Preliminary hearing for Alice Murphy’s accused killer to be held Jan. 25

By: Brad Smith Telegraph Correspondent
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One year after her murder, Alice Murphy’s family is still seeking closure and answers — and will finally face their mother’s accused killer. Murphy was found dead in her 1720 Creekside Manor apartment on Dec. 21, 2009. Tammy O’Reilly, a family friend, had stopped by her apartment and discovered Murphy’s body, then called 911. The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office ruled the 64-year-old mother and grandmother’s death as a homicide, and the Folsom Police Department started their murder investigation. That investigation went on for nearly six months, culminating in the June 16 arrest of a former Elk Grove man, Sylvester Griffin, 42, in Columbia, South Carolina. At the time of Murphy’s murder, the suspect had been working as a driver for Rapid Response Medical Transportation Service. While Murphy wasn’t a Rapid Response customer, others in the apartment complex were. At the time of his arrest, Griffin was charged with murder, robbery, rape and burglary. His next court appearance is set for 8 a.m., Jan. 25 for a preliminary hearing. Murphy’s daughter, Rhonda Walker, said that she will be in the courtroom that Tuesday morning. “I’ll be there and so will my brothers (Mark and Eric Judish),” she said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment ever since the day we lost mom.” Walker said that 2009 had been a “brutal year” for her. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and battled it throughout last year. It had been an emotional and physical drain on her — and her mother was there for her the whole time. “Mom was like a rock, helping me get through it,” Walker said. “And, I did get through it and survived . . . only to lose mom. It’s a bittersweet feeling, beating cancer and now dealing with this.” Mark Judish said losing his mother during the holidays was hard on him and his wife, Ursula, and daughters Ashley, 7, and Presley, 4. “You know, the last time I saw mom, we talked about our Christmas plans,” he said. “It was that Saturday morning and we were having breakfast with mom and Tammy (O’Reilly). We talked about what we wanted to do, exchanging presents and having dinners. Ashley and Presley were so excited about spending Christmas with grandma.” But all of that changed on Dec. 21. “When I first heard about mom, the sadness I felt was and still is indescribable,” Mark Judish said. “Then when I learned that she’d murdered I was filled with anger. Anger and sadness at the same time. I’m still feeling that way. What was he thinking? Why my mother?” Judish said that he and his brother Eric have talked with grief counselors. “When you lose somebody you love, it’s hard. Yeah, when they’re ripped away from you like my mother was, it’s harder, I think,” Judish said. “Seeking help through counselors has helped all of us out. I still feel anger and loss — and I will for some time. I’m learning to cope. All of us are.” Walker has been seeing a counselor as well. She has had nightmares since her mother’s murder — and in some of those bad dreams, she sees the suspect’s face. “I wake up terrified,” she said. “I think about mom and I wonder about her last thoughts. What she went through that night, what happened to her. I know that I have the same anger that my brothers share and the sense of loss. I’ve been dealing with those feelings, as well as being afraid.” The family is pleased with the work the Folsom Police Department did on the case. Judish said that it was the first time he’d experienced “real” police work. “It’s not like what you see on TV,” he said. “Nothing is resolved that quickly. The bad guy isn’t caught within an hour and it takes time — a long time — for crime scene investigators to get their work done. But the reality is the (Folsom) police did a damn good job.” Walker said police went “above and beyond” standard procedure during the course of the investigation. “I was in constant contact with the detectives assigned to the case,” she said. “Via e-mails and phones, they were keeping (us) informed of how the case was going. They asked how I was and offered to help with moral support and counseling. They were focused on catching the killer — but they were also concerned about me and my family.” Judish said he was amazed by concern and professionalism shown by the police. “The police really went out of their way to make sure we were alright and well-informed,” Judish said. “Now, due to the sensitivity of the investigation, there are some things we weren’t told and won’t know until the trial. It’s frustrating but I do understand that. But, my family and I feel that the Folsom Police Department did a tremendous job.” Sgt.Jason Browning said the murder investigation became the department’s priority case. “Every single resource we had or could access, we utilized,” Browning said. “It was a team effort, with the department working with other agencies during the investigation.” He said that the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the FBI Crime Lab, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the Sacramento Coroner’s Office and the Columbia police all fully cooperated with the Folsom police during the investigations. More than 200 interviews had been conducted and several hundred hours’ worth of video surveillance was thoroughly analyzed, along with with other evidence. “Any lead we got, we followed through with it and that took time. But it all paid off when the crime lab got that DNA match,” Browning said. “Once we had that match, then it helped us to get an arrest warrant for the suspect.” The family celebrated the holidays despite the solemn one year anniversary. Walker still has the Christmas presents Murphy had bought for her in 2009. Still wrapped and tied with ribbons, the presents sit beside her bed. The presents, she said, are the first thing she sees in the morning and the last before she falls asleep. She hasn’t been able to open them after all this time. “One day, I’ll open them,” Walker said. “But, that’s some time in the future. In the here and now, I have to focus on being with my family and getting through the trial process. That’s what I have to do first.”