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Jack (‘Murph the Surf’) Murphy, Heist Mastermind, Dies at 83


Jack (‘Murph the Surf’) Murphy, Heist Mastermind, Dies at 83

He stole the Star of India and other gems from the Museum of Natural History. Two days later he was under arrest.Allan Kuhn and Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy (center left and right), suspects in the Museum of Natural History jewel heist, on arrival at Kennedy Airport in 1964. They were flown in from Florida,…

Jack (‘Murph the Surf’) Murphy, Heist Mastermind, Dies at 83

He stole the Star of India and other gems from the Museum of Pure Historic previous. Two days later he changed into below arrest.

Credit…Patrick Burns/The Contemporary York Events

He called himself “Murph the Surf,” a tanned, roguish, celebration-loving sea streak boy from Miami, and he transfixed the nation in 1964 by pulling off the top jewel heist in Contemporary York City historic previous — the infamous snatching of the Star of India, a sapphire higher than a golf ball, and a haul of other gems from the American Museum of Pure Historic previous.

It changed into no longer that 27-year-extinct Jack Roland Murphy and his accomplices, Allan Kuhn and Roger Clark, had been expansive-thieves, adore those Maximilian Schell and Melina Mercouri portrayed within the then-present Jules Dassin film, “Topkapi,” about a living to make a selection an emerald-encrusted dagger from the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul — a film the museum thieves had no longer too long within the past seen.

Moderately, although that they had robbed waterfront mansions in Miami and escaped by speedboat, they left a bound of amateurish clues to the museum theft and had been caught by Contemporary York detectives two days after the crime, even supposing the loot — value larger than $3 million in lately’s bucks — changed into tranquil lacking: stashed by then in waterproof pouches in Miami’s Biscayne Bay.

And it changed into no longer that the job changed into so nicely planned. Moderately, safety for the fourth-floor Corridor of Gem stones changed into correct dreadful. Burglar alarms had procedure support stopped working, dwelling windows at night had been left ajar for air float, and there had been only eight guards for the museum’s dozens of interconnected buildings. One aging guard shined a flashlight into the corridor on his occasional rounds. The gems had been begging to be stolen.


Credit…Arthur Brower/The Contemporary York Events

“Allan mentioned he might well hear the jewels talking,” Mr. Murphy advised The Contemporary York Events in 2019 for a retrospective article 55 years after the detrimental atomize-in. “He mentioned, ‘The jewels are pronouncing, ‘Decide us to Miami.’ So I mentioned, ‘Effectively, let’s take them to Miami.’”

Mr. Murphy died on Saturday at his dwelling in Crystal River, Fla. He changed into 83. His valuable other, Kitten, mentioned the motive changed into heart and organ failure.

Mr. Murphy changed into an enigma of fabled deeds and crimes. By his receive sage, he had been a live efficiency violinist with the Pittsburgh Symphony at 18, a celeb athlete who gained the College of Pittsburgh’s first tennis scholarship, and a two-time nationwide surfing champion. A daring thief and self-promoter, an creator, a penal complex missionary and television evangelist, he created his receive myths and let the facts media and Hollywood adorn them.

He revealed a brief, self-serving memoir, “Jewels for the Accelerate” (1989), which uncared for to mention that he changed into a convicted assassin; and he changed into portrayed in motion pictures, collectively with Marvin Chomsky’s “Murph the Surf” (1975), a glamorized sage of the museum caper with Don Stroud within the title feature. Mr. Murphy spent merely about Twenty years in penal complex — a brief stretch for the museum heist and a long one for an extremely brutal assassinate in Miami.

For grand of his adult existence, Mr. Murphy changed into a caricature drawn from the publicity that engulfed him. The tabloids, which romanticized the museum theft as a crime of the century, idealized him as an ideal-searching blond adventurer in darkish sunglasses who charmed girls, smoked dope and cherished jazz. Even the mainstream press portrayed him as a form of americans hero.


Credit…Arthur Brower/The Contemporary York Events

However the regular hallmarks of identity — a reputation, a date and living of initiating put, a historic previous of schools and jobs — had been lacking or obscured by his deceptive and contradictory statements, by his nomadic lifetime of crime, and by doubtful claims about his accomplishments, his innocence and the authenticity of his gradual-in-existence religious conversion.

The California Index of Births listed his name as Jack Ronald Murphy. In an interview for this obituary in Could maybe, he mentioned his birth name changed into Jack Rolland Murphy. At some level, he started the expend of Roland for a heart name. For years he cited various birth dates and locations, evidently to conceal his identity from the law.

