Law enforcement officials have been searching this week for a Sunset Beach woman who was to begin a 12-year prison sentence last week for causing the deaths of three Mission Viejo women in a 1984 auto crash on Pacific Coast Highway.
Kym Murphy, now 28, was convicted and sentenced two years ago but had been free on $75,000 bail pending her appeal. That appeal was denied three months ago, and she was scheduled to return last Friday to Superior Court Judge Phillip E. Cox's courtroom to begin her sentence.
Murphy's sister was there. So was Robert Corrado, the lawyer she had hired just the day before. Both expressed surprise when she failed to show.
Also missing is Ronald Strand, the boyfriend with whom Murphy had been living, Deputy Dist. Atty. John B. Lett said Thursday. Strand had posted $75,000 in cash for her bail.
Lett said authorities went to the Sunset Beach home they shared after she failed to appear Friday and discovered that they had moved out and that all their furniture was gone.
Cox ordered a warrant for her arrest last Friday.
"I gave her time out of prison while she was on appeal so she could take care of her medical problems," Cox said Thursday. "She assured me that she would return. I'm very disappointed."
A jury found Murphy guilty of three counts of vehicular manslaughter in the Sept. 10, 1984, collision near Seal Beach. Murphy's car crossed the center line and hit head on the car carrying the three young Mission Viejo women.
Cox had sentenced Murphy to the maximum possible sentence, 12 years. He not only cited evidence that she was under the influence of both drugs and alcohol at the time of the collision, but her long history of drunk-driving arrests. She had been convicted of drunk driving in 1978 and was arrested twice in 1981 in auto-related incidents. She was using a restricted driver's license--which let her drive only to and from work assignments--at the time of the women's deaths because of a drunk-driving conviction in Ventura County three months earlier.
The judge said Murphy seemed to just go "from bad to worse."
But the judge was sympathetic to Murphy's own injuries, suffered in the same accident. She was in a wheelchair during most of her trial. She suffered internal injuries, and part of her hipbone was used to reconstruct her jaw. She also was facing a long road of new medical expenses at the time she was sentenced.
"I thought that it would save the taxpayers a lot on her medical bills if I allowed her to remain free while her appeal was going on," Cox said.
But the judge was confident that Murphy will be picked up by the police at some point.
"When that happens, I'm sure the prosecutor will file something against her for her failure to appear," the judge said.
Longer Term Possible
Lett added that if Murphy is found and brought back to court, about eight months could be added to her 12-year sentence.
Killed in that 1984 crash were Diane Mae Druckrey, 21, Deborah Lee Slemmons, 20, and Dawn Joy Utterback, 18. The three were close friends, all graduates of Capistrano Valley High School. They had been returning home from a restaurant.
Murphy has claimed that she was blinded by the lights of the oncoming car and does not know what happened. But one witness testified that Murphy was speeding and had veered into the oncoming traffic as the road curved.
A divider has since been set up along that section of Pacific Coast Highway as a direct result of that incident.
Prosecutor Lett was puzzled by Murphy's disappearance last week, particularly because she had assured her new attorney that she would be there. Also, her boyfriend, a self-employed house painter, could end up forfeiting most of the $75,000 bail he posted for her.