Former choir director gets 30 years for boys' abuse

After pleading guilty, he's told to 'rot in hell' by 1 of 3 brothers sexually assaulted

Houston Chronicle/August 3, 2005
By Andrew Tilghman

A young man who was molested by a Catholic Church choir director told his abuser to "rot in hell" Tuesday after the accused pedophile pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting him and his two young brothers during the past 10 years.

Stuart Murphy, 57, faced his victim in court somberly and tearfully after a judge handed down a 30-year prison sentence for repeatedly molesting the boys whom he met at Annunciation Catholic Church in downtown Houston.

"This is a day that he knew was coming," Murphy's defense attorney, Brett Podolsky, said after the sentencing. "He knew what he was doing was wrong and he felt like he needed to take responsibility for his actions."

Murphy's arrest in March came as a shock to those who knew him as a longtime Catholic school teacher and church volunteer who began working in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston more than 25 years ago.

Archdiocese officials said Murphy was terminated from his job at Annunciation after he was charged. He left his part-time teachers assistant job at the Cardinal Newman School days before his March 30 arrest.

An image of wealth

For years Murphy projected himself as a prominent man of independent wealth with close ties to the bishop and other church leaders.

Most recently a choir director at Annunciation, Murphy befriended his victims and their family more than 10 years ago, when he began molesting the oldest child who was about 12 years old, prosecutor Denise Oncken said.

As the oldest boy, who is now 22, grew up, Murphy began molesting the two younger boys in the family, including the youngest child at about age 6, she said.

Investigators believe Murphy may have molested another boy in the late 1970s or early 1980s, but prosecutors did not file charges in that case because the statute of limitations has expired, Oncken said.

Murphy pleaded guilty to five felony sexual abuse charges.

Visiting state District Judge Mary Bacon sentenced him to 30 years on each of the two aggravated sexual assault charges and 20 years on each of the three indecency with a child charges.

Murphy will serve them concurrently and will be eligible for parole after 15 years.

The judge also allowed one of Murphy's victims and the victims' father to read a victim impact statement in court.

The diocese sent a representative to court Tuesday morning "to offer prayer and support for the family," said Annette Gonzales Taylor, a spokeswoman for the diocese.

Porn accusation

Murphy was arrested after a Katy family notified police earlier this year with concerns that Murphy may have used its home computer to search for child pornography.

When questioned about his use of the computer, Murphy offered Katy police an "outright confession" that he has molested the three boys, police said.

The younger brother told investigators that Murphy abused him for at least six years and that the abuse stopped in June 2003, court records show.

Murphy abused him routinely at various places, including at the child's Katy home, in a car, in a classroom at Cardinal Newman school while serving as Murphy 's "helper" at a summer camp and at Annunciation church, where Murphy claimed he lived, court records show.

Abuse spanned 10 years

The oldest brother told investigators that Murphy started abusing him about 10 years ago at age 12.

Murphy began working for the archdiocese in 1977 as a teacher at Seton Catholic Junior High in north Houston, where he spent five years, church officials said.

In the early 1990s, Murphy worked for less than a year as a music minister at St. Luke the Evangelist, and he started working for Annunciation in 1993, church officials said.

Murphy started volunteering and working at Cardinal Newman about 2 1/2 years ago.

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