McKeever committed to state hospital for 60 years for murdering companion

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David S. McKeever, found not guilty by reason of insanity for the November 2015 stabbing death in New London of his longtime partner Delma Murphy, was ordered Wednesday to spend 60 years at an enhanced security facility within the Whiting Forensic Institute.

McKeever, 51, will be confined within the Dutcher Building at the state hospital for the criminally insane, where he is considered an "acquitee," and not a prisoner. The state Psychiatric Security Review Board will have jurisdiction over his committal and will send status reports to the State's Attorney's Office every six months and hold hearings every two years.

Family members and friends of Murphy, who say they never saw McKeever exhibit any signs of mental illness, contend that McKeever faked his condition in order to secure the most comfortable confinement possible. Several made sounds of relief upon hearing that a three-judge panel in Superior Court has set McKeever's commitment for 60 years, which is the maximum sentence he would have received had he been found guilty of murder.

Judge Arthur C. Hadden, speaking for the presiding panel of judges, which also included Barbara Bailey Jongbloed and Hunchu Kwak, told the family he understands the words "not guilty by reason of insanity" grate on their nerves. Hadden said the court "certainly has found that Mr. McKeever was responsible for the death of Delma Murphy."

The three-judge panel had made the insanity finding following a trial in October, determining that at the time of the crime, McKeever suffered from a mental disease or defect that prevented him from controlling his conduct or appreciating its wrongfulness.

According to court documents and testimony, Murphy, 46, had worked in the region's restaurant industry for decades, most recently at the Sundowner Cafe on Broad Street and at Ocean Beach. McKeever, hearing- and sight-impaired because he was born with a congenital disorder known as Usher Syndrome, stayed at home. They had been together for 11 years and lived at 53 Cole St. He had a history of mental illness.

Murphy was drinking, and both of them were smoking marijuana when McKeever stabbed her repeatedly in the chest, abdomen, arms and legs. He covered her body in towels and a blanket and left her in bed for as long as five days.

Murphy's best friend, Pamela Cekala of Westerly, became concerned when she couldn't reach Murphy, to whom she spoke daily, by phone. She went to the house, where McKeever initially told her Murphy was upstairs sleeping and later admitted he killed her.

Cekala discovered Murphy's body in the upstairs bedroom where there was blood on the walls, door frames and other surfaces. A bloodied hunting knife was on the floor outside the bedroom door.

Prosecutor Lawrence J. Tytla said it was the most vicious killing among many vicious killings he has seen throughout his career and said the maximum term of commitment is warranted.

Defense attorney Christopher Duby complimented the victim's family on how well they comported themselves during the court proceedings.   

During Wednesday's hearing, Murphy's parents, sister, brother and aunt brought her to life through photos and stories of happier times. They described the enormity of their loss and asked the judges to impose a term of confinement that ensures McKeever, whom they are convinced would kill again, never walks free.

"She was a walking therapist," said Murphy's mother, Lucia Bachand. "One of her favorite things to say was, 'Do you know what's wrong with you? Well, let me tell you....' ''

Karen Murphy, the victim's sister, said her sister was a woman who brought cats home in her purse, spoon fed her dying grandmother, listened to drawn out stories about her brother-in-law's work life and remembered the details, and wrapped perfect gifts, crossing out the word "from" on the tags and writing in, "love."

k.florin@theday.com

 

 

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