A Franklin County judge has granted a defense request for a gag order in the case of a St. Clair area man accused of murdering his girlfriend.
Associate Circuit Judge Dave Hoven approved the order Friday after taking the motion under advisement for several days.
Judge Hoven held a hearing Tuesday, May 1, on the motion for a “protective order restricting pretrial statements and the dissemination of information to the media” in the case against Michael C. Murphy. Murphy is being defended by the public defender.
The judge also approved a defense motion for the preservation of evidence in the case.
Murphy, 58, is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Stephanie Tauchert, 40. He is being held in the county jail on a $2 million cash-only bond.
The gag order bars the court, court personnel, prosecuting attorney and staff, law enforcement officers, citizen witnesses and the defense attorney and staff from commenting publicly on the case.
In his motion, Judge Hoven noted that the guarantee of a fair trial is “paramount,” and that additional comment by anyone involved in the case “could adversely affect, and indeed, infringe upon defendant’s right to a fair trial, which is a possibility which this court will not allow to become reality, to the extent it has the ability and power to prevent such an infringement.”
Tauchert was shot multiple times at close range Wednesday, April 25, and died in the home the couple shared on Oakwood Drive in the Lake St. Clair subdivision, according to a probable cause statement filed in circuit court.
Following the murder about 5 p.m., authorities began searching for Murphy who had been seen walking away carrying a rifle. Witnesses saw him get into a pickup truck and drive away. The truck was found abandoned on a road in another part of the sprawling subdivision which contains four lakes of varying sizes and large, densely wooded tracts.
Murphy was taken into custody about 10:20 a.m. Friday, April 27, following an extensive manhunt, that involved more than 100 officers from various law enforcement agencies around the area.
Murphy had been on the run for almost 40 hours before he was captured hiding near a home in the subdivision.
After undergoing an exam at Mercy Hospital Washington, Murphy was taken to the county jail where he was questioned by detectives.
Investigators later were able to positively identify the victim based on medical and X-ray records from a surgery performed on her ankle.
Last week, investigators recovered the rifle in a dense wooded area based on information provided by Murphy during his interrogation.