Authorities believe they found the rifle that was used to murder 40-year-old Stephanie Tauchert, who was shot and killed in her home in the Lake St. Clair development just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25.
Tauchert’s boyfriend, Michael C. Murphy, 58, who was found Friday morning, April 27, hiding behind a log at a home near the 1405 Oakwood Drive residence where the incident occurred after being on the run from authorities for about 41 hours, was charged later that day with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Tauchert was shot “multiple times,” according to a probable cause statement filed in court.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Lt. Chuck Subke told The Missourian that a rifle was found in a heavily wooded and thick-brush area between 9 and 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday in an area southeast of where Leisore Lane and Pheasant Drive meet in the southern end of the subdivision located just outside of the St. Clair city limits.
“It’s a tough question to answer exactly where it was found,” Subke said, adding that the rifle was found on private property in a hollowed out, rotted tree that had fallen. “We found it in the woods away from any homes just outside of the subdivision.”
The area where the weapon was found is east of Lake No. 4 in the sprawling development.
Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said Murphy told authorities he believed he traveled about eight miles on foot before he was captured at about 10:20 a.m. on April 27. Toelke said that Murphy stated he ditched the rifle somewhere in the woods and did not know if he could locate it again.
Subke would not confirm that Murphy had provided the information about where to search for the rifle.
“But I can say that we received information as to its whereabouts,” the lieutenant said. “We actually got pretty lucky. This was the first area we started looking.”
Subke said four or five detectives walked about 50 yards east of the curve that connects Leisore Lane and Pheasant Drive, which is near where Wipper Lane also is located. They crossed a barbed-wire fence and went about 75 yards south and found the rifle.
Toelke had told The Missourian that after Murphy fled his house following the shooting, 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.
Toelke then said Murphy “made a large loop west and then south.” He reached Tatanka Trail at the far southwest corner of the development and came close to Sycamore Lane, which is Highway PP. Tatanka Lane is south of Lake No. 4 and east of Highway PP. Leisore Lane is in between.
The sheriff said as he understands it, Murphy stayed in that area until he showed up at son Michael C. Murphy Jr.’s home on Fox Run Lane, located northwest of Oakwood Drive in the subdivision, at about 11 p.m. Thursday. At that time, Murphy Jr. told authorities that his father asked Michael Jr. to “get him out of here.”
The younger Murphy refused, and Murphy Sr. left the area but probably remained somewhere in the development until he was captured on Friday morning, Toelke said.
Subke would not say whether the rifle had been discharged.
“It’s been placed into evidence and will be processed at the Missouri Highway Patrol lab,” he said. “I can’t confirm whether it was fired.”