Megan Hall pleads guilty to manslaughter in Pottsville jeweler's death; friends, leaders react

Jul. 18—A week before her trial was set to begin, Megan E. Hall pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2019 stabbing death of Pottsville jeweler Patrick J. Murphy.

She entered the plea in New Orleans Criminal Court Monday. The original second-degree murder count was amended to manslaughter, online court records show.

She also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and armed robbery for the Feb. 28, 2019, death of Murphy, who was visiting New Orleans with his wife at the time of his death.

Hall, 28, was sentenced to 25 years in prison concurrent for all three charges, but the order says with "all but 10 years suspended," meaning she'll only have to serve 10, said Timothy David Ray, chief communications officer for the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office.

The 15 "suspended years" could be reimposed by a judge, depending on her behavior.

The agreement gives her credit for time served, meaning Hall has less than seven remaining on her sentence.

A court filing about the plea says the sentence will be through the department of corrections "at hard labor."

Attempts Monday to reach Hall's attorney and the district attorney's office for more details were unsuccessful.

Had she been convicted of second-degree murder, Hall faced a mandatory life sentence without the chance for parole. A conviction for armed robbery carries a sentence of 10 to 99 years in state prison, while a sentence for an obstruction charges is up to 40 years.

At the time of her arrest in the Murphy case, the New Orleans Advocate reported that court records showed Hall was arrested in 2012 in New Orleans on prostitution charges; that she was charged in 2011 for theft and drug violations and in 2012 for prostitution in Tennessee; and in 2015 and 2018 on prostitution charges in Texas.

Hall, meanwhile, is being prosecuted in a separate case. On May 10 she entered a plea of not guilty to a sexual battery charge stemming from a Jan. 31 incident in the Orleans Parish Justice Center. Court records allege that Hall and a fellow inmate held down a third female inmate, allowing another inmate to sexually assault the victim. Hall denies she took part, records show.

Hall, formerly of Tennessee, has been in prison since March 3, 2019, on $750,000 bail for Murphy's death. The scheduled July 25 trial was just the latest date set, with previous postponements because of the pandemic and hurricanes.

Police said Hall stabbed Murphy, 62, once in the neck and twice in the abdomen at the Empress Hotel in the Treme section of New Orleans. Video surveillance footage showed Murphy and Hall arriving at the hotel together at 2:10 a.m., according to prosecutors.

She was seen leaving the hotel room alone and briskly walking out the front door at 3:42 a.m., prosecutors allege. Police said they believe Hall left the hotel with some of Murphy's possessions.

An employee found Murphy's body at 11:41 a.m.

Leaders, friends react

Murphy and his family have operated Murphy Jewelers in downtown Pottsville since 1913. The business also has locations near Hamburg, Berks County, and in the Lehigh Valley Mall, Whitehall, Lehigh County.

Murphy's civic involvement included service on the Pottsville Parking Authority and Pottsville Area school board.

Community leaders reacted Monday to the news of Hall's plea.

"That doesn't seem fair, but we've got to believe in our justice system," said former Pottsville Mayor James Muldowney, who worked alongside Murphy in many community endeavors.

He said it was "a shame" that Murphy died the way he did.

"God rest his soul," Muldowney said.

Current Mayor Dave Clews, who knew Murphy as a member of the Pottsville Business Association, said he is "finally glad to see some kind of closure for the family."

Murphy leaves behind a wife, Kim, and two children, Sean Patrick and Mallory Erin.

A sign on the door of Murphy Jewelers in Pottsville said the store was not open on Mondays.

Hugh Reiley, chairman of the Pottsville Democratic Committee, also noted closure for the family.

"I pray for the Murphy family," he said. "They've been through so much."

Ed Keyworth III, who had known Murphy since 1987, said "the entire situation is a tragedy."

"There is no sentencing good or bad that will ever bring Patrick back," he said. "Our loss of Patrick to our community and our friends can never be replaced."

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