Stephane Murphey

My sister, Stephane Murphey, 37, was murdered in Rio Rancho, just outside of Albuquerque, on April 15, 1999.  Stephane was strangled and sexually assaulted in her home, and her decomposed body was found four days later in her car, which was parked at the Warren Coronado Apartments in a low rent area of Albuquerque.

Because Stephane’s body was found in Albuquerque, there was some confusion over who had jurisdiction over the case, and the Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety asked the Albuquerque Police Department to process the crime scene.  It was actually a bit late for that, since by then Rio Rancho investigators, who originally processed the crime scene as a burglary, had already compromised much of the evidence.  The Rio Rancho DPS had let people walk around in Stephane’s house before they took fingerprints.  One of Stephane's friends stepped in blood in the bedroom and asked if it was blood.  The cops said, “no, it was probably a stain from furniture refinishing.”  As it turned out, it was my sister’s blood and probably the spot where she died.

At some point the Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety decided to reclaim the case and essentially told APD to butt out – a peculiar decision in view of the fact that the Rio Rancho DPS doesn’t have a homicide department and no one there had experience investigating a murder.  No evidence hold was placed on Stephane’s car, which was towed to an impound yard the day after it was found.  A couple of weeks later my mother received a notice in the mail addressed to Stephane from the impound yard saying they were going to crush the car if Stephane didn’t come down and pay to have it released.  Mom called the towing company and told them, “That car is supposed to be in evidence!  My daughter was found dead in that car!”

The car was crushed.

There was a mountain of physical evidence in Stephane’s case that the Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety wasn’t interested in processing.  They first told us that the Albuquerque Police wouldn’t give Rio Rancho access to the forensic evidence the APD criminalistics team had collected.  We later learned that was not true; Rio Rancho was given that evidence one week after Stephane’s murder, they just had not  bothered to look at it.  The evidence sat in the Rio Rancho evidence locker, unopened, until we had our private investigator ask them to take the information out and look at it.  Next we were told that the State Crime Lab in Santa Fe was refusing to process the evidence, because there was no defined suspect.  When I contacted the lab to inquire about that, they seemed bewildered by that statement.  They said that they were more than willing to process the evidence, but the Rio Rancho detective had sent them a box with no instructions and they didn’t know what they were supposed to do with the contents.  When the lab requested other items, such as the Mylar tapings from the car (to check for hairs other than my sister’s), the car seat covers, and the bloody towel from my sister’s bathroom that was found in the car, the police refused to send them.  They were finally sent in the spring of 2001, after our family was repeatedly told that they had already been sent.

In January, 2000, the lead detective informed our family that he was “stumped” and  had nothing more to investigate because there were no leads.  In other words, he was giving up.  At that point we asked his permission to hire a private investigator and offered him the final say-so as to whom we should hire, in the hope that it would be someone he would be comfortable working with.  Although he did not forbid us to hire a P.I., he refused to cooperate with her and did everything possible to sabotage her efforts.  When our P.I. attempted to meet with him to share information, he would cancel appointments and not reschedule, and when she occasionally asked him for information that the police already had he would tell her, “You’re an investigator, so go get it yourself,” apparently not comprehending that every hour our P.I. spent searching for information was costing us money.  By August, 2000, our family had spent over $15,000 trying to get things done that the police had neglected to do and/or to obtain information the police already had.

Our private investigator had to reinvent the wheel.  The police detective had forgotten to tape his interviews, so our P.I. was forced to go back and re-interview those same people to get their statements on record.  Those recorded accounts were sometimes quite different from the information recalled by the police detective, who sometimes did not take notes.

Another thing our P.I. did was obtain copies of police reports and crime scene photos that had previously been withheld from us.  Until then, most of our information about the case had come from the media.   It had taken months for us to get a death certificate, because to do so we needed the autopsy report, which was released to the press before it was released to us.  We did not even know that Stephane had been raped until the story came out on NBC news.  Once we were aware that there was a sperm sample (from NBC) we tried to persuade the police to send the DNA to the crime lab, but they kept dragging their feet and at one point we were informed that they had lost the sperm sample.  A year later the sperm slide turned up in a drawer in the lead detective’s desk.

The lead detective – who we wanted to regard as our champion – instead, became our nemesis.  His insensitivity to our family’s grief was incredible.  He told my mother that Stephane, (an attractive, blond flight attendant), “probably led some guy on and that’s why he killed her.”  On another occasion, he told me that my sister “was probably drunk and didn’t hear the guy jimmy the window open because she was passed out.”  That statement was absurd for a variety of reasons:  (1) Stephane didn’t have a drinking problem; (2) the autopsy revealed no alcohol in her system; and, (3) crime scene photos indicated that the perpetrator could not have come in through a window and it was likely that Stephane, who was folding laundry in the living room, had opened the door to him. 

Eighteen months after Stephane’s murder, the lead detective still had not filed his police report.  Because of that we were told that we could not get our story on America’s Most Wanted, who require a copy of a report by the lead detective.  We desperately needed that TV exposure to generate more tips, as when Crime Stoppers ran my sister’s story right after her death, the detective had never picked up the 30 odd tips that were called in, and they were eventually purged from the Crime Stoppers data banks.  We never got to see any of those potential leads, nor could we obtain an FBI profile, because of the lack of a report from the lead detective.

That original lead detective eventually left the case, and his replacement was more cooperative.  We continued to pressure RRPDS to compare the DNA under Stephane’s fingernails with a bloody towel found in her car.  Finally the police agreed to do that.  The DNA turned out to be male, and the two specimens matched. Our next step was to force the police to submit the DNA to the DNA registry. That occurred only after my parents went public in the press, criticizing the inactivity of RRDPS.  The submission of the DNA evidence resulted in a match to David F. Bologh, a man who had served time for a sexual assault in the early 1980s, and had since been arrested numerous times for DWI.  Police had never bothered to question this neighbor of Stephane’s, who lived less than 200 feet from her home.

In March, 2006, David Bologh was sentenced to 21 years in prison on a plea bargain deal. He showed no remorse and chose not to speak at his sentencing.

 

Arry Murphey-Frank, (Stephane’s sister)

Robert Murphey and Carol Murphey, (Stephane’s parents)

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Additional comments:

 Carol Murphey, Stephane’s mother:  “This would have never been solved without our constant flogging of the police, educating ourselves about solving crimes, being involved with other families in the same boat, and using every avenue possible to keep the case alive. If the department had done a door-to-door canvas in the first week after the murder and looked for people with records in the neighborhood, we would have been saved three years and sixty-six days of frustration and agony. The suspect lived only a few doors from our daughter, and had a record.  People should not be put in the position of having to solve their own daughter's murder.”

 

Tanya Hicks, the family's private investigator: "Thank God for CODIS (Combined DNA Index System Program), and for a family that just wouldn't give up. Also for an outstanding journalist who pushed this issue.”