Nov 15, 2022

Woman convicted in Fall River 'cult murders' denied parole - here's why

Audrey Cooney
The Herald News
Nov. 15, 2022

NATICK — The state’s parole board denied parole for the woman convicted in Fall River’s infamous “cult murders,” saying Robin Murphy has not proved she is willing to be honest or take accountability for her past behavior.

“The Board is of the opinion that Robin Murphy has not demonstrated a level of rehabilitative progress that would make her release compatible with the welfare of society,” the board wrote in a decision released on Nov. 10.

Murphy, 59, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after she confessed to the killing of Karen Marsden, one of three women and teenage girls gruesomely murdered in Fall River in 1979 and 1980 by members of a so-called satanic cult.

Carl Drew, a pimp and drug dealer whom police said created a self-styled satanic cult to keep the people working for him in line, is serving a life sentence for Marsden’s killing. Andrew Maltais, an alleged cult member, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Barbara Raposa and died in prison. No one has been convicted in the killing of the third victim, Doreen Levesque.

In 1985, Murphy recanted her testimony and has maintained her innocence since then.

Murphy was 17 at the time of Marsden's killing. She spend more than 20 years in prison before being released on parole to a long-term treatment facility in 2004. She returned to prison in 2011 after allegedly violating her parole by failing to discuss a relationship with a woman who had a felony conviction to her parole officer and by being in the vicinity of a drug transaction.

Murphy appeared before the board on March 8 of this year to ask for parole again. During the hearing, she told the parole board that she lied about her involvement in the killings in order to ensure that Drew and Maltais went to prison. Murphy said Maltais sexually abused her for years starting when she was 11, and she worried he would do the same to other young girls. Marsden, who was in a relationship with Murphy, was scared of Drew and convinced he was going to kill her, she told the board.

She described her false testimony as a “suicide mission.”

“I didn’t care what happened to me,” she said.

She also told the board that she had made progress on addressed her mental health and childhood trauma while incarcerated and felt confident she could now avoid developing unhealthy, codependent relationships like the one she established with a woman convicted of a felony, which led to her parole being revoked.

In its decision, the parole board wrote that it found Murphy’s changing story about the murders concerning.

“The Board remains concerned about her ability to tell the truth when she has admitted to the Board she has lied under oath,” it wrote.

The board acknowledged that Murphy has taken advantage of available work, educational and treatment programming and has had a positive behavioral record while incarcerated. And, they recognized that parole decisions in the case of people convicted for crimes allegedly committed when they were minors should take their age into account.

Still, they said, Murphy is “only just beginning to address her codependency issues” and not rehabilitated enough to avoid the risk of recidivism.

Fall River state Rep. Alan Silvia, who worked on the “cult murder” cases as a young police detective and has testified several times against Murphy being granted parole, said he received a call from the parole board last week about their decision while he was at work in the State House.

“I’m glad that they made that decision,” he said, adding that Murphy had threatened his life in letters she sent from prison.

Murphy will be able to request parole again in two years.

“It’s a case that never seems to rest,” Silvia said.

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