Depression, alcohol blamed for theft

An area man who blamed depression and drinking for his decision to steal from a friend was sentenced Wednesday in Washington County Common Pleas Court to time served.

William R. Murphy, 67, of 103 Upper Fifteen Mile Creek Road, Wingett Run, was sentenced on a fourth-degree felony count of theft to 53 days in jail, all of which he has already served during two separate stints in the Washington County Jail.

Murphy’s attorney Ray Smith said his client’s health was so poor that he feared more jail time.

Reading from a letter Murphy had written for the court, Smith recounted Murphy’s last stay in jail: “The last time I was in jail I had to be taken to Marietta Memorial and have heart surgery.”

Murphy’s second stint in jail, in the fall of 2013, was the result of a phone call in which Murphy allegedly threatened a witness in the theft case. Murphy was indicted on a third-degree felony count of intimidation, but that charge was dropped when he pleaded guilty to theft, said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Jared Erb.

“Dismissal was with the victim’s consent,” he said.

The female victim in the intimidation case was a separate victim than the theft victim, a physically disabled man that had been staying with Murphy.

“They were friends and he took the guy’s ATM card without his permission and cleaned it out,” said Erb.

Smith said the men had used the card to go on a drinking bender.

“He and this guy bought a bunch of beer,” he said.

More than $1,000 in disability benefits was stolen from the victim, said Erb.

In his letter, Murphy said his actions had been the result of his depression over the death of his wife in 2011.

“Sir, I felt lost without her, so I drank,” Smith read from the letter.

The pair had been married 33 years, said Smith.

The victim could not be present in court, but had a message for Murphy, said Erb.

“All he would like is for Mr. Murphy to get right with his maker,” Erb said.

The victim’s credit card company reimbursed the money, so no restitution was requested, he added.

Erb requested a community control sanction for Murphy.

Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane said Murphy seemed genuinely remorseful. Lane noted Murphy’s complete lack of criminal history and health problems in his decision to not sentence additional jail time.

Lane ordered Murphy to serve three years of community control and also ordered him to be evaluated by L&P services for potential counseling options.

“If they want you to do alcohol counseling or grief counseling or both, you do it,” said Lane..