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Convicted Drunk Driver Caught, to Begin Sentence

Times Staff Writer

A convicted drunk driver was captured Friday by police who had been looking for her since November, 1987, when she failed to start serving a sentence for a car accident that killed three Mission Viejo women.

Kym Murphy of Sunset Beach was ordered by an Orange County Superior Court judge on Friday to begin serving her 12-year sentence on three counts of vehicular manslaughter resulting from the accident on Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach on Sept. 10, 1984.

Seal Beach police detectives received an anonymous tip earlier Friday and found Murphy at 9 a.m. at a Best Western motel in Lakewood, Detective Charlie Castagna said.

The room had been rented since Dec. 27 under the name of Murphy’s boyfriend, Ronald Strand, the detective said, but Murphy was alone when police knocked on her door.

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Although she went peaceably with police, Murphy, now 30, would not identify herself, Castagna said.

“But I recognized her,” he said. “We’ve been hunting for this lady for about a year now and I recognized her the moment I laid eyes upon her.”

Friday afternoon, Murphy appeared before Judge Phillip E. Cox, who had imposed the maximum 12-year sentence in 1985 after a jury had convicted Murphy on the vehicular manslaughter charges. She had remained free at that time on $75,000 bail pending an appeal. After the appeal was denied in August, 1987, Murphy failed to appear in court on Nov. 5, 1987, to begin serving the sentence.

The accident occurred about 3 a.m., when Murphy failed to follow a curve on Pacific Coast Highway and slammed head-on into a sports car, killing all three occupants. The victims were Deborah Lee Slemmons, 20, Dawn Joy Utterback, 18, and Diane Mae Druckrey, 21. The three were close friends who were returning home from a restaurant.

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Murphy admitted that she had been drinking alcohol and using cocaine that night. She had also been convicted of drunk driving in 1978 and had been arrested twice in 1981 in auto-related incidents. At the time of the accident, she was driving with a restricted driver’s license because of a drunk-driving conviction in Ventura County 3 months earlier.


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