An intense manhunt involving more than 100 members of various law enforcement agencies came to an end Friday morning as Michael C. Murphy, accused of murdering his 40-year-old girlfriend late Wednesday afternoon, was found alive at a home near where the shooting occurred.
At about 10:20 a.m. on Friday, law enforcement found Murphy at a home near 1405 Oakwood Drive in the Lake St. Clair development, where the woman was killed by at least two shots from a rifle shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday. (See separate story for information on the capture.)
A large contingent of law enforcement officers from Franklin and adjoining counties as well as state troopers searched door to door in the Lake St. Clair development starting at about 7 a.m. Friday after authorities confirmed Murphy was seen inside the subdivision late Thursday.
Sheriff Gary Toelke told The Missourian at the command post located at the Peacock Road entrance shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday morning that squads from Franklin, Jefferson and St. Charles counties as well as the Missouri Highway Patrol were sweeping the subdivision by going from house to house in an effort to find Murphy.
They were divided into different sectors inside the development.
All of the personnel on the several tactical teams were dressed in full gear and armed with high-powered rifles.
Shortly after it was announced that three sectors had been cleared, Murphy was found.
The large contingent of officers was called to resume the manhunt for Murphy, who was seen by his son, Michael C. Murphy Jr., outside the younger Murphy’s home late Thursday night.
Toelke said his department received confirmation at about 11 p.m. Thursday that the elder Murphy had showed up at his son’s home in the subdivision and was still at-large. The 58-year-old man was said to be close to exhaustion from eluding officers who were searching the area after the shooting took place shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday and continuing throughout the day Thursday.
It was reported that Murphy was transported to Mercy Hospital Washington after he was found because he had a leg laceration. Deputies accompanied him to the hospital.
The man apparently had been hiding and running from the searching officers in dense woods surrounding the subdivision located just southwest of the St. Clair city limits between Highway PP and Peacock and West Springfield roads.
Friday’s manhunt also included K-9 units.
Toelke said on Friday morning that he believed the younger Murphy lives on Fox Run Lane, which is located a little to the northwest of Oakwood Drive where Wednesday’s shooting occurred.
Murphy Jr. told authorities that his dad came to the outside of his home. The two spoke, Toelke said, with Murphy Sr. asking his son to “get him out of here.”
Toelke said the son refused and tried to keep his dad there while his wife called 911.
Toelke said officials “just missed him” then.
“The son said he (Murphy Sr.) walked away from the residence. He did not run,” the sheriff said. “He did not have the weapon with him but told his son he had it stashed somewhere. The son tried to keep him there until we arrived, but it wasn’t quite long enough.”
After the elder Murphy was seen Thursday night, a perimeter was established and men were posted around the development. Toelke said at least 16 officials were stationed around the subdivision and remained there as daylight broke on Friday.
Authorities have not released the name of the 40-year-old woman who was shot and killed inside the home. Toelke said she and Murphy had an “on-again, off-again” boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.
Toelke said no one was home besides Murphy and the victim at the time of the shooting, which is believed to have started as a domestic dispute. However, he said shortly after the incident, two of Murphy’s younger children arrived at the scene and saw the woman dead inside the home.
Toelke said he believed it was a neighbor who originally called 911 after gunshots were heard.
It was reported that neighbors saw Murphy leaving the residence carrying a rifle. It also was reported he got into a pickup and drove away.
Authorities searched on Thursday for Murphy and concentrated it in the southern area of the development near the Oakwood Drive home and where the pickup driven from the residence after the shooting was found abandoned on the west end of Hidden Lake Drive Wednesday evening.
Authorities said there was blood found inside the pickup. A K-9 unit followed Murphy’s scent from the truck to the nearby lake, which is identified as Lake No. 4.
A spot of blood between the pickup and the lake was discovered by a dog on Thursday afternoon, but nothing other than that or Murphy’s scent was located, Toelke said.
“We’re trying to find him for everyone’s safety,” Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Steve Elliott said from Hidden Lake Drive on Thursday afternoon. “We don’t know his mindset or mental state. If this is a typical domestic, we feel everyone probably is safe. But we don’t know.”
Before Thursday night’s sighting, Murphy’s last confirmed location was near the west end of Hidden Lake Drive on Wednesday evening where the pickup was found abandoned. A K-9 unit tracked his scent that night to the edge of Lake No. 4.
Members of the Sullivan Dive Team searched the west end of the lake on Thursday afternoon, but did not find anything in the water.
A second K-9 unit on the scene Thursday afternoon came up with the evidence “hit” that turned out to be the drop of blood.
Because of the blood found both inside the pickup and on the ground near the lake, authorities believe Murphy could have been injured in some way.
Police on Thursday still were looking into whether Murphy was seen later on Wednesday evening at the old asphalt plant on West Springfield Road west of Lake St. Clair and then shortly thereafter seen crossing Interstate 44 near the St. Clair VFW and the Agape House near Highway WW.
A woman said she saw Murphy at the asphalt plant, and a member of a St. Louis helicopter crew assisting in the search reportedly saw a man enter an Agape House apartment a short time later on the other side of the interstate.
Authorities converged on the Agape House and the area was cleared, but Murphy was not found.
A mother, her two children and another young girl were seen running from the Agape House shortly after authorities arrived there.
The woman, Susan Cray, said she was watching her children outside their Agape House apartment when they saw authorities beginning to arrive en masse.
She said a sheriff’s deputy told her to “get up the hill (toward the VFW) right now.” The armed deputy accompanied her to the safety of the VFW post on the other side of Highway WW.
Cray said she never saw Murphy or anyone else, but she and her children were “scared to death because we didn’t know what was going on.”
Authorities still have not determined whether it was Murphy who was seen around the Agape House on Wednesday evening.
St. Clair police, Franklin County deputies and Missouri Highway Patrol troopers sealed off entrances to the subdivision for at least two hours after the incident Wednesday. Authorities were armed at the entrances as the search for Murphy continued, and they remained armed on Thursday and Friday.
Toelke told The Missourian on Wednesday night that there are three men named Michael Murphy who live in the area. Besides the father and son, the other is St. Clair R-XIII School District Superintendent Michael D. Murphy.