Jack Roland Murphy

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Jack Roland Murphy (or "Murph the Surf" or "Murf the Surf") (born 1938 in Los Angeles, California) is a surfing champion, musician, author, artist, and convicted murderer, who was involved in the biggest jewel heist in American history.

Today he is an ordained minister, working with inmates in the field of prison ministry.[citation needed]


Murphy was involved in the notorious burglary, on October 29, 1964, at the American Museum of Natural History, of the Star of India along with several other precious gems, including the Eagle Diamond and the de Long Ruby. This heist was called the "Jewel Heist of the Century." It targeted the J.P. Morgan jewel collection from the display cases of New York's American Museum of Natural History.[1]

Murphy had cased the museum earlier and discovered that security was lax to non-existent. The burglar alarm system was non-operational, and a fourth story window in the jewel room was usually left open to aid in ventilation. The thieves climbed in through the window and discovered that the display case alarms were non-functional as well. The stolen jewels were insured for more than $400,000.[1]

Murphy and both his accomplices, Alan Kuhn and Roger Clark, were arrested two days later and received three-year sentences. The uninsured Star of India was recovered in a foot locker at a Miami bus station. Most of the other gems were also recovered, except the Eagle Diamond, which has since been hypothesized to have been cut down into smaller stones. Richard Duncan Pearson was also convicted.[2]

The heist was the subject of the film Murph the Surf (1975), directed by Marvin Chomsky, and starring Robert Conrad, Burt Young, and Don Stroud (as Murphy).[3]

Whiskey Creek Murders[edit]

In 1967, in Broward County, Florida, the weighted-down bodies of Terry Rae Frank and Annelle Marie Mohn were found in Whiskey Creek Canal, near Hollywood, at the site of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park. The two women were former employees of the Los Angeles brokerage firm Rutner, Jackson & Gray. They were suspects in the theft of $488,732 worth of stocks (equivalent to approximately $3,672,319 in 2018 dollars[4]).The loss of the stocks was not discovered until after the two women quit the firm and moved to Florida.[5]

In 1969, Murphy and an accomplice, Jack Griffith, were tried in Fort Lauderdale for the murder of twenty-four year old Terry Rae Frank, one of two women whose bodies were found in the Whiskey Creek Canal. Murphy's attorney pleaded him not guilty of first-degree murder by reason of insanity. The recommendation of mercy by the jury helped Murphy to avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to life in prison at hard labor. Griffith was convicted of second-degree murder, and received a 45-year sentence at hard labor.[5]

Murphy subsequently was convicted in the 1968 robbery of a Miami Beach woman.[6]


Bill Glass, Roger Staubach, and McCoy McLemore, world champion athletes and local businessmen, visited the Florida State prison in 1974. Murphy was impressed by these visitors and decided to change his life.[citation needed] At that time, Murphy's earliest parole date was November 2005. Murphy began participating in the prison chaplaincy program, leading Bible studies, and mentoring other men in prison. His parole date was moved up progressively because of good behavior.[7] The Florida Parole Board voted to release Murphy, effective November 1986. Some conditions of his parole included making a $2500 donation to Meals on Wheels, and a restriction on returning to Dade and Broward counties, where the crimes were committed.[8]

Life after prison[edit]

In 1986, Murphy began visiting prisons and jails all over the U.S. as a part of his prison ministry. He was hired by Bill Glass Champions for Life in 1986. Murphy has also been a featured speaker for Kairos, Coalition of Prison Evangelists, International Network of Prison Ministries, Time for Freedom, and Good News Jail & Prison Ministry. After visiting over 1,200 prisons, and recognizing the change apparent in Murphy's life, the Florida Parole Board terminated his "lifetime parole" in 2000.[citation needed]

Murphy was the keynote speaker in Jerusalem during the 1st World Conference on Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation through Religion. He is a frequent guest on Christian television and radio programs. Murphy has also appeared on CNN's Larry King Live.[citation needed]

As of August 2011, Murphy had been serving as a Vice-President of International Network of Prison Ministries, visiting prisons, jails, and youth detention facilities all over the world. Murphy wrote a book about his experience and testimony entitled Jewels for the Journey.[citation needed] He carried campaign signs for Bernie Decastro for sheriff in 2012. Jack Roland Murphy lives in Crystal River, Florida, with his wife, Kitten, and grandchildren.[citation needed]

Murphy has been featured in the following films:


  1. ^ a b Preston, Douglas J. (1994). Dinosaurs in the Attic: an Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (1st pbk. ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 210–219. ISBN 0312104561.
  2. ^ "Gem-Theft Figure is Found Guilty. Received Part of Ransom for the De Long Ruby". Associated Press in New York Times. December 12, 1965. Retrieved 2008-04-28. Richard Duncan Pearson was found guilty today of having been involved in the ransoming of the 104-carat De Long ruby, one of several gems stolen from the American Museum of Natural History in October, 1964.
  3. ^ Paul, Louis (2008). Tales from the Cult Film Trenches: Interviews with 36 Actors from Horror, Science Fiction and Exploitation Cinema. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 247. ISBN 9780786429943.
  4. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Jury convicts Murf the Surf and Griffith; jewel thief sentenced to life term". Chicago Tribune. 2 March 1969. p. 18. Retrieved 26 December 2016.,
  6. ^ Campbell, Douglas S. (1994). Free Press v. Fair Trial: Supreme Court Decisions since 1807 (1. publ. ed.). Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Praeger. pp. 133–134. ISBN 0275942775.
  7. ^ Tracy, Dan (November 11, 1986). "'Murph the Surf' Starts His Parole Jewel Thief To Counsel Convicts At Halfway House As Lay Minister". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  8. ^ Susskind, Jonathan (October 23, 1986). "Board Grants Parole to 'Murph the Surf'". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 4 February 2013.

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