Murray takes plea in murder case
Mother gets 5 years in prison, murder charge dropped
An Aurora woman accused of murder and domestic assault pleaded guilty to only the latter of the two charges Monday morning in Barry County Court.
Murray agreed and was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree domestic assault, a class C felony, and the murder charge was dropped.
Don Trotter, Lawrence County prosecutor, said he dropped the murder charge against Murray because after being deposed again, the medical examiner could not say for certain if Murray's alleged abuse of 4-year-old Skylar Bradley was the sole cause of his spleen rupturing.
"[Bradley's] spleen bursting could have been from a number of things," Trotter said. "A normal spleen for a child his age is about 39 grams, and his was 105 grams, so it was nearly triple the size it should have been. Any slight bump could cause it to burst, and there was testimony [Murray] hit him and he fell on his back on the bed, but there's also testimony [Bradley] was roughhousing with his stepbrothers, or it could have just burst on its own without warning."
Trotter said the plea deal is the same one offered back in September 2015, a deal protestors picketed outside the Barry and Stone County courthouses as being too lenient. Trotter said he had to drop the murder charge because there just was not enough evidence to prove Murray was at fault.
However, Trotter said he is satisfied with Murray accepting five years for a class C felony.
"Doing five years on a class C felony is rare," he said. "Had we not filed the murder charge, there is a possibility she could have wound up with just probation."
Trotter said he spoke to those who picketed the deal in 2015, and he said everyone was in agreement.
"Everyone was there, [Murray's] family and the protestors, and I spoke to the protestors before and after the hearing, and everyone was on board with the agreement," Trotter said.
Misty Hensley, of Monett, who led the protests last year, said while she understands the burden of proof needed, she still wishes the sentence had been tougher.
"I'm frustrated, I'm hurt and I'm confused on how a woman can kill her child and walk away with a 5-year plea deal," she said. "Like i've said before, I have to explain to my kids why their brother is dead and this woman gets to spend her days walking free.
"I understand and agree it's a matter of proving it, but when she admits to beating Skyler that day and he had bruises coinciding with where she stated she hit him, and also coinciding with where the spleen is located, I don't think much more proof should be needed."
Trotter said there was evidence of bruising on Bradley's head and scalp, which the medical examiner said would be consistent with testimony Murray had beat her son with her fist.
Hensley said looking forward, she is concerned about Murray ever being around children again.
"Now, my only concern is [Murray] can be around children when she gets out," Hensley said. "So, I encourage all parents know who there children are at all times, as nothing is stopping this woman from being around our community's children."
According to Trotter, Murray was arrested in July 2014, so she has spent about 1-1/2 years in the Lawrence County jail. Counting that time served, Murray may be eligible for parole as early as this year.
"I think she'll serve two years for sure, and then she could be up for parole, but with a child being killed in this case, they may hold her longer than they normally would," he said. "That all depends on the parole board."
If granted parole, Murray would still have to meet certain legal obligations, such as meeting with a parole officer.
According to a probable cause statement filed by Sgt. Daniel Nash of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Murray took Bradley to Mercy Hospital in Aurora for an unknown illness on Dec. 14, 2013. Bradley was treated and then transferred to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, where he died.
On Dec. 16, 2013, an autopsy determined Bradley died of complications from a ruptured spleen. There was also a bruise on Bradley's side and back area near the location of his spleen.
In a June 6, 2014, interview, Murray recounted events leading up to Bradley's death. She said while at her Aurora residence, she allegedly struck her son on his rear and back area and then began to strike him a second time, but he turned away, which allegedly made her angry and caused her to lose her temper.
"Murray stated that she then struck Bradley again, and that she struck him much harder that she should have," Nash said in the statement. "Murray advised that as she struck Bradley this second time, the blow knocked him off his bed and spun him around, causing him to fall off the bed and strike his back on his brother's bed. Murray advised that she then picked Bradley up from the floor, put him in bed and told him to stay there.
"Murray advised that she left the room, and when she returned approximately one hour later, Bradley appeared ill and refused to eat anything. Murray stated that she again left the room, and upon returning approximately 45 minutes later, found Bradley to be very ill and unresponsive."
Nash said she then transported her son to Mercy in Aurora and allegedly lied to hospital officials and law enforcement about the incident, and allegedly admitted lying to Nash during the first part of the interview.
"Murray advised that she lied because she was scared," Nash said in the statement. "During interviews, witnesses advised that Murray had a very hot temper and that she would routinely strike Bradley, sometimes with her hand, sometimes with a fist and sometimes with a wooden paddle.
"These witnesses further advised that Murray would strike Bradley so hard that she eventually broke the wooden paddle and that they witnessed bruises on Bradley's body and even his face. These witnesses further advised that Murray would routinely provide Bradley with NyQuil and other medications, even to include Xanax. These witnesses advised that at times, they witnessed Bradley in a drugged condition."