Cult murderer could return to Fall River

She was 17 when she was put behind bars. Today she is 41, and next week when convicted cult murderer Robin Murphy returns to the community to live at a halfway house, she returns to a different world, a new world.

One such home at which Murphy may soon be residing is in Fall River. She has applied to a halfway house in the city to begin her reintegration back into society. Although there is no official word on where Murphy will spend her first six months to a year, she has applied to stay at Fall River’s St. Francis Home among many others across the commonwealth, sources say.

Her reacclimation to life outside prison, experts say, will be an Herculian task that many cannot overcome.

“There are going to be huge obstacles for her to succeed in today’s world,” said the co-executive director of Worcester’s Dismas House, David McMahon. “The adjustment to life on the outside after being institutionalized for more than 20 years is huge, but there are ways to succeed.”

Murphy was imprisoned at the age of 17 for the grisly murder of city prostitute Karen Marsden. She was granted parole by the state Parole Board and is slated to be transferred to a halfway house on May 15.

Experts who deal with parolees on a routine basis say that the odds of Murphy and others like her successfully reintegrating into society are stacked against them but there are specialized intensive programs designed especially for institutionalized inmates who are released to the community.

Almost all halfway house programs are designed to reduce recidivism while also providing a support and psychological counseling structure for the ex-convict.

The St. Francis Home, Fall River’s only halfway house devoted to female ex-convicts, is unlike many other similar long-term residential care facilities because of its intimate size and style of counseling, said director Jini Burke.

The home in the city’s north end and houses no more than six women at a time, a factor Burke says makes the home’s success rate higher than many others in the state.

“We have a more intimate group than most other halfway houses,” Burke said. “Our success rate here has been 46 percent, but most of the women we tend to here have not been in prison for very long.”

St. Francis Home’s success rates for residents, however, bucks a national trend though, according to McMahon.

Most long-term residential programs for parolees see levels of success at a much lower clip, sometimes as low as 12 percent.

Success in a halfway house means the ex-convict stays drug and alcohol free while also remaining out of trouble with the law.

“Most of the people we see are halfway back to prison,” McMahon said. “The numbers of those who end up back in jail are ridiculously high.”

Murphy was convicted of the second degree ritualistic slaying of Marsden less than a year after the February 1980 incident. She was offered the reduced murder sentence with the possibility for parole after 15 years in exchange for her testimony against others believed to also be responsible for a string of murders that shook Fall River 25 years ago.

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