The Star of India, one of the most precious jewels in the world, was exhibited along with other valuable gems in what was known as the J.P. Morgan Collection in New York’s Museum of Natural History.
On the evening of 29th October 1964, Murphy and his cohorts climbed through a bathroom window they had unlocked during opening hours. The Star sapphire was the only gem in the collection protected by an alarm. Luckily for them the battery operating the alarm was dead. Murphy managed to steal the stones, including the sapphire worth around $400,000.
The high he must have experienced from such an audacious robbery that involved no violence, was short lived when Murphy was arrested along with his accomplices just two days later. The Star of India was recovered in a Miami bus station locker. Most of the other gems were also found. The one thing that gave them away was the lavish parties they had held at the Cambridge Hotel while planning the heist.
Murphy received 21 months in jail. When he came out it appeared that his experiences had hardened him for he is quoted as saying that when he came out of New York’s Rikers Island prison he didn’t give a ‘damn’ about ‘anything or anyone’.
1968 was to see a turning point in Murphy’s style and image as a glamorous cat burglar.
Murphy acted as look-out and getaway driver when he and two partners broke into the huge mansion of Olive Wofford, a Miami Beach socialite. Wofford later told police, the thieves held a pistol to her and also threatened to pour boiling water over her eight year-old niece if she didn't cooperate and open the safe.
Murphy was later tracked down by the police, which involved a high-powered chase, where he drove his vehicle through a pair of French doors. When apprehended and found to be swathed in bandages Murphy quipped "I cut myself shaving."
But worse to come was the discovery that two Californian secretaries had died at his hands in 1967 despite Murphy denying he had anything to do with the killings. Later to be known as the Whiskey Creek murders, the two women had been shot, bludgeoned to death and then dumped in a creek near Hollywood, Florida.
Concrete weights had also been tied to their necks to sink them. The victims had allegedly been brutally killed in a dispute over nearly half a million dollars worth of securities stolen from a Los Angeles brokerage. Murphy was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Despite denying he was involved in the Whiskey Creek murders, Murphy was convicted of killing Terry Rae Frank, 24, in 1969 and sentenced to life in prison. In 1970, he received a second life sentence, plus 20 years, for conspiracy and assault to commit robbery against Olive Wofford.
Due to becoming a model prisoner, a Christian and showing remorse for his past Murphy was paroled from the Florida State Prison in 1986.