by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — A case filled with allegations of rape, abduction and assault has fallen apart. A second man accused of the crime has been released from jail and charges have been dropped.
Laqun E. Murphy appeared in 3rd District Court in Walsenburg on Thursday, August 16 for a motions hearing. Third Judicial District Attorney Frank Ruybalid and assistant district attorney Clay McKisson represented the state and Murphy was represented by deputy state public defender Patrick McCarville. The state moved to have the charges against Murphy dismissed and the motion was granted by the court.
Murphy had been held in Huerfano County Jail since October 12, 2011 on two counts of sexual assault, one charge of second degree kidnapping, two counts of third degree assault, two counts of false imprisonment, one count of interference with staff, faculty or students of educational institutions and one count of harassment.
The motion to dismiss outlined the basic facts of the case, what happened and how the victim identified Murphy the day after the alleged assault. “On October 12, 2012, the victim was traveling on Main Street in a vehicle driven by her mother when she saw Laqun Murphy wearing shoes that she recognized to be those worn by her attacker and then recognized (Murphy) as one of her attackers. Mr. Murphy was subsequently arrested and charged in this matter,” Ruybalid’s motion said.
The motion continued by saying the prosecution had received one set of DNA results from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation somewhat early in the case that did not provide a match to the defendant. The motion said several important items were not initially tested. The prosecution submitted these additional items for testing and had been waiting for several months for the results in order to determine how it planned to proceed in the case. “After recently receiving the second set of DNA results, which also did not implicate the defendant, the prosecution has re-reviewed the entirety of the evidence in this case and has determined that due to the following serious evidentiary issues, there is no reasonable likelihood of a conviction at trial and that a dismissal is the appropriate course of action in this case,” the motion said.
It was alleged Murphy and Daniel Willburn, both of Walsenburg, had abducted and assaulted a high school student from John Mall High School campus in Walsenburg on October 11, 2011. Both Murphy and Willburn had been held on $100,000 bonds since their October arrest.
The motion to dismiss catalogued inconsistencies in the victim’s identification of Murphy as one of her attackers. It also presented evidence regarding Murphy’s whereabouts and what he was wearing approximately 35 minutes prior to the alleged attack. This information was confirmed by witness statements made to a Huerfano County sheriff’s deputy and included a warrant-approved search of an individual’s cell phone with a photograph taken of the defendant, which showed exactly what he was wearing at 2:39 pm on October 11. The motion also outlined contradictory details of the suspects physical appearance made by the victim in various interviews with law enforcement.
On Friday, April 13, 2012, the district attorney’s office filed a motion to dismiss charges against Wilburn. The motion was granted by the court and he was released from custody that day.
A jury trial for Murphy set for September 17, 2012 was vacated by the court following the prosecution’s motion to dismiss the charges against the defendant last week.
In the investigation the victim told police she had been hit in the head by one of the defendants while walking with a friend from the west wing of the high school to the elementary school building at about 1:16 pm, and taken to an area near the sports complex where she was assaulted.
The victim had told investigators the defendants had put her into a dark red-colored four-door car with a cracked front window and transported her to the hillside near the sports complex where the assault took place. She said the car was driven by a woman ‘with her hair pulled up.’
Walsenburg police were never able to gather any further evidence of the vehicle or its female driver.
The motion to dismiss the case also said investigation by the district attorney’s office has failed to yield the identity of the red car or its female driver.
Police Chief James Chamberlain said Monday, August 20, he would have to meet with the district attorney before he could comment on what line, if any, the investigation would now take.
Pursuant to the Victim Rights Act, the district attorney’s office has notified the victim’s mother of the dismissal of this case.
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