Couple sentenced for faking baby miscarriage to bilk donations

Jeff Bobo • Aug 27, 2013 at 3:22 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A Hawkins County couple accused of making up the pregnancy and subsequent death of unborn twins to collect donations for bogus funeral expenses pleaded guilty to charges including fraud last week in Hawkins County Sessions Court.

The husband reportedly went so far as to show photos of dead babies to his employer, and the wife reportedly showed her victim prenatal ultrasounds of twins she later stated she’d “lost.”

Courtney Ladawn Murrell, 27, 160 Choptack Road, Rogersville, was sentenced to 30 days in jail, two years probation, 192 hours of community service and a $100 fine on Aug. 19 in exchange for guilty pleas to theft under $500 by fraud and creating the false impression of death. A felony theft over $500 charge was dropped.

Her husband, Irvin Henry “Trey” Murrell III, 28, same address, also pleaded guilty Aug. 19 to creating the false impression of death and one count of theft under $500 by fraud, which was reduced from a felony theft over $500 charge.

Irvin Murrell was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days of probation and fined $100. A 96-hour community service sentence was waived.

Assistant Attorney General Alex Pearson said Mrs. Murrell received the tougher sentence because she took full responsibility for the scam. Pearson said that even to the day of the sentencing Mrs. Murrell contended that her husband didn’t know she’d faked the pregnancy and miscarriage.

“Her story still is that he didn’t know about the scam, he thought she was pregnant, and she orchestrated the whole situation,” Pearson said. “She accepted the blame for the whole thing.”

On Feb. 22, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office received a fraud complaint from the mother of one of Courtney Murrell’s former boyfriends. The woman told police that she’d been contacted by Courtney Murrell, who stated that she was pregnant with twins and that the victim’s son was the father.

The victim told the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office that she initially gave Courtney Murrell $100 to assist with expenses and also bought her things for the twins.

Courtney Murrell also showed the victim photos of prenatal ultrasounds and identified them as her twins, she said.

After a few weeks, Courtney Murrell called the victim back and stated she’d “lost” the twins and needed money for their burials. However, Courtney Murrell wouldn’t tell the victim where the twins were going to be buried.

Courtney Murrell later admitted to the HCSO she hadn’t been pregnant dating back to September 2012 — which was the timeframe she gave the victim.

During the investigation, the HCSO learned that Irvin Murrell had collected money from his coworkers and employer at Barrette Manufacturing for the loss of twins by his wife.

Barrette human resources manager Rick Fior told the HCSO that Irvin Murrell showed him a photo of two deceased babies.

Fior reportedly gave the HCSO copies of a check given to Irvin Murrell for $250 and a hand-written receipt for $387 — funds that had been taken up for Irvin Murrell and his wife due to the death of the babies.

Irvin Murrell also received $270 in salary for bereavement time he was off work — as he told his employers — for the funerals of the twins.

Pearson said the felony charges were lowered or dismissed because the Murrells had paid restitution in full to the victims as of their court date Monday.

The victims in the case also indicated that they didn’t want jail time in the sentence, although Mr. Murrell did lose his job over the incident.

The overall restitution was not much over $500, Pearson added.

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