Roxanne Murphy
Roxanne Murphy

Life has improved for five siblings whose parents were charged last year with beating them, forcing them to drink alcohol, not letting them attend school and allowing them to live in a filthy feces-strewn home in Springettsbury Township.

"Some of them are doing better than others," deputy prosecutor Stephen McDonald said. "They're all doing better than they were."

On Monday, their parents — who have remained locked up for nearly a year on child-endangerment charges — were sentenced to prison.

James Murphy, 41, pleaded guilty to four counts of child endangerment and one count of simple assault. The assault charge was filed because he broke one of his daughter's ribs.

James Murphy
James Murphy

As part of a negotiated plea agreement, he was sentenced to 22 to 48 months in state prison.

Mom also sentenced: Roxanne Murphy, 39, pleaded no contest to four counts of child endangerment, also as part of a negotiated agreement. She was sentenced to 11-1/2 to 23 months in York County Prison, and both she and her husband will receive credit for the 338 days they've already served.

Roxanne Murphy pleaded no contest rather than guilty because she was unable to fully accept responsibility for her home being filthy, public defender Erin Thompson explained to the presiding judge.

"I don't think in her own mind she could accept full responsibility," Thompson later told The York Dispatch, saying she believes her client's mental-health issues factor into that.

The oldest of the couple's children was an adult when police discovered the squalor, which is why the Murphys faced four counts each of child endangerment, not five counts. At the time, the younger four children were 9, 12, 14 and 16, police said.

'Kids won't help': During Monday's hearing, James Murphy told presiding Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn, "My wife tries to get the kids to help her out (with cleaning). The kids won't help out."

The children were not enrolled in school, and hadn't been since about 2010, officials said.

James Murphy told the judge, "My wife was attempting to home-school them the best she knew how."

But prosecutor McDonald said police found nothing in the Murphys' former Mount Zion Road home to indicate the children were being schooled at home "in any fashion."

James Murphy also denied withholding food from his children, some of whom had told authorities they were always hungry and sometimes stole food that "belonged" to their parents. The children said they sometimes were beaten for taking food, documents state.

Parents want kids back: Defense attorney Scott McCabe, who represented James Murphy, said his client was a truck driver at the time of his arrest.

"He tried to support the family," McCabe said, and hopes to regain custody of his children.

"They both love their kids and want them back," McCabe said.

Other charges, including allegations James Murphy possessed child pornography, were dismissed.

McDonald said the computer that held the illegal images was used by others in the home, and he said the prosecution wanted to resolve the case without a trial so the children didn't have to testify.

"There are a lot of emotional issues with them," he said.

In foster care: The four younger children remain in foster care, according to McDonald.

In December, Springettsbury Township Police found all five siblings drunk, the house filthy and a .30-30 Winchester rifle lying on the floor. The rifle was on the floor because one of the children was contemplating suicide, court documents state.

The siblings told police their parents made them get drunk "so the children would be sleepy" and the parents could leave the home, according to McDonald.

"All the children were given alcohol that night, and they were all drunk," he said.

Police said the house was strewn with filth, including animal feces, and said there were animals in very room, including 50 snakes, lizards, rats, rabbits, birds, a pot-bellied pig and a dog and cat, documents state.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.