Mom gets two life terms: Kelli Lynn Murphy found guilty of first-degree murder of her two children

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- Despite a plea from the defense that she be convicted of a lesser crime, a Castle Rock mother was found guilty Tuesday of murdering her two children.

After a two-week trial, a Douglas County jury deliberated just two hours before finding Kelli Lynn Murphy guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree murder by a person in a position of trust, said Casimir Spencer, spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office for the 18th Judicial District.

Immediately following the verdict, Judge Vincent White sentenced Murphy to two consecutive life sentences in state prison.

On May 23, 2011, Murphy killed her two children, Liam, 9, and Madigan, 6, by smothering them in their Castle Rock home, Spencer said. Murphy and her husband were in the middle of a divorce and prosecutors said the mother was adamant about retaining sole custody of the children. 

The mother called 911 at 7:48 a.m. that day to report she had attempted suicide by slashing her wrists, police said.

When a dispatcher asked about her children and if they were home, Murphy said: "They're already in heaven."

Murphy was scheduled to appear in Douglas County court the day after the murders to arrange a joint custody agreement.

Detectives searching the Murphy home found the court-ordered custody paper work on the kitchen table with the words, "Was it worth it?" handwritten on it. Prosecutors said the mother wrote that as a message to her husband in response to his fighting for joint custody of the children.

"Her intent was to control the divorce and the kids," Deputy District Attorney Christopher Gallo said during closing arguments. "The defendant was bent on control. It was Kelli's way or no way."

The defense argued that Murphy was unaware of what she did because she was under the influence of a mix of pain medication and alcohol at the time.

In their rebuttal to that argument, prosecutors cited a medical expert who said strangling two children required awareness of what was going on.

The sentencing difference between a reckless manslaughter and murder conviction would have allowed Murphy a chance at parole instead of spending the rest of her life in prison.

"Moms aren't supposed to kill their kids," Senior Deputy District Attorney Jay Williford told the jury during his closing rebuttal arguments. "But Kelli Murphy did!"

The family of Liam and Madigan Murphy issued the following statement after the conviction:

"This is a sad day for us. We would have preferred to be celebrating Liam's 11th birthday today.  Instead, we would just like to offer our sincere thanks to everyone involved in this case, including the Castle Rock police, the first responders, the numerous agencies that supported the investigation, and everyone in the DA's office who worked tirelessly to ensure that justice was served, and who supported us throughout this long ordeal. We are also profoundly grateful to the jurors on this trial for their service. 

"Although nothing can make up for the loss of Liam and Madigan or fill the void that is left by their absence, we are thankful that this chapter is now over and we look to God to help lighten our hearts," the family's statement concluded.

In a statement, Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley said: "Justice was served today for two young children -- Liam and Madigan. It was a team effort, and I want to commend the partnership between Castle Rock Police, the 18th Judicial District and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. From the beginning, we all made a commitment to Liam and Madigan to find justice, and today that commitment was met."

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