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Robin Murphy of Fall River denied parole this week in “cult killings”



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A Fall River woman known for her reported involvement in the city’s “cult killings” has been denied parole in a ruling handed down this week.

According to the Massachusetts Parole Board, on January 14, 1981, in Bristol Superior Court, Robin Murphy pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death of Karen Marsden and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Murphy had been indicted for first-degree murder but was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge in exchange for her testimony at the trial of her co-defendants, Carl Drew and Carl Davis.

In December 1979, Robin Murphy and Karen Marsden were in a relationship, living together in the Fall River area. Marsden had previously lived with, and worked for, Carl Drew, a Fall River pimp who the Board stated also led a satanic cult. Murphy was an active participant in a group of pimps, sex workers, and drug abusers that included Drew and Marsden. On the evening of February 8, 1980, 17-year-old Robin Murphy and Marsden were in a car with Drew, Carl Davis, and another woman. The other woman, at the direction of Davis, drove to Family Beach in Westport. When Drew ordered her to take Marsden out of the car, Murphy dragged the victim by her neck and hair into the woods. Drew and Murphy hit Marsden and struck her with rocks. Davis handed Murphy a knife and told her to cut Marsden’s throat, which she did. Drew then snapped Marsden’s neck and took off her pants, after which Murphy committed a sexual act on her body. Drew cut off Marsden’s head and told Murphy to pull out the hair. After she complied, Drew kicked the head and marked the body. Murphy, Davis, Drew, and the other woman went back to the car. Some months later, Murphy made incriminating statements to multiple friends, who later reported those statements to police.

Murphy was present and played a role in the murder of Barbara Raposa in Fall River on February 7, 1979. Murphy was given immunity in exchange for her testimony at trial in which Andre Maltais was convicted of first-degree murder.

Some of these accounts were recently disputed in a documentary of the killings called “Fall River”.

Murphy, now 59-years-old, appeared before the Parole Board for a review hearing on March 8, 2022. Murphy was denied parole after her initial hearing in 1995, and after review hearings in 1998 and 2002. Murphy appealed her 2002 denial, and the Board granted her an appeal hearing. On April 24, 2004, the Board voted to parole Murphy to a long-term residential program. She was returned to custody in 2011, for violating her conditions. Murphy was denied parole after subsequent review hearings in 2012 and 2017.

Board Members questioned Murphy as to her conflicting statements concerning her role in the governing offense. The Board noted that Murphy had pleaded guilty to the murder of Karen Marsden, where she gave graphic sworn testimony as to her role and that of Carl Drew in the murder. Murphy, however, now denies being present for the murder, having recanted her testimony several years after the crime. Murphy claims that she implicated herself directly in Marsden’s murder to ensure that Drew was also convicted of murder, as she believed that he was responsible for her death. The Board noted that Murphy had a subsequent opportunity to rectify her untruthful testimony regarding Drew but chose not to do so. Board Members noted that Murphy’s character, honesty, and credibility were of major concern, particularly as Murphy reiterated her belief in Drew’s guilt. Murphy stated that, upon further reflection, she should have let the legal system “play out” without her lies and involvement.

Murphy answered additional questions concerning her behavior while on previous parole supervision. She acknowledged to engaging in a relationship with a known felon with a substance abuse disorder. She admitted to driving her car with this person and surmised that a drug transaction occurred in the vehicle after picking up another passenger. Murphy denied seeing the exchange, however, She further claimed that she attempted to arrange for treatment for the felon. Board Members voiced concern that the relationship Murphy engaged in, while on parole supervision, was similar to many of the dysfunctional relationships she was involved in at the time of the murder. Nonetheless, the Board acknowledged Murphy’s participation in a variety of programming, including the American Veteran Dogs Program and a Restorative Justice Program. Murphy stated that she meets with a mental health counselor on a regular basis.

The Board considered testimony and a written evaluation in support of parole from Dr. Frank DiCataldo. The Board also considered submissions in opposition to parole including the testimony of Ms. Raposa’s friend and State Representative and former Fall River Police Detective Alan Silvia. The Board considered testimony in opposition to parole from Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg.

The Board stated that Murphy has not demonstrated a level of rehabilitative progress that would make her release compatible with the welfare of society. The Board acknowledged she has engaged in significant programming. However, the Board is concerned about her lack of truthfulness and history of trying to deceive the Court and the Board.

One board member was in favor of parole with conditions.

Murphy is eligible for parole again in two years.

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