Car chase leads to multiple charges

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Murphy

Richmond County authorities had been looking for Gary Lee Murphy since June. The registered South Carolina sex offender turned up Sunday, leading police on an 11-mile chase through North Augusta and parts of Richmond County in a stolen car.

"We had information that he had fled to Florida or Mexico but I kind of suspected he was going to remain relatively in the area," Richmond County Investigator Tom Johnson said.

Mr. Murphy, 30, of Windsor, S.C., already had been accused of carjacking the vehicles of two women in Richmond County in June. According to authorities, he used credit cards stolen from his first victim to buy clothes at Dillard's in the Augusta Mall, and he was spotted on footage from mall video cameras. After leaving the mall, police said, he stole a black Mustang from a second woman, which was recovered later that month in a parking area at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia.

Mr. Murphy resurfaced Sunday morning after robbing Mani's Mart on Cary Drive in Beech Island, police said. He leaped over the counter to grab cash from the register, and then fled in a pickup truck, according to authorities.

Hours later, North Augusta Public Safety officers received a report that a man fitting the suspect's description had stolen a car while the victim was getting a drink from a vending machine at Bi-Lo in the Edgewood Square shopping center.

According to police reports, authorities spotted Mr. Murphy at a nearby stop light, but he sped off in the stolen vehicle toward 13th Street in Augusta, where his path was blocked by a passing train. Police continued to chase him through downtown Augusta to Sandbar Ferry Road where he merged onto the Bobby Jones Expressway and headed back to Aiken County. The suspect eventually abandoned the vehicle near South Carolina Highway 421 and Front Street in Warrenville, and he was apprehended following a brief foot chase in which he kicked Officer Chris Toole in the head, according to the police report.

In Richmond, Mr. Murphy is charged with two counts of robbery by force from the carjacking in June. In North Augusta, he is charged with larceny of a motor vehicle, failure to stop for blue lights and sirens, resisting arrest, giving false information and no driver's license.

In Aiken County, he is charged with strong arm robbery. Investigator Johnson said credit card fraud charges stemming from the June incident in Richmond County are pending. Mr. Murphy is being held in the Aiken County Detention Center.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.