The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 14, 2012

He now faces 40 years

School bus driver charged with sex crimes backs out of plea deal

JEFFERSON — After backing out of a plea-bargain that would have sentenced him to up to 20 years in prison, a former school bus driver now faces up to 40 if he’s convicted of rape and several other sexually related crimes with young female students.

On Friday, Virgil Murphy Jr., 57, of 518 N. Broadway, Geneva, verbally accepted, and then declined the prosecution’s negotiated plea to four counts of gross sexual imposition, third-degree felonies, and three counts of gross sexual imposition, fourth-degree felonies, prosecutors said.

Murphy is charged with two counts of rape, first-degree felonies; 10 counts of gross sexual imposition, third-degree felonies; and three counts of gross sexual imposition, fourth-degree felonies, Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court records show.

The precursor charges carry a sentence of 20 years in prison while the latter is punishable by 40 years.

Murphy’s case will now go to trial on May 2 in Common Pleas Judge Alfred Mackey’s courtroom.

Before Murphy declined the plea-bargain, Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini said he was pleased with the negotiated plea because it prevented the victims from having to testify.

Geneva police have said Murphy met two of the victims on his bus. After talking with them, police said Murphy realized they were distant relatives.

Police said Murphy then had sexual contact with the two girls and their sister at his home in Geneva. All three girls were ages 13 and younger, Assistant Prosecutor Susan Thomas said.

Murphy has been employed with the Ashtabula Area City School District since 2005, Superintendent Joseph Donatone said.  

None of the alleged incidents took place on school property, he said.

Even so, many parents told the Star Beacon they complained about Murphy, beginning in late 2009.

They told Donatone that Murphy was buying the children treats at a convenience store in Saybrook Township and giving them gifts of money and food.

Donatone said he investigated every complaint about Murphy, and, when appropriate, disciplined him.

Murphy is suspended without pay, pending the outcome of the criminal charges, Donatone has said.

Public Defender Dean F. Topalof is representing Murphy, who is free on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond, with conditions to stay away from the victims. The prosecutor’s office has said Murphy has significant health issues.

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