Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Former social worker sentenced to five years for falsifying child abuse, neglect reports
A former social worker with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services was sentenced to five years in prison today for falsifying child abuse and neglect reports. Anderson Circuit Judge Charles Hickman sentenced 61-year-old Margaret “Geri” Murphy to five years in prison following her guilty plea in May to nine felony counts of tampering with public records in connection with her role as a front-line worker investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect in Anderson County.
Prosecution of this case was handled by Attorney General Jack Conway’s Office of Special Prosecutions at the request of Laura Donnell, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 53rd Judicial Circuit representing Anderson, Shelby and Spencer counties. The attorney general’s Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) began investigating the allegations against Murphy after receiving a complaint from a citizen who had Murphy assigned to a court case involving her family.
“Geri Murphy’s actions were unconscionable,” Conway said. “Ms. Murphy had a responsibility to investigate allegations of child abuse or neglect and to take action to protect children from these heinous crimes. She failed to execute her duties and to protect Kentucky’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. The sentence handed down today sends a critical message that damaging the integrity of the Cabinet’s system of support for child victims will not be tolerated.”
Murphy’s attorney requested that she receive probation. Because of the seriousness of the offenses and the fact that children’s lives were at risk, Conway’s prosecutors opposed probation and recommended a sentence of five years on each count to run concurrently, for a total of five years in prison.
Reports of child abuse and neglect are assigned to a social worker to investigate and determine whether the abuse or neglect is substantiated or unsubstantiated. In all nine counts to which Murphy pled guilty, she documented that child abuse or neglect was unsubstantiated. Murphy admitted in her guilty plea that she falsified her reports concerning those investigations. In at least two of the cases where Murphy falsified reports finding that sexual abuse allegations were unsubstantiated, children were victimized again due to being left in abusive situations.
In one case involving a report of sexual abuse of an infant by the mother’s boyfriend, new allegations of sexual abuse against the boyfriend were made after Murphy provided false facts and unsubstantiated the original report of abuse. Police expressed the belief that Murphy’s inaction allowed the sexual abuse to continue.
In another case, Murphy documented that children had denied being abused in a foster home, when in fact they had given authorities details of the abuse. As a result of Murphy’s falsification of the facts, the children remained in an abusive home until another complaint was filed and investigated by another social worker, which eventually led to the children being removed from the foster home.
From the Office of the Attorney General