Saturday, October 24, 2009

Murph the Surf

Jack Roland Murphy or Murph the Surf is a surfing champion, musician, author, artist and convicted murderer who was involved in the biggest jewel heist in American history at the American Museum of Natural History. Today Jack Murphy is an ordained minister, working with inmates in the field of prison ministry.

He was involved with a robbery on October 29, 1964, of the Star of India along with several other precious gems, including the Eagle Diamond and the de Long Ruby. This robbery was called the "Jewel Heist of the Century." It targeted the J.P. Morgan jewel collection from the display cases of New York's American Museum of Natural History.

Murphy had cased the museum earlier and discovered from a 17-year-old visitor that security was lax to non-existent. The burglar alarm system was non-operational, and a second story window in the jewel room was usually left open to aid in ventilation. The thieves climbed in through the window and discovered that the display case alarms were non-functional as well. The stolen jewels were valued at more than $400,000.

Murphy and both his accomplices, Alan Kuhn and Roger Clark, were arrested two days later and received three-year sentences. The uninsured Star of India was recovered in a foot locker at a Miami bus station. Most of the other gems were also recovered, except the Eagle Diamond, which has since been hypothesized to have been cut down into smaller stones. Richard Duncan Pearson was also convicted.

In 1968, he was convicted of first-degree murder of a California secretary, one of two women whose bodies were found in Whiskey Creek near Hollywood, Florida, in 1967. He also was convicted of trying to rob a Miami Beach woman in 1968. He was sentenced to life in prison in Florida.

When Bill Glass, Roger Staubach and McCoy McLemore visited Florida State prison in 1974, as part of a Bill Glass Champions for Life weekend, Murphy was impressed with the visitors, both world champion athletes and local businessmen. At that time Murphy had an earliest parole date of Nov. 2225, but that weekend changed his attitude and he devoted his future time spent in prison to serving a higher cause. His service in the chaplaincy program, leading Bible studies and mentoring other men in prison led the Florida Parole Board to release him on "parole with lifetime monitoring" in 1986.

In 1986, Murphy began going back into prisons and jails all over the U.S. as a platform guest with Bill Glass. In 1990, he was hired on staff with Bill Glass Champions for Life. Murphy has also been a featured speaker for Kairos, Coalition of Prison Evangelists, Int'l Prison Ministries, Time for Freedom and Good News Jail & Prison Ministry. After visiting over 1,200 prisons, and recognizing the incredible change apparent in this man's life, the FL Parole Board terminated his "lifetime parole" in 2000.

Murphy authored a book of his experience and testimony "Jewels for the Journey".

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