DECLO, Idaho – An Idaho man whose wife was slain in what authorities believed was a botched home invasion in 2014 is now accused of killing the woman for a $650,000 life insurance policy he took out weeks before her death.
Jimmy Lee Murphy, 32, of Burley, is charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 26, 2014, death of Whitney Leigh Murphy, 26, inside their Declo home. Jimmy Murphy remained Tuesday in the Cassia County Jail, into which he was booked on Wednesday.
Whitney Murphy died of a shotgun blast to the head. The weapon used to kill her has never been found.
The Idaho State Journal reported that Jimmy Murphy attempted to run when arresting officers approached him Wednesday. They tackled him and used a stun gun to subdue him in the doorway of his mobile home.
Murphy, who was under surveillance by police and the FBI in recent weeks, appeared to be making plans to leave the area. FBI officials learned he’d quit his job Feb. 26 and Murphy appeared to be outfitting a van to live in.
His actions were consistent with prior statements he’d made to police officials about how he wanted to live the “van life,” the newspaper reported.
According to Whitney Murphy’s obituary, she was generous and “brought joy to all she knew.” She was also described as a loving mother to her stepson.
“Being the best mother and wife that she could be was Whitney’s greatest joy,” the obituary said. “Every day was planned around what her family needed so that she could spend the most time with them as possible. When she wasn’t with her husband and son, she was often with her nephews, nieces, cousins, brothers, sisters, parents and friends, sharing her positive attitude, cheerful conversations and jokes.”
Whitney Murphy had dropped her young stepson off with his mother just hours before she was killed.
Cassia County sheriff’s deputies were called around 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26 to Murphy’s neighborhood, where they found gunshot victims in two separate homes. Whitney Murphy was dead inside her home and a neighbor, Levi Bodily, 24, had been shot in the back through a basement window of his home.
It was the shooting of Bodily, who survived, that triggered the 911 call that brought deputies to the scene, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Court documents obtained by the Statesman indicate that detectives initially believed Whitney Murphy had stumbled upon a burglary in progress at the couple’s rural home.
Jimmy Murphy told investigators he’d come home that night to find his wife slain. Murphy’s alibi was that he’d gone to wash his truck and to “water the farm,” or check the sprinklers where he worked, at the behest of his boss.
Murphy’s boss later denied that he’d asked Murphy to do so, the newspaper reported.
Detectives’ suspicions were also aroused when they found nothing missing from the home except Jimmy Murphy’s shotgun — which is believed to be the murder weapon.
A safe containing $30,000 in cash, Whitney Murphy’s purse, other weapons and additional valuables were untouched, the court records state.
Jimmy Murphy had gunshot residue on his hands, which he explained by saying he’d been shooting pigeons earlier that day, reported the State Journal, which also obtained court records in the case. Police were unable to find shell casings in the area where he said he’d been hunting, however, and people who knew Murphy said he was not a hunter.
Murphy later admitted he had not been hunting but never gave an alternate reason for the gunshot residue, the State Journal reported.
Jimmy Murphy admitted to police that he’d cheated on his wife and that they were having marital problems. Investigators later recovered text messages he’d sent Whitney Murphy the day she died, telling her to come “straight home” after going to church and dropping his young son off with his ex-wife, the newspaper reported.
He also texted her that they were “going to have sex” that night, despite other recovered text messages that indicated he was no longer interested in sex and would spurn her advances.
The Statesman reported that Jimmy Murphy attempted to collect the life insurance payout following his wife’s death but that the insurance company denied his claim.
He subsequently refused to pay for Whitney Murphy’s funeral, authorities said.
Police investigators also said that few people knew the layout of Bodily’s home to shoot someone in the basement bedroom. Of those who did, Murphy was the only one with no proof of his whereabouts the night of the shooting, the paper reported.
According to court records, one of Whitney Murphy’s relatives ran into Jimmy Murphy at a local store three years after her homicide. When the relative accused him of killing her, Murphy’s response was chilling.
“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t,” Murphy said, according to documents.
Jimmy Murphy is next due in court Friday for a preliminary hearing.