A former Enfield police officer has been indicted on numerous counts of embezzlement, altering criminal evidence and other charges after an investigation into allegations of sexual exploitation of a child led to the discovery of a stash of hoarded evidence at his home.
Willie Cleveland Murphy, a former lieutenant with the Enfield Police Department, was charged with these crimes last week after the sexual exploitation investigation uncovered new alleged crimes.
Enfield Mayor Wayne Anderson sent out a statement Monday concerning the situation and thanking federal, state and local agencies for “thwarting an ongoing criminal activity relating to internet crimes against children in Enfield.”
“Enfield has benefited from the special task force known as the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (ICAC). Because of this special task force and its coordination with other agencies, a child predator was arrested here with a search warrant by the ICAC/SBI to apprehend someone posting child pornography on the internet,” Anderson said.
“In addition, while this warrant was executed in pursuit of internet crimes against children, it was found that the suspect was also in possession of criminal evidence that belonged in the Enfield Police Department property room. Charges were issued and the arrest was made by the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office. Because the suspect is a former Enfield police officer, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Department was called in by the SBI to audit the found criminal evidence,” Anderson said.
Anderson did not identify the suspect in his statement, but Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp identified him in a statement that laid out the events that led to Murphy’s arrest.
Tripp said the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office acted on information received by an “outside entity” and began an investigation into the second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor child on July 27. As a part of this investigation, his office, with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security, executed a search warrant on Murphy’s residence.
During the search, investigators located multiple items of unsealed evidence belonging to the Enfield Police Department as well as marijuana and paraphernalia.
“All unsealed and empty evidence packaging was seized by the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and the investigation continued. Investigators also located multiple items of evidence that appeared to have been collected from different crime scenes, which had never been submitted into evidence by policy of the Enfield Police Department and also as required by law,” Tripp said in the statement.
Because of the discovery, the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office consulted with the District Attorney’s office and concluded that an audit of the evidence room at the Enfield Police Department was warranted because Murphy had served as the evidence custodian at the agency.
“At the conclusion of the audit, additional evidence was found to be altered, damaged or missing from within the Enfield Police Department’s evidence room,” Tripp said.
Detectives from the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office discovered 86 items of evidence that had been altered, stolen or mishandled, Tripp said in his statement. Additionally, an undisclosed amount of cash, an estimated one pound of marijuana and other illicit drugs were discovered to be missing or unaccounted for.
As a result of this investigation, Murphy was indicted on 14 counts of embezzlement by a local government employee, 18 counts of altering, destroying or stealing criminal evidence, 18 counts of willfully failing to discharge duties and four counts of obstructing justice.
No one from the Town of Enfield returned a phone call asking how long Murphy had been employed at the Enfield Police Department, but Enfield Police Chief Tyree Davis said that Murphy handed in his resignation about a month ago after the investigation into the sexual offenses began.
In a statement, Davis said these events prove that the processes of checks and balances he put in place when he became chief are working.
“On Aug. 4, Enfield Police Department was there when a search warrant was executed at Murphy’s residence. During the search warrant, detectives confirmed that evidence belonging to the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and the Enfield Police Department was located inside Murphy’s residence,” Davis said. “For transparency of the evidence that was stolen from Enfield, I requested that an outside agency conduct the investigation.”
Davis said the ensuing investigation reveals that Murphy is the only Enfield police officer involved in the theft of evidence.
“I’m not sure who else is involved, if anybody, or how Murphy was able to have evidence that belongs to the Halifax County Sheriff Office at his house,” Davis said. “For their investigation, the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office contacted an outside agency about a year ago when they noticed evidence was stolen from their evidence room. I’m not sure if the evidence located in Murphy’s house is a part of that investigation or not.”
Davis said the fact that the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office had gone through a similar investigation was a “big help” in the current investigation at the Enfield Police Department.
Davis also said he hopes the current circumstances do not detract from the positive work Murphy has done in the past.
“I cannot take away all the good that Murphy has done for our department and community over the years. I know that good people make bad decisions sometimes. However, when you allegedly commit such illegal acts, you yourself cast dark shadows over all the good you’ve done,” Davis said in his statement.
Davis also pointed out that law enforcement is a profession that cannot afford “bad apples.”
“Just because this happened with one of our former officers, my stance remains the same. I tell people all the time and I will say it again today. Good cops hate bad cops more than you do. Well today, the good cops won,” he said.
As of Friday, Murphy was out on bond and awaiting trial. He has not been charged in connection with the sexual exploitation investigation. A representative of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office said that investigation still is ongoing and more charges may later be filed.
Anderson stated that the State Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies have been working with elected officials concerning methodologies of evidence controls for appropriate actions to prevent evidence tampering in the future.