Friday, February 18, 2005 Print This | Email This     

Popular Kansas professor on trial for wife's murder

By Andres Martinez, Court TV

(Court TV) — A popular Kansas State University English professor went on trial this week for the brutal stabbing of his estranged wife.

Thomas Murray and Carmin Ross-Murray had been married 18 years before their divorce in June 2003. But prosecutors say a custody battle over the couple's then-4-year-old daughter prompted Murray to carefully plot and then carry out the murder of his ex-wife on Nov. 14, 2003.

Ross-Murray, 40, was found dead in her bedroom atop a dresser with multiple stab wounds. But it wasn't until nearly a year later, on Oct. 4, 2004, that police arrested Murray.

Lt. Kathy Tate, of the Douglas County Sheriff's office, would not comment on the investigation or Murray's arrest, citing an ongoing investigation. However, police officers testified during pretrial hearings that Murray was too talkative and did not show the expected amount of grief after he was informed of his former wife's death, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Prosecutors and detectives have not released information about the murder weapon, but in opening statements Thursday, prosecutors said Ross-Murray had been stabbed 17 times in the neck, and a coroner testified that she likely died from blunt trauma to the head, according to the Journal.

Ross-Murray, a lawyer and mediator, was planning to remarry. Two days after she told Murray her intentions to claim full custody of their daughter, Ciara, and marry the man she had been dating, she was found dead, according to local reports.

Murray was a respected and popular professor of English at the university. He had published books on linguistics, including one called "The Language of Sadomasochism."

Prosecutors have said Murray told colleagues he was researching how to commit murders for a script he was writing for an episode of the CBS criminal drama "CSI," according to reports.

The defense has pointed to the largely circumstantial nature of the case and asked that any evidence regarding Murray's computer use, research techniques or daily schedule be excluded from the trial. Defense attorneys have also asked that his books not be admitted as evidence, according to court documents.

Among other items the defense wanted excluded is a police photo showing bloodstains, revealed through Luminol testing, in Murray's car. Murray has admitted that the stains were his wife's blood, but said she had a nosebleed while borrowing his car.

Lawyers would not comment on the case before openings Thursday.

Murray faces up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. The trial is expected to last about a month.