BLUE HILL, Maine — Jody Murphy said she has to rebuild her life after being found not guilty of stealing thousands from the town that employed her as its treasurer.
A Hancock County jury found Murphy, 39, not guilty of Class B theft after a one-day trial at the Ellsworth courthouse April 9. The indictment accused Murphy of stealing $17,960 from October 2014 to Nov. 16, 2017, by allegedly taking funds from municipal bank deposits, town transfer funds and by adding unauthorized stipends to her own paychecks.
Murphy, who said she is unemployed due to the criminal charges, described the experience as “pretty surreal.”
“At points you feel relieved that it is over, and then it’s like, now what? I went through quite a ringer,” she said.
Once very community-involved, participating in Blue Hill’s roadside cleanups, chamber of commerce open houses and Girl Scout events with her daughter, Murphy scaled back most of that due to people’s generally negative response to the charges, she said.
Few people were overtly critical. Murphy heard from friends that she was uninvited to neighborhood cookouts because some people “didn’t want to be seen with me.”
“When all this started coming up, you notice that people aren’t coming up and talking to you,” Murphy said. “You start to get a little paranoid. You wonder if it’s you or if it is just that they have busy lives.”
Two job offers were retracted when background checks revealed the charges. Many people seemed to assume that Murphy was guilty just because she was charged. “That was pretty horrifying,” Murphy said.
A Massachusetts native, Murphy moved to Cape Cod “to get out from under it all” last fall. The charges forced Murphy to resign from a local conservation commission on Cape Cod and to stop volunteering for Girls Scouts of America, which forbids people with pending criminal charges from participating in scouting events, she said.
Murphy’s attorney, Max Coolidge, said that he suspects that the criminal case fell apart because the evidence linking Murphy to the alleged crime simply wasn’t strong enough.
“The town’s auditors and their own internal investigation only ever concluded that money was unaccounted for. Ultimately, the evidence did not add up to theft,” Coolidge said.
Hancock County District Attorney Matthew Foster said that he was “surprised” by the verdict.
“We felt that the case was a strong case, and we were surprised by the jury’s verdict,” Foster said.
The indictment was issued Aug. 9, 2018. Murphy resigned her position the prior November.
A widowed parent of an only child, Murphy has since moved back to Maine — she declined to say exactly where — and plans to return to Blue Hill in June.
Yet things have improved since her name was cleared.
“It’s kind of like starting over at 40,” she said. “In the same breath, I wonder what kind of opportunities are not open to me now because of this. I certainly don’t think I can go back to public service. Hopefully I can find something sooner than later.”