Maria Claudia Murphy: Skeletal remains ID'd as missing Coral Springs woman

Authorities on Friday identified skeletal parts found this week at a remote Coconut Creek nature trail as those of a Coral Springs woman who vanished nearly four months ago.

Maria Claudia Murphy, 45, disappeared on March 16. Her last known location that afternoon was a Coconut Creek street corner less than two miles southwest of where the skeletal parts were found Thursday.

The Broward Medical Examiner's Office used dental records to confirm Murphy's identity, according to Coral Springs police spokesman Lt. Joe McHugh. Murphy's relatives were notified of her death, he said.

"We're disappointed that she was found deceased," McHugh said. "Ultimately, we always held out hope that she would be found in good health."

How and why Murphy died remain a mystery. Because the skeletal parts were found within Coconut Creek Police Department's jurisdiction, that agency will investigate her death, McHugh said.

The Medical Examiner's Office is expected to determine the cause of death, police said.

In the days before she vanished, Murphy and her husband of nine years, Frank Murphy, were about to move to Tennessee, and two of Maria Murphy's friends told investigators that she was excited about the move, according to police.

On the Friday she vanished, Murphy deposited $5,000 at an ATM outside Bank of America in Coral Springs about 1 p.m., police said. The deposit was done on her husband's behalf and associated with moving expenses, police said.

As police investigated her vanished, they collected several surveillance videos. One shows Murray leaving her black 2005 BMW two-door convertible in a parking lot the same afternoon.

The BMW was parked outside El Balcon De Las Americas, a Colombian restaurant she frequented in the 7900 block of West Sample Road, near Coral Springs. Instead of going into El Balcon De Las Americas, Murphy got out and walked across the parking lot.

Another video shows Murphy walking past pumps at a Mobil gas station and out onto Sample Road.

A third video was recorded by a passing Broward County Transit bus. It shows Murray walking eastbound on Sample Road with a black bag slung over her left shoulder.

Murphy was possibly seen that afternoon by a friend walking across U.S. 441 at Copans Road in Margate approximately three miles away. She appeared red-faced and sweaty in the midday sun, police said.

Another video, also taken by a passing bus, showed Murphy standing on the northeast corner of Copans Road and Lyons Road in Coconut Creek.

For months, Murphy's disappearance led to numerous press conferences, searches throughout neighborhoods and fliers that were distributed by relatives and volunteers.

On Thursday, two hikers were walking along a remote nature trail deep inside Tradewinds Park South, in the 3600 block of Sample Road, when they came across the fully clothed remains of what appeared to be a woman, according to Coconut Creek Police Chief Michael Mann.

"In the area where the skeletal remains were found there's not a lot of traffic back in through there," Mann said Thursday. "It's pretty deep into the woods."

Authorities estimated the remains had been there for several months, consistent with when Murphy went missing.

Frank Murphy said he reported his wife missing the evening of her disappearance after he had returned from work, saw it was getting late and she still hadn't come home. Friday, he couldn't be immediately reached for comment.


Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel