CASTLE ROCK - A Castle Rock faced a jury on Wednesday, accused of murdering her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter in May 2011.
Prosecutors say Kelli Lynn Murphy, 41, killed her kids Liam, 9, and Madigan, 6, in an act of control and revenge against her husband, Robert Eric Murphy.
She had filed for divorce against her husband and was due in court on a custody issue on the same day she's accused of murdering her children. Murphy's defense attorneys say Murphy was depressed because of the divorce and felt alone.
"She changed," Defense Attorney Ara Ohanion said. "She felt like everyone had abandoned her."
Ohanion claimed Murphy blacked out after drinking a full bottle of vodka and taking sleeping pills, hoping her kids would find her dead.
"Her plan was that she would go to sleep and not wake up. Her kids would find her. They would know she did not abandon them, [that] she just passed away," Ohanion said.
But when she woke up, "the kids were dead, and she wasn't," Ohanion said.
The 911 call
Kelli Murphy called 911 just before 8 a.m. on May 23, 2011 to report she slit her wrists. She also told a dispatcher she had kids in her house.
"They are in heaven right now," Murphy told a dispatcher, according to the 911 call played in the courtroom Wednesday.
When asked by dispatcher what happened to her kids, Murphy said, at least four times according to prosecutors, she needed an attorney. The Douglas County District Attorney's office is pursuing two counts of first-degree murder against Murphy.
"Mothers are not supposed to kill their children. Mother's provide life," Douglas County Deputy District Attorney Jay Williford told the jury in his opening statement. "But in this case, Kelli Lynn Murphy, squeezed the life from 9-year-old Liam and 6-year-old Madigan by her own hands. Both Liam and Madigan's life have been silenced."
Jurors heard testimony from the 911 dispatcher and the first officer to respond to the scene Wednesday morning. When Castle Rock Police Officer William Harris showed up to the house, he found Murphy with her wrists slit.
"It shocked me for a quick second," Harris told the jury.
Harris says he held paper towels on Murphy's wrists and asked her about her kids.
"They are deceased," he says Murphy told him.
When he asked where they were, she pointed down the hallway, Harris says. Another officer found the kids, suffocated and smothered to death in their respective bedrooms, prosecutors said.
Troubled family history detailed in court records
According to court records reviewed by 9Wants to Know investigators, Kelli and Robert Eric Murphy filed for divorce in early 2011. Kelli Murphy was set to appear in court on Monday for a temporary restraining order hearing. Another hearing was set for Wednesday at 9 a.m. to discuss the order regarding a motion to vacate temporary orders of the divorce.
Murphy had filed a civil-protection order against her husband on March 3, citing domestic abuse and assault. According to the court documents, Kelli Murphy claimed her husband grabbed his daughter by the throat on two occasions in front of her brother.
"We were at home eating , Robert had finished and was sitting on the couch. Madigan started messing around at the table, and he got up from the couch and grabbed her by the throat [in front of me and Liam] and started screaming at her to finish dinner," Kelli Murphy said in court documents.
She stated on another occasion, "Robert was giving Madigan a bath. She started messing around and not getting soap off. He again grabbed her by the neck/throat. [She said Dad was choking me] and shoved her head under the faucet. Liam saw it happen."
Kelli Murphy also told authorities on one occasion Robert Murphy barricaded her in the basement and hit her with the door. On April 11, Kelli Murphy wanted to permanently withdraw the divorce petition, citing the couple filed for divorce out of anger.
"Through our pastor, he had recommended a 'cooling off' period, and that we get into counseling. I do not want a divorce, and my husband has told me that as well. This needs to stop. We need counseling not a divorce. I am asking the court to intervene and stop these proceedings so that we can get counseling and put our marriage/family back together. After attending the parenting class, I know we need to pursue every method we can to save this marriage, keep our family together before it is too late," Kelli Murphy told the court.
The judge denied her request, saying that both parties needed to ask for a withdrawal in order for the divorce to be stopped.
Prosecutors says their case, moving forward, will show the jury pictures of the children's injuries, solicit testimony from neighbors and put Murphy's husband on the stand.
Ohanion says he would ask the jury to consider her mental state. He said he would ask the jury to consider lesser charges than first-degree murder but did not elaborate on what those charges might be.
"You will see Kelli Murphy is not guilty of first-degree murder," Ohanion told the jury.
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