The Herald News, Apr. 30, 2003
GREGG M. MILIOTE, Herald News Staff Reporter
FALL RIVER — Instead of being contacted by law enforcement officials, the family of slain prostitute Karen Marsden had to watch the news to find out about her convicted murderer’s request for a new trial.
Marsden’s ritualistic murder was the third of three that shocked the community 23 years ago.
Both Robin Marie Murphy and Carl Drew were each convicted of the 1980 murder. Murphy, though, was able to strike a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Marsden case.
Last week, after serving 23 years in jail, Murphy requested a new trial, claiming her constitutional rights were violated when she was not given a full explanation of the charge against her.
Marsden’s sister, Wendy Alves, said she and her family are justifiably angry with the Bristol County district attorney’s office for not letting them know about the request for a new trial.
Even though Murphy was in court last Wednesday afternoon, Alves said she didn’t learn of the matter until a friend called her on the phone later that night to tell her it was on the television news.
“No one even let me know what was going on,” Alves said. “We thought this was closed years ago. Now it’s opening our old wounds and fears again.”
Alves was 19 at the time of her 20-year-old sister’s cult-like slaying in the woods of Westport. Her brother, Demetri, was only 5 and Marsden’s son, Jay, was 3 at the time.
Alves was old enough at the time to understand the brutality of the case, while her brother and nephew were not.
She said it took years to overcome the horror of first not knowing where her sister was and later, finding out she had been brutally murdered and decapitated.
She said a simple phone call from the district attorney’s office would have at least prepared her for the rebirth of so many nightmarish memories.
“They should have at least tried to contact us to let us know,” Alves said. “All I heard on the news was (Murphy’s) family saying they wanted Robin Murphy home.
“But what about us? We want Karen home and have for all these years,” Alves said.
Assistant District Attorney Gerald Fitzgerald apologized Tuesday for what he called an “oversight.”
“It was a mistake and we apologize for that,” Fitzgerald said.
He said someone from the Victim’s Advocacy Group at the district attorney’s office will be contacting the family in the near future.
But Alves said she plans to write a strongly worded letter to District Attorney Paul Walsh and will also draft a letter to be sent to the judge who now will decide Murphy’s fate by either granting or denying a new trial.
“We’re going to do what we can to stop her from getting this new trial,” Alves exclaimed. “We’re all very hurt right now. The DA’s office didn’t even consider our feelings. I’m too upset to even talk to them on the phone.”
Alves and her brother have been meeting with former Fall River Police Detective Sgt. Paul Carey, who headed up the investigation into Marsden’s disappearance before her skull was found months after being reported missing.
“He’s just telling us that he hasn’t given up on this case and is working to make sure she stays in jail,” Alves said.
Carey, who is now a private investigator in Fall River has apparently been re-working the case for years and is attempting to prove that Murphy actually committed all three cult murders.