It was stifling hot on the summer morning 29 years ago when I almost murdered my daughter.
“Murder” is an unforgiving term for what nearly happened that day, but to prosecutors in Prince William County, it is appropriate. That was the charge they brought last year against Bristow veterinarianKaren Murphy, whose 2-year-old, Ryan, did not do what my 2-year-old, Molly, did on the day I almost killed her: wake up at the last minute and say something.
So I didn’t park and lock my car and head into my office that morning, as Murphy did last June 17. Instead, after steadying my nerves against the knowledge of what I’d almost done, I drove my daughter to day care, as I’d meant to do before I somehow — inexplicably, inexcusably — forgot that she was sitting in the back seat.
For her grievous mistake, Murphy faced a possible 40 years in prison on a charge of felony murder. Just before her trial this past week, as she quietly wept in court, the 41-year-old veterinarian was permitted to plead guilty to reduced charges of misdemeanor child neglect. She won’t go to prison. She won’t lose her medical license. All she faces is 400 hours of community service, six years of probation, and a lifetime of grief and shame that will sabotage joy whenever that emotion dares to surface. That is what happens in these cases. I know. I have studied them.