published Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Former Postal worker pleads guilty to stealing vet's painkillers

A former postal worker faces up to five years in prison for stealing painkillers from a veteran on his mail route.

Michael Murdock, 53, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to taking pain pills he was supposed to deliver to Liggie Arthur Phelps on Poor Grab Chestnut Road near Petersburg, Tenn.

Murdock pleaded guilty to one of nine counts against him for stealing Veterans Affairs-prescribed hydrocodone tablets from a parcel intended for Phelps. The remaining charges will be dismissed at sentencing, prosecutor Steve Neff said in the brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Susan K. Lee.

Sentencing for Murdock is scheduled for Feb. 25 before U.S. District Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice.

Neff declined further comment on the case.

Wesley Southerland, Murdock's attorney, said his client is a good person with a good reputation in his community.

Murdock declined comment other than to confirm he had worked for the post office for nearly 14 years but no longer does.

Court documents record seven instances in which Murdock took the medications he was supposed to deliver and state he stole $11,562 under his control while working at the post office.

Murdock admitted to taking the pain medications on Jan. 3, 2011. Marshall County investigators searched a farmhouse owned by Murdock at 1804 Brown Shop Road after Phelps reported not receiving his medication in the mail.

The detectives treated the contents of a box to be mailed with "clue spray," which is invisible under normal lighting but visible under fluorescent lighting, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives.

The spray showed up on Murdock, according to detectives, indicating he opened the package and connecting him with the medicine thefts.

Murdock faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Petersburg, Tenn., is in Lincoln and Marshall counties.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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