Kelli Lynn Murphy found guilty of killing her two kids on dead son's eleventh birthday

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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But while divorce papers were filed, Kelli Lynn asked that the petition be withdrawn in April 2011, and scheduled a meeting to discuss the situation.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.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts