The Thief of Red Mill: Even after criminal convictions, Virginia Beach police say he went back to stealing

Above, police are seen in 2016 in the yard of Kevin I. Murphy’s Red Mill home following his arrest in a string of thefts in Sandbridge and along the Nimmo Parkway corridor. [Virginia Beach Crime Solvers/Courtesy]

RED MILL — Last summer, Virginia Beach police assembled a number of local contractors in the yard of a home in Red Mill to identify goods stolen in a series of burglaries and thefts that plagued areas around Sandbridge and the Nimmo Parkway corridor. 

Joe Malinoski, owner of Nail It Construction, was among them. Someone had kicked in the back door of a house under construction, making off with Malinoski’s tools.

“You could see his muddy footprint,” Malinoski said. “He gathered all my tools up neatly – took them all, took everything, even the cords and the hoses.”

It’s not like thefts don’t ever happen on job sites. Tools, maybe a plank or two sometimes walk away. Malinoski has been in the business for decades, but what he saw in Red Mill was next-level stuff.

The yard was “slam full” of materials, some under tarps.

“It looked like a Home Depot,” he said.

The somebody in question – the owner of a home with a back yard, a shed and garage filled with stolen items – was Kevin I. Murphy, according to court records and Sgt. Pete Koepp, who oversees the detectives who worked the case.

Virginia Beach Crime Solvers publicized Murphy’s arrest last year because an anonymous tip helped authorities break the cases. The investigation by the First Precinct’s property crimes squad also was notable because it led to the successful recovery of perhaps $70,000 in stolen goods. 

Thieves tend to unload what they take as quickly as possible rather than stockpile much of it, as Murphy apparently did, according to police. 

“He was kind of like an old school cat burglar,” Koepp said, noting that police usually “get a lot of dumb kids kicking doors in.”

At the time, Murphy lived in a nice neighborhood with his family. He ran a lawn care business. And Koepp said nothing in Murphy’s record suggested the scope of the accusations he would come to face.

Murphy, now 51, ultimately pleaded guilty to seven counts of grand larceny. He was sheduled to be sentenced in April. That has been pushed back for reasons that soon will become clear.

If what police say now is true, not even the threat of prison time could keep Kevin I. Murphy from stealing. 

Kevin I. Murphy in 2016 [Virginia Beach Crime Solvers/Courtesy]

Last Year

Police got a tip in May 2016 that Murphy was leaving his home on the 2000 block of Westham Woods Court early each morning and returning with wood and supplies, according to a summary of police reports filed in Circuit Court. 

City police Detectives F.W. Nunn and M.D. Brooks set up surveillance on the house on May 24, 2016, watching as Murphy left only to return within a half hour with about $8,000 worth of cedar fencing in his truck. 

They detained Murphy and saw construction materials stacked next to the house. 

That morning in Red Mill, detectives questioned Murphy in a patrol car after reading him his rights, according to the investigative summary. It was about 5:45 a.m. Among other things, he said he had taken some stone from Sandbridge. 

Murphy admitted the fencing in his truck had been stolen. Brooks, in an affidavit filed with a search warrant, said Murphy told them similar fencing near the house was from an earlier theft.

According to Nunn, he gave permission for the detectives to look at what was in the yard – initially saying it was his stuff. Murphy’s wife gave permission to look elsewhere on the property.

[Murphy’s wife is not being identified because court records show family issues followed the charges, and Murphy has twice been found to have violated protective orders. A relative declined to comment when reached by telephone.]

Virginia Beach detectives linked construction materials, plants and tools to local thefts. Additional stolen goods, such as faucets still in their packaging, were found in the attic after Brooks got a search warrant.

It wasn’t all construction materials, however. 

Murphy stole seafood and scales from a farm stand and maple trees from a garden center, court records show. He stole a vanity and stone tile from a house in Sandbridge.

A number of victims responded to Murphy’s house and reclaimed property, and police took the rest to property and evidence. 

Malinoski said contractors tipped him off that some of his tools were at Murphy’s house. They were easy to identify because they had Nail It Construction stickers.

Murphy went to jail, where he remained until he made bond in mid-June. In November, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of grand larceny before Circuit Court Judge Leslie L. Lilley, according to an order entered in the court record on Thursday, Dec. 8.  

Last year, while his case worked its way through the courts, Murphy returned to jail on occasion for alleged violation of protective orders, but the stretches generally were not long, according to dates provided by the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office. 

On the outside – even after pleading guilty to several crimes – Murphy went back to work, according to police.

Police say the victim of a burglary in Sandbridge identified framed art in the background of a Craigslist ad, shown at left in this combined image, offering a table saw, as art stolen from the house. The picture, showing an umbrella, can also be seen on the righthand side of an image advertising the home online. [Screen capture/Siebert Realty]

This Year

Detectives started noticing burglaries and thefts that had a familiar ring to them – smoke detectors, faucets and the like going missing.

“The same kind of stuff he had taken last year,” Koepp said. “That kind of clued us in again.”

They heard chatter from locals that police hadn’t gotten everything from Murphy. 

There were some challenges while police investigated the new crimes. 

Some homes hit in Sandbridge may not report burglaries or thefts right away if, in the case of rentals, someone isn’t regularly living there. 

Additionally, it’s not unusual for various people to work on homes, even late at night. Delays in reporting crimes hamper investigations, Koepp said. 

In part, that’s because many thieves unload what they’ve stolen as fast as possible.

“The issue is a lot of these burglaries take place, and we don’t know until weeks later,” Koepp said. “Luckily – thank God – Murphy hangs on to this stuff, but, a lot of times, they move it.”

In March, city police Det. T. Bleh answered a Craigslist ad offering a chainsaw for sale. Bleh met with the seller to check out the merchandise. He suspected it might be stolen, and he checked the seller’s identification. It was Murphy, according to an affidavit filed with a search warrant.

Detectives then used a phone number associated with the ad – a new number for Murphy, according to Koepp – to seek out other items being offered on the digital marketplace. An ad posted in March offered a table saw, and photos of the saw showed framed pictures in the background. The ad in question remained online this month. 

Someone had burglarized a home on Sandfiddler Road in Sandbridge, making off with televisions, electronics, smoke detectors – and framed art.

The homeowner identified framed pictures in the background of the ad as those that had been stolen, according to an affidavit filed with a search warrant. Once photograph from the Craigslist ad shows a framed piece of art with an umbrella in it. An identical piece of art appears on a wall in a photo of the rental website advertising the property.

On Thursday, March 27, a burglary on Bluebill Drive yielded yet another clue after a neighboring camera system picked up a Honda Civic matching the one Murphy was driving, according to police.

By then, Murphy was living with a roommate on Wessington Drive, according to an affidavit in a search warrant. The roommate told Detective Andre Jerry that his mother had a storage space on General Booth Boulevard, and he said Murphy was storing things there.

Police found some pieces of property – but not all – from the Sandbridge burglaries. They secured the number for the storage unit and searched it, recovering a vanity and sink, shower doors, locks and electronics.

Murphy was charged with multiple counts of breaking and entering and grand larceny for incidents between November and March. Some of the alleged crimes occurred while he awaited sentencing on the grand larceny convictions from 2016. 

A Footnote

Murphy went back to jail on Friday, March 28, and he remained there when this story was posted online on Tuesday, May 30.

Murphy declined a request to be interviewed for this story, according to Kathy Hieatt, a spokesperson for the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office.

A preliminary hearing on the new set of charges Murphy faces is schedule for June in General District Court.

Again, a number of charges against Murphy are still going through the courts, and he has not been sentenced for the specific 2016 crimes in which he has admitted guilt. 

His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Bassel Khalaf, asked for the sentencing hearing to be continued to look into the additional charges. Khalaf did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Police recovered an estimated $30,000 in stolen goods in the recent cases, Koepp said, meaning roughly $100,000 has been recovered overall. They are still trying to determine the ownership of some property recovered during investigations involving Murphy. 

There is also a loose end that may never become a nice, neat knot — though the anecdote that follows did not result in a criminal charge against Murphy.

In February, amid investigations related to the more recent charges against Murphy, detectives identified a valuable object at a pawnshop in Hilltop.

Koepp said it was a University of Richmond class ring. 

“He had sold a college ring,” Koepp said, speaking about Murphy. “We were curious about it. If it’s a good pawnshop, they’ll keep documents on it.”

This was what kind of place, it turned out, and it became clear the ring probably was not Murphy’s.

“There was a name in the engraving,” Koepp said. 

It was the last name of an attorney who had represented Murphy, he said.

Court records show Anthony Montagna III, has represented Murphy in the past year in Virginia Beach Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court matters related to protective orders.

Koepp said Montagna told police Murphy had done some work for him. 

The Independent News on Tuesday, May 2, reached out to Montagna, whose biography says he graduated from the University of Richmond, to ask about the ring.

“I’m not going to discuss that,” he said.

Police closed the case on how exactly the class ring, valued at about $200 in a police report, ended up in a pawnshop. 

They couldn’t pursue charges, according to the police report, because Montagna wouldn’t cooperate.

© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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