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Judge allows statements, evidence in fatal Boy Scout case

The parents of Boy Scout Andrew McMorris commented Tuesday after a Suffolk judge denied a Holbrook man’s request to suppress statements the man made to a police officer in which he admitted he had three alcoholic beverages before he drove into a group of Scouts in 2018, killing Andrew. (Credit: James Carbone)

A Suffolk judge Tuesday denied a request to suppress a Holbrook man's admission to police that he had three alcoholic beverages before driving into a group of Boy Scouts walking in Manorville last year, killing a 12-year-old boy.

State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho also denied Thomas Murphy’s request to keep out from Murphy’s upcoming trial his repeated refusal to submit to a blood test. The test would have determined the alcohol or drug content in his blood on Sept. 30, 2018, the day of the deadly crash that led to the death of Andrew McMorris of Wading River. Another Scout, Thomas Lane, 15, suffered several broken bones.

Prosecutors eventually got permission from a judge to obtain a blood sample from Murphy hours later and the result showed a 0.13 percent blood-alcohol content, they said. Forensic toxicologists estimate it was 0.19 percent at the time of the crash — more than double the legal standard of 0.08 percent.

The judge issued his decisions immediately following two pretrial hearings on Tuesday in Central Islip.

“They were not obtained by coercion,” Camacho said of the statements. He also allowed statements Murphy made to a Suffolk sergeant to be admitted as evidence.

Murphy is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, assault, driving while intoxicated and other crimes. The most serious charge carries a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. He declined to comment Tuesday as he left the courthouse.

Prosecutors have said Murphy was drinking vodka during a day of golf with friends but declined a ride before climbing into his 2016 Mercedes-Benz. A mile and a half from the clubhouse, prosecutors said he drove completely off David Terry Road and plowed into a group of 18 people, including members of Boy Scout Troop 161.

Murphy’s defense attorney, Stephen McCarthy Jr. of Manhattan, said the judge’s rulings will not hurt his client’s case. He said Murphy maintains his innocence.

“It was an appropriate ruling and an expected ruling,” said McCarthy.

At the hearings, Suffolk County police officer Daniel Brecht and Sgt. Thomas Kennedy testified that they followed the law when they obtained the statements from Murphy.

Brecht and Kennedy, who both work in Suffolk's Seventh Precinct, said Murphy appeared drunk; his eyes were bloodshot, his speech was slurred, and his walk was unsteady.

“As he spoke, I immediately smelled the odor of alcohol on his breath,” Brecht said.

At one point, Brecht said Murphy voluntarily told him had just left the Swan Lake Golf Club in Manorville before the crash, which occurred at about 2 p.m. “He admits to me that he had a drink,” Brecht testified.

When Brecht asked Murphy to blow into a Breathalyzer, a device that estimates the blood alcohol content from a breath sample, the officer said Murphy refused.

“At that point, he admits to me had three drinks…,” said Brecht.

Murphy did not specify whether he drank beer, liquor or wine nor the size of the beverages, said Brecht.

Under questioning by McCarthy Tuesday, Brecht said his conversations with Murphy were written down, but they were not recorded on audio or video though the police department has the capability to do both.

Other than refusing to submit to the blood test, Brecht and Kennedy testified that Murphy was cooperative and repeatedly asked about the condition of the boy he struck.

“He asked how the young man was doing,” said Kennedy.

The boy’s parents, John and Alisa McMorris, and about 100 of the family’s supporters came to the hearings.

In an interview afterward, Alisa McMorris said even if Murphy had chosen to plead guilty and spare her family the anguish of a protracted trial, that would not have offered her any relief.

“I am not sure there is anything in this entire world that will ease my pain ever,” she said. “I want justice served.”

Murphy’s trial is set for Sept. 18.

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