe it
"I still can't believe it. Not Dennis," said a high school friend of Murphy's who asked not to be identified. "He used to ride his kids up and down through town on his bicycle."
"He definately was family type guy. He never hung around with the guys or anything. He wasn't the drinking type. He'd just go home and be with his family. His wife was a pretty girl.
Officials said Murphy graduated from a seven-week police course at Northern Michigan University earlier this year, and was hired by the village as a policeman. He was assigned as a special deputy sheriff to help patrol this remote fishing area, but was not paid by the county.