He advised The Events that his father had been a cell phone lineman, but advised the East Flit Surf Legends Corridor of Reputation that he had been an electrical contractor, repeatedly on the circulate. He mentioned he had attended 12 grade schools and three high schools. He claimed to have a photographic reminiscence, but within the Events interview he might well no longer name any of the colleges or the years he attended them.

Became as soon as he a genius? Maybe. The Florida Correctional authorities listed his I.Q. as 143 — within the 99.8 percentile of rankings. Did he play a violin with the Pittsburgh Symphony at 18? There is just not any longer any sage of it. Did he engage a tennis scholarship to the College of Pittsburgh? Likely. Became as soon as he a nationwide surfing champion? Maybe. Became as soon as he the Miami cat burglar who within the 1960s rifled waterfront homes for jewels and escaped by speedboat over a maze of waterways? Almost no doubt, investigators mentioned.

Did he conspire with two secretaries to make a selection securities from a brokerage, and entice them aboard a speedboat, where he and one more man bludgeoned and slashed them to loss of life and dumped their bodies in a canal in 1967? Likely. A court convicted him of one of many homicides and sentenced him to existence in penal complex. He served 17 years.

But in 1986 he changed into launched, a born-again Christian with a brand fresh persona and vocation, preaching to penal complex inmates. Became as soon as his redemption accurate or faked? Either procedure, he gave it a huge effort.


Credit…Associated Press

Mr. Murphy ministered to thousands of inmates over decades, grew to was a television evangelist and appeared with celebrities at prayer breakfasts, as soon as with President Ronald Reagan. His buddy the N.F.L. quarterback Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys called his redemption accurate adequate.

Jack Ronald Murphy changed into born in Los Angeles on Could maybe 26, 1937, to Jack Marshall Murphy and Sylvia Ruth Camp, who had been married six weeks after his birth. An only child, Jack spent some of his childhood in a disciplinarian household in Carlsbad, Calif., an oceanfront metropolis shut to San Diego. John Penrod, a childhood buddy, advised Sports Illustrated in 2020 that he as soon as seen the father slap the boy’s face for laundry dishes too slowly.

Jack grew to was a insurrection, but additionally an adept violinist, tennis participant and surfer at native beaches. The Murphys moved to Los Alamos, N.M., and to Modesto, Calif., within the 1940s, and to the Pittsburgh suburb of McKeesport when he changed into a high college senior. He mentioned he gained a tennis championship there and a scholarship to the College of Pittsburgh.

But months after matriculating at Pitt in 1955, he dropped out and hitchhiked to Miami Seaside. He realized jobs teaching swimming, scuba diving, tennis and dancing at cabana golf equipment and accommodations. He also grew to was a high-board stunt diver with a touring aquatic troupe at swank resorts.

In 1957, Mr. Murphy married Gloria Sostock. They’d two sons, Shawn and Michael, and had been divorced in 1962. In 1963, he married Linda Leach and changed into divorced. A relationship with Bonnie Lou Sutera ended along with her apparent suicide in 1964. One more with Connie Hopen lasted from 1967 to 1969. In 1987, he married Mary Catherine Luppold Collins, called Kitten.

A entire list of survivors changed into no longer staunch away available.

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In Cocoa Seaside, Mr. Murphy opened a surfboard shop and started surfing competitively. The Encyclopedia of Browsing (2005), by Matt Warshaw, says he gained the 1962 Daytona Seaside, Fla., Browsing Championship, changed into inducted into the East Flit Surf Legends Corridor of Reputation in 1996 and gained the East Flit Browsing Championship in Virginia Seaside, Va., in 1966.

In Miami Seaside, he met Mr. Kuhn, a scuba diver with a speedboat, who introduced him to crime. After plundering artwork works from waterfront homes, as a replace of marketing them to fences they called artwork insurers and traded their booty for money, no questions requested.

In the autumn of 1964, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Kuhn and Mr. Clark drove to Ny hoping for a gargantuan salvage. Renting a penthouse on the Cambridge Dwelling Hotel on West 86th Side toll road, they threw all-night drug events. In Midtown, they robbed bar patrons and burglarized hotel rooms.


