Update: The trial of Kelli Lynn Murphy, a Castle Rock mom accused of smothering her two kids in their beds, got underway two weeks ago; see our previous coverage below. But jurors didn't take nearly that long to reach a conclusion about the case. Ninety minutes or so after deliberations began, they returned a guilty verdict on what would have been her son's eleventh birthday.
Kelli Lynn and her husband, Robert Eric Murphy (he goes by his middle name), were parents to daughter Madigan, six at the time of her death, and Liam, nine -- and while everything between them looked rosy on the surface, court papers suggest problems were roiling beneath the surface. Kelli Lynn told authorities that on one occasion, Eric grabbed Madigan by the throat and screamed at her when she didn't eat quickly enough to suit him. In another incident, she reported Eric angrily forcing the girl's head under a faucet when she failed to wash off soap in a timely manner during a bath. Kelli Lynn also reported once being held captive in her home by her husband.
But while divorce papers were filed, Kelli Lynn asked that the petition be withdrawn in April 2011, and scheduled a meeting to discuss the situation. Also on the agenda: a court appearance to talk about a restraining order against Eric, who now lives in Washington state and did not attend the trial.
Before any of these sessions could take place, however, Kelli Lynn apparently began to unravel. On May 22 of last year, Eric requested that cops check on the welfare of the kids, and they found nothing untoward. But at 7:48 a.m. the next morning, Kelli Lynn phoned 911 and told the operator that the kids "are in heaven right now." Police rushed to the scene to find her wrists slashed and the children dead of what a coroner later determined was asphyxiation.
There was little doubt about whether Kelli Lynn had killed her kids when the trial began. But her attorney, Ara Ohanion, set out to convince the jurors that she'd intended to harm only herself, swigging an entire bottle of vodka and gulping sleeping pills the night before in the hope that she'd be dead by the morning of the 23rd.
Despite the evidence that she was suicidal, however, the jury could not ignore the basic facts of the case. A sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole was imposed late yesterday afternoon, and Kelli Lynn was immediately whisked away to begin serving it on the day an eleventh birthday party for Liam would have taken place under much happier circumstances.
Afterward, representatives of Eric's family released the following statement: "This is a sad day for us. We would have preferred to be celebrating Liam's 11th birthday today. Although nothing can make up for the loss of Liam and Madigan, or fill the void that is left by their absence, we are thankful that this chapter is now over."
Below, see a CBS4 report about the verdict, followed by our previous coverage.
Continue to read our previous coverage of the Kelli Lynn Murphy case, including photos and additional videos. Original post, 6:42 a.m. November 15: Trial is underway in one of the most shocking cases of 2011 -- Castle Rock mom Kelli Lynn Murphy's alleged murder of her two elementary-school-age children. Among the revelations to emerge from early testimony: When police arrived at the tragic scene, Murphy's wrists had been cut.
As we reported last year, a suicidal Murphy called 911 at 7:48 a.m. on May 23, 2011, telling the operator that her kids -- Madigan, six, and Liam, nine -- "are in heaven right now." However, their bodies were in their respective beds. They were dead, but showed no signs of physical injury; the coroner later determined that they'd been asphyxiated.
Now, we also know that Murphy told 911 she'd slit her wrists. According to 9News' trial coverage, one of the officers who responded to the scene had to hold paper towels over the wounds while quizzing her about the kids, who she said were "deceased."
In the days after her arrest, more details emerged about Murphy and her relationship with her husband, Robert Eric Murphy, who goes by his middle name.
At first glance, the family seemed happy. But according to court documents, troubles lurked just below the surface. The couple had filed for divorce, and Kelli took out a civil protection order against Eric in early March, telling frightening tales to back up this request.
One one occasion, she said Madigan had been dawdling at the dinner table after Eric had finished eating. He allegedly responded by grabbed her throat and screaming at her to finish her meal. On another, he was giving Madigan a bath, and when the girl didn't wash the soap off her quickly enough by his standards, Kelli said he seized her by the neck and forced her head under the faucet. She also claimed Eric held her captive in the basement in addition to hitting her with the door.
Nonetheless, Kelli asked that the divorce petition be withdrawn on in April 2011; a meeting on the topic was scheduled for the days after Madigan and Liam's deaths. She also had a court appearance on the docket in regard to the restraining order.
The Sunday before the killings, Eric requested that Castle Rock police check on the welfare of the kids. Apparently, nothing was found amiss at that time -- but by the next morning, everything was.
Days later, a memorial service was held at Castle Rock's Founders Park that drew hundreds of people, including Eric
He didn't speak at the gathering, merely listening while clad in a hooded sweatshirt. However, Madigan's kindergarten teacher, Salome Raj, captured the thoughts of many when she said, "I will miss her but I'm glad I had the honor of being part of her short life."
Her life, and Liam's, are front and center at the trial. "Mothers are not supposed to kill their children. Mother's provide life," Douglas County Deputy District Attorney Jay Williford said in his opening statement, while arguing for a first-degree-murder conviction. "But in this case, Kelli Lynn Murphy, squeezed the life from nine-year-old Liam and six-year-old Madigan by her own hands. Both Liam and Madigan's life have been silenced."
In contrast, Ara Ohanion, Kelli Lynn's attorney, who seems to be hoping the jury agrees to lesser charges, cast her as isolated and confused due to her marital situation. He also asserted that Murphy had swigged an entire bottle of vodka and downed sleeping pills in the hope that her children would find her dead the following morning.
"Her plan was that she would go to sleep and not wake up. Her kids would find her. They would know she did not abandon them, [that] she just passed away," 9News quotes Ohanion as saying. But when she woke up, "the kids were dead, and she wasn't."
Here's a larger look at Kelli Lynn's mug shot, followed by videos tracing the case to date.
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