Monday, August 19, 2002

Victim's kin fight parole

1977 murder called one of most brutal

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cary Camm holds a phot of her slain sister, Diane.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Kevin Adrian Murtaugh, an Irish immigrant who came to America as a 4-year-old orphan, has spent the last quarter of a century in a state penitentiary for the strangulation and dismemberment of his wife, Diane Camm.

        It was one of Northern Kentucky's most brutal and highly publicized killings, known in the headlines as the “Torso Nurse” case.

        At the time, the prosecutor and defense attorney described it as the most sensational trial Campbell County had seen in 50 years. In 1977, Mr. Murtaugh, a former busboy at Beverly Hills Supper Club, was accused and ultimately convicted of strangling his wife, a 22-year-old licensed practical nurse, dismembering her body and then scattering its parts over the county.

        The woman's head and torso were found in a snowbank near A.J. Jolly Park in southern Campbell County. Mr. Murtaugh later led police to an Interstate 275 bridge in Wilder where detectives found his wife's severedlimbs. Now the victim's family fears the Kentucky Parole Board will release Mr. Murtaugh, perhaps as early as December.

        “I'm scared he will kill again,” said Mrs. Murtaugh's younger sister, Cary Camm, 41, of Cold Spring. “Someone sick enough to chop up another human can't be rehabilitated. He should get a second chance when my sister gets a second chance.”

        Mr. Murtaugh, now 50, was convicted in October 1977 in Campbell County Circuit Court.

        He was sentenced to life in prison and sent to the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.

        Elmer Ray, who retired as sergeant from the Kentucky State Police, investigated the homicide and plans to write to the parole board.

        “It was the most gruesome case I had investigated up to that point in my career,” said Mr. Ray, of Falmouth. “I investigated several other homicides after that one, but none was as brutal.”

        Ms. Camm is organizing a letter-writing campaign. She hopes the current Campbell County prosecutor and detectives who investigated the case join her in Frankfort, where she plans to testify before the parole board.

        One of those detectives is Wayne Hetteberg, who was an investigator for the prosecution.

        “I think that if you polled the same jury that convicted him that they would say that they never expected him to be released,” said Mr. Hetteberg, who is now retired and living in Florida. “These are my feelings and only the feelings of a retired cop.”

        Parole board officials said they haven't set a date for Mr. Murtaugh's parole hearing, scheduled to come up in December.

        He has been denied parole three times, the last being December 1990. Mr. Murtaugh declined a request for an interview.

        “I just want people to know they can fight to keep him in prison,” Ms. Camm said. “They don't have to sit back and say there is nothing they can do. There is something they can do: They can write letters. They can tell the parole board they don't want this sick bastard out.”

        The defense contended Mr. Murtaugh's wife died of an overdose of drugs and that the defendant was a latent schizophrenic who was triggered into the dismemberment after finding his wife dead. Prison officials wouldn't comment on Mr. Murtaugh's current mental state.

Write the parole board:

        The Kentucky Parole Board
        271 E. Main St.
        P.O. Box 2400
        Frankfort, Ky. 40602-2400
        Kevin A. Murtaugh's inmate ID: 078457


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