Credit…Ernie Sisto/The Contemporary York Events

On the J.P. Morgan Corridor of Gem stones and Minerals on the American Museum of Pure Historic previous, on Central Park West, they considerable lax safety and gawked at what they realized there: the Star of India, a 563-carat, oval-fashioned blue sapphire, 2.5-inches long (a golf ball is 1.68 inches in diameter); the DeLong Star Ruby, at 100.32 carats; and the 116-carat Center of the night Star, one of many enviornment’s top murky sapphires

On the night of Oct. 29, a Thursday, with Mr. Clark on the aspect toll road as lookout, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Kuhn, carrying a coil of rope, scaled a huge iron fence within the support of the museum, climbed a hearth rep away to the fifth floor and inched along a narrow ledge. Tying the rope to a pillar above an commence fourth-floor window, Mr. Murphy swung down and customary his foot to circulate the sash.

They had been in.

The glass retaining the well-known gems changed into a third of an lag thick, too stable to atomize with a rubber mallet. As an replacement of risking noise with heavy blows, they customary cutters to achieve circles of glass; duct tape to veil the circles, to prevent shattering and muffle the sound; and a rubber suction cup to drag the pieces out.

They opened three situations and bagged 22 prizes: emeralds, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and gem-weighted down bracelets, brooches and rings. In the end, they went out the window, climbed down and walked away, encountering loads of police officers on their beat.

“Correct night, officers,” Mr. Murphy mentioned. They gave him a nod and kept walking.

The next day, as headlines on the heist hit the streets, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Kuhn flew to Miami and stashed the loot in pouches below Mr. Kuhn’s boat in Biscayne Bay.

Their liberty changed into brief.

A hotel clerk tipped off the police. In the penthouse, investigators realized a museum floor plan, brochures on its gem collections and sneakers with glass shards on the soles. Their search changed into interrupted when Roger Clark walked in. He admitted to the theft and mentioned Mr. Murphy and Mr. Kuhn had taken the gems to Miami. A day later, all three had been in custody.

Half of the lacking gems, collectively with the Star of India and the Center of the night Star, had been recovered by a Contemporary York prosecutor, Maurice Nadjari, who promised Mr. Kuhn leniency for revealing the hiding living. Mr. Nadjari realized the gems in a Miami bus space locker, where that they had been stashed by a Kuhn confederate after retrieving them from below the boat.

Mr. Murphy and his companions served about two years each at Rikers Island in Contemporary York. The Star of India and the Center of the night Star at closing went support on present on the natural historic previous museum, now extra popular than that they had ever been sooner than. So did the DeLong Star Ruby, which changed into recovered in a Miami phone booth after $25,000 in ransom changed into paid. One more prize, the Eagle Diamond, changed into never recovered.


Credit…Eve Edelheit for The Contemporary York Events

Whereas Mr. Kuhn and Mr. Clark resumed anonymous lives, Mr. Murphy’s crimes deepened. In 1967, he and a Miami thug, Jack Griffith, met Terry Rae Frank and Annelie Mohn, secretaries who had stolen $500,000 in securities from a California brokerage where they worked. Prosecutors later mentioned Mr. Murphy had conspired with the girls within the theft, and gave them a conceal-out in Miami.

Mr. Murphy and Mr. Griffith took the girls on their closing recede: a nighttime speedboat tour to Hollywood, north of Miami, ostensibly to focus on casting off the securities (value $4 million in lately’s bucks). But in a waterway called Whiskey Creek, the girls had been bludgeoned and hacked to loss of life, and their bodies, anchored with concrete blocks, had been dumped overboard.

Traced thru the stolen securities, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Griffith had been charged with the killings. In a 1969 trial in Fortress Lauderdale, they blamed one one more for the murders and had been both convicted. Mr. Griffith changed into sentenced to 45 years and Mr. Murphy to existence in penal complex.

After 17 years in Florida prisons, Mr. Murphy changed into launched in 1986, vowing to use his closing years on “God’s industry.” For 3 decades, supported by groups adore the International Community of Prison Ministries, he traveled from his dwelling in Crystal River to preach to inmates in a dozen countries.

He appeared on Christian proclaims and at felony rehabilitation conferences, in most cases with an entourage of major league athletes and popular singers. In 2000, the Florida Parole Board ended his lifetime parole.

In media accounts of Mr. Murphy’s later existence, the murders of Ms. Frank and Ms. Mohn grew to was footnotes to the supposedly extra alluring tales of his penal complex ministry and the heist on the American Museum of Pure Historic previous.

“The streamlined story of Murph the Surf has long overshadowed the nuanced conundrum of Jack Roland Murphy’s core,” as Sports Illustrated effect it. “Are decades spent sacrificing for others adequate to atone for a pair of moments of savagery on Whiskey Creek?”

Corey Kilgannon contributed reporting.

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