Family explores a son’s dilemma — (St. Petersburg Times)

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St. Petersburg Times

October 19, 1999


Should Michael Murphy, accused of taking classmates hostage, opt for time in a youth facility or go for trial in adult court?  His family weighs options.
He’s not even guaranteed a spot there.  But family members of Michael B. Murphy, wrestling with two unattractive options, toured the Cypress Creek Correctional Facility in Lecanto on Friday to get a feel for his potential home for the next 18 months.

Murphy, 16, faces charges today at an arraignment that he threatened his classmates at Lecanto High School on Oct. 6 with a knife and fake explosives.

The state attorney’s office has given him two choices: Agree to serve at least 18 months in one of the state’s toughest juvenile detention centers; or try his chances in adult court, with the threat of time in prison with hardened criminals.

Murphy’s grandmother, Joan Murphy, who did not attend the tour, would not say Monday what her family will decide when her grandson appears in juvenile court.

“My only concern is that my grandson be taken care of,” she said. “Sangui di mi sangui: Blood of my blood. He is dearly loved in this family.”

Nevertheless, Assistant State Attorney Jeffery Smith said he was relatively confident that the family will accept the take-it-or-leave-it offer.

“It’s kind of like the fat lady: Until she sings, the play isn’t over,” said Smith. “All I can say is I anticipate a plea.”

Murphy faces four felony charges: armed kidnapping, making a false bomb threat, planting a hoax bomb and possession of a weapon on school grounds.

Joe Indelicato, Murphy’s attorney, did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.

Derrick Witherspoon, facility administrator at Cypress Creek, said he spent two hours Friday with Murphy’s father, his stepmother and aunt. He showed the family around the center, highlighting educational and vocational programs.

“They wanted to know that their son will be taken care of,” Witherspoon said. “What they saw was a program that really cares about changing young people’s way of thinking.”

Murphy suffers from bipolar disorder and takes the medication Prozac, according to Smith.

Cypress Creek is Level 10 juvenile detention center, the rating Florida assigns its toughest facilities for juvenile criminals. It holds up to 96 offenders and now houses 92, though there is a waiting list to get in.

Murphy is not guaranteed placement there. He could be sent to one of the state’s four Level 10 centers. Smith said he will argue for placement at Cypress Creek in Lecanto. Circuit Judge Patricia Thomas also must sign off on the deal.