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MURPHY BACK IN CUSTODY AGAIN

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Bernt Murphy, a retarded man whose release to a group home after spending three decades in a mental hospital spurred public outcry, is in police custody again after violating conditions of his parole.

Murphy was arrested shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday and is still in the Utah County Jail. His arrest was spurred by a call to the Utah County Adult Probation and Parole Office that Murphy was sighted in the downtown Provo area.Debbie Scott, a Lehi resident who lives across the street from the group home where Murphy was supposed to be, said she and other residents had warned Lehi city officials and Utah state officials in charge of services for the handicapped that something like this would happen.

In a Lehi public meeting on July 17, residents were assured that there was good security at the home, Scott said. "And look what happened, he walked away. This is what we have always been afraid of."

Scott said she and her neighbors have breathed a sigh of relief, at least for the time being.

Murphy was arrested May 6 after allegedly stealing a dog while living at a group home in Orem. The charges were later reduced to a class A misdemeanor theft of property. Fourth Circuit Court Judge John C. Backlund set probationary terms for Murphy, which included a requirement that Murphy stay under 24-hour supervision by a licensed social worker. Murphy was transferred to the Lehi group home in mid-June.

Kent Jones, assistant regional administrator for Adult Probation and Parole, said officials from the Lehi group home where Murphy has been living contacted his office and agents were sent out to find Murphy.

"Evidently, he was en route to a destination in the downtown Provo area, and our agents picked him up that morning," he said.

Jones said no criminal charges have been filed against Murphy, though he will again appear before Backlund for sentencing on charges of parole violation. A hearing is scheduled at 10 a.m. Wednesday in 4th Circuit Court in Orem.

"It's just a review hearing," Jones said. "Murphy will either be sentenced on those charges or the terms of his parole will be continued - it's all up to the judge."

Scott said a group of Lehi citizens will attend the hearing.

John Arellin, counselor for the development of the mentally retarded for the State Office of Social Services, said in May that Murphy understood the terms of his parole, which also included provisions against his being left alone with a woman or a person under age 18.

Murphy spent more than three decades in the Utah State Hospital after he was arrested in 1957 on charges that he raped a 3-year-old girl. He later confessed to, but was never tried for, the murder of a 23-year-old woman.

In 1988, the Utah Supreme Court ruled Murphy was mentally retarded, not insane, and must be released.