Franklin County officials have released a limited amount of updated information this week regarding the murder of 40-year-old Stephanie Tauchert, who was found dead in her home at 1405 Oakwood Drive in the Lake St. Clair development last Wednesday, April 25.
Her boyfriend, 58-year-old Michael C. Murphy, was charged by Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks on Friday with first-degree murder and armed criminal action after a massive manhunt involving more than 100 armed personnel resulted in finding Murphy behind a log at a home near where the shooting had occurred two days before. He was found at about 10:20 a.m. on Friday.
Murphy’s bond was set at $2 million “because he is considered a flight risk,” Parks said.
Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said Murphy was found at either 1504 Oakwood Drive or at 1504 Deer Run Drive, which is one street west of Oakwood. The sheriff said because of the confusion of street layouts in the subdivision, he was unsure on which street the house where Murphy was found behind the log was located.
The shooting occurred just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday in the southern end of the subdivision located just south and west of the St. Clair city limits. A probable cause statement filed in court stated the victim was shot “multiple times.”
Toelke told The Missourian this week that Murphy was interviewed by detectives later in the day on Friday after Murphy first was taken to Mercy Hospital Washington for treatment of a leg injury. The sheriff referred most questions to Parks.
A report that Murphy had confessed to the shooting was neither confirmed nor denied by Toelke or Parks.
However, Toelke did say deputies had been called to the residence where the couple lived “several times since 2006” to respond to reported domestic disturbance and violence reports.
Neither the sheriff nor the prosecuting attorney would elaborate on what may have transpired between the two this time before the shooting took place or why this particular incident escalated to the point that Tauchert fatally was shot.
It has been advertised that a trustees sale for the home shared by the couple is scheduled for Thursday, May 3. A public notice listing the sale was published in The Missourian on April 11, 18 and 25 and is again in this issue. The public notice lists Michael C. Murphy and Stephanie Tauchert as husband and wife.
The trustee’s sale on the property will take place at 12:30 p.m. at the courthouse.
Toelke told The Missourian that the couple had an “on again, off again” boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.
Authorities first were called to 1405 Oakwood Drive at 4:53 p.m. last Wednesday for a shooting at the residence. After officials first arrived, the incident was categorized over scanner frequencies as a fatality. Within minutes after that, law enforcement set up an armed perimeter around the subdivision, and no one was allowed to enter or leave the development for more than three hours as the manhunt for Murphy began.
Murphy was seen leaving the residence with a rifle after gunshots were heard. Authorities were told Murphy got into a pickup truck and drove away from the scene. The truck soon was found at the west end of Hidden View Drive, which is a short distance southwest from where the shooting occurred.
Toelke confirmed that a handgun was found inside the residence at 1405 Oakwood Drive, but he did not know whether it had been used or if it belonged to Murphy, Tauchert or someone else. There have been no confirmed reports as of Tuesday that another weapon of any kind was involved.
Toelke also confirmed that two teenage or older children belonging to Murphy and Tauchert had been at the residence shortly before the shooting, but had left to feed a dog at a relative’s residence also in the subdivision before the incident occurred.
“We believe the shooting happened shortly after they left,” Toelke said. “When they returned and pulled up at their residence, they said they saw Murphy leaving.”
Toelke said it was either one of the children or a neighbor who called 911 to report the incident, but he did not know for sure which.
The sheriff said Murphy told authorities that after he fled his house, he drove his pickup to the west end of Hidden Lake Drive and abandoned it there. He proceeded on foot to Rambler Drive located just to the north of Hidden View. He said he then traveled west into a heavily wooded area outside of the subdivision.
“He actually made a large loop west and then south,” Toelke told The Missourian. “He made it to a road south of there, Tatanka Trail, and then almost made it to Sycamore Lane (Highway PP).
“As we understand it, that’s where he hung out until the next night (Thursday) when he went to his son’s house (on Fox Run Lane northwest of Oakwood Drive). From there, we’re not real sure where he went, but we think he stayed in the subdivision. We found him the next morning.”
Toelke said Murphy told authorities he believed he traveled about eight miles before he was captured. Murphy also said he ditched the rifle somewhere in the woods, but did not know if he could locate it again.
“We’re trying to get an aerial photo of the area to help him find where he may have left the gun,” Toelke said. “He said he does not know where it is, but that he did not leave it near any residences or anything like that.”
Toelke said that Murphy’s account of where he went after the shooting means he was not the man seen at the old asphalt plant on West Springfield Road who later crossed Interstate 44 and went inside the Agape House on the I-44 North Service Road.
When that report originally was called in to authorities, dozens of armed law enforcement personnel zeroed in on the Agape House with guns drawn. A thorough search, which included using a St. Louis County helicopter, did not turn up anything there. After darkness fell, the extensive search was called off until Thursday.
On Thursday, a Sullivan Dive Team searched the west end of Lake No. 4, the body of water that runs parallel to Hidden Lake Drive, after a K-9 unit the night before had tracked Murphy to the water’s edge. The search found nothing, but a second K-9 unit again picked up Murphy’s scent there and also discovered a drop of blood.
At about 11 p.m. on Thursday, Murphy showed up outside of a different son’s house, Michael C. Murphy Jr., on Fox Run Lane. Toelke said his department received confirmation at about 11 p.m. Thursday that the elder Murphy had shown up at the son’s home.
At the time, the elder Murphy was said to be close to exhaustion from eluding officers for more than 24 hours.
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.
After the elder Murphy was seen Thursday night, a perimeter again was established around the subdivision. Tactical units from Franklin, Jefferson and St. Charles counties as well as the Missouri Highway Patrol divided into sectors and searched the subdivision house by house beginning at about 7 a.m. on Friday until Murphy was located.
Parks told The Missourian earlier this week he has not seen any written reports from the sheriff’s office yet and that he “won’t comment on evidence.”
“To be quite honest, I do not have the reports,” Parks told The Missourian. “All I have is a briefing. Everything is still being processed. I’m still kind of in the dark as to what all happened and how it happened.”
Toelke said he has discussed the case with Parks, and prefers the majority of the information come from the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Funeral services for Tauchert are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday at Russell Colonial Funeral Home in St. Clair. Visitation starts at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at the funeral home.