Murphy Trial

Parents of surviving victims take witness stand at Murphy trial

For more than three hours Wednesday, the parents of two teenage boys struck by an alleged drunk driver while hiking with their Boy Scout troop in Manorville last year delivered emotional testimony detailing the extent of the boys’ injuries and the steps they took to modify their home as a result.

Kevin Lane, an assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 161 was hiking with his sons Denis, 16 at the time of the Sept. 30, 2018 crash and Thomas, then 14. He told prosecutors that he was toward the back of the line of 18 hikers on David Terry Road when Thomas Murphy drove his SUV into the group in a crash that ultimately claimed the life of 12-year-old Andrew McMorris.

He rushed toward the front of the group to find his son Denis walking around “aimlessly,” holding his nose and spilling blood onto his t-shirt. “We told him to sit down before he fell down.” Mr. Lane testified.

He then turned his attention to his youngest son, Thomas, whose external frame hiking pack had been badly bent, legs were swollen and had “grapefruit” sized swelling on his face.

“[Thomas] was yelling, he was screaming,” Mr. Lane said. “He was hurting.”

His wife, Colleen, attended to Denis, who was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead by ambulance and treated for a broken nose and sprained ankle. Later that evening, Ms. Lane said she was reunited with Thomas at Stony Brook University Hospital. Injuries to the right side of his face resulted in “the darkest shade of purple I’ve ever seen,” Ms. Lane said, also noting that her son was intubated and had a metal rod inserted in his skull to monitor pressure.


Day 1: Prosecutors say Murphy turned down ride from sober friend moments before fatal crash

Day 2: Text messages, friend’s testimony tell a story of day of Scout crash

Day 3: Defense calls into question the character of key witness in Murphy trial

Day 4: Friends testify that despite drinking, Murphy did not appear drunk on day of crash

The Lanes’ account coincided with testimony from Dr. Erica Gross, a pediatric surgeon at Stony Brook University Hospital, who testified that in addition to a brain bleed, Thomas suffered fractures in his orbital bone, both legs, nose and ankle.

Thomas’ injuries forced the family to turn the den of their Shoreham home into a living space for their son, with a hospital bed, commode and makeshift shower. Ramps were also installed in their garage and kitchen so he could access the entire first floor of the home. “[Our den] was his bedroom, it was where his friends hung out when they came to visit, it was his bathroom, it was his shower,” Ms. Lane testified.

He returned to school in late November 2018 and received physical therapy through March 2019, she said. Her son, who had previously played volleyball and ran track at school, even made the tennis team that spring.

But his mom said his gait and range of motion isn’t the same. “He’s not as fluid as he used to be,” she said. “He’s stiff.”

Hillary Scheier, a physician’s assistant at Stony Brook who treated Thomas, said that trauma can “prematurely” close growth plates, which happened in his case. “He can’t gain any more height in that bone…they’re in his legs, so he’s not as tall as he potentially would have been,” she said.

Alisa McMorris, Andrew’s mother, said outside the courtroom that the testimony was “heartbreaking” to hear.

“We went through this together,” she said of the Lane family. “Andrew was two rooms down from Thomas … this is heartbreaking to listen to it, to endure it, to know this was 100% preventable.”

Back in the courtroom, Mr. Murphy’s defense attorney, Steven Politi of Central Islip, advanced several theories established earlier on, including a belief that the scouts were not walking single file in the shoulder. A friend of Mr. Murphy’s, who was driving behind him when the crash occurred, testified Tuesday that he didn’t believe all the scouts were walking single file.

But earlier Wednesday, Mr. Lane testified that he did not see anyone hiking improperly and “would have screamed at them, yelled at them,” if he had.

Mr. Politi also quizzed him on the color of the t-shirts worn by members of the group on the hike, saying their shirts may not have been visible to drivers. On Tuesday, prosecutors showed a bright red Scout shirt the hikers were wearing, but Mr. Politi said two of them were wearing darker shirts.

On Wednesday the attorney advanced an argument that Dennis Lane wasn’t hit directly by Mr. Murphy’s vehicle, but was instead knocked down by another boy who had been struck, which Mr. Lane said he had no knowledge of.

Mr. Lane also testified that he did not notice Mr. Murphy at the scene of the crash. “I was preoccupied with [my son],” he said.

Mr. Politi also called the Lane family’s relationship with lead investigator Genevieve Vesely, who lives two houses down from the family, into question.

Since Det. Vesely’s sons were also involved in Troop 161, Mr. Politi has questioned why she did not hand the case off to another investigator.

Kevin and Colleen Lane both testified that they had not met privately with Det. Vesely and instead met with officials from the District Attorney’s office.

He also scrutinized a civil lawsuit filed by the family that alleges Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County were “negligent” in maintaining the roads in the area. Ms. Lane acknowledged the civil suit, but added that the two municipalities are not “solely” responsible for the crash.

Prosecutors will call new witnesses Thursday in the trial, which is expected to last several more weeks.

Mr. Murphy, 60, of Holbrook is facing a top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

Caption: A memorial for Andrew McMorris at the scene of the crash on David Terry Road in Manorville. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski file photo)

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