A life that was changed

Jewel thief, murderer finds freedom in Christ
Sep. 16, 2013 @ 12:16 PM

Jack Murphy helped carry out the "Jewel Heist of the Century" in 1964, as he and others targeted the J.P. Morgan jewel collection from New York's American Museum of Natural History. 

He later murdered a woman and robbed another one in Florida.

Convicted of the crimes, he received two life sentences and a death row sentence. He served his time in a Florida federal prison.

But in 1974 when he gave his life to Jesus Christ, Murphy's life radically changed.

He has been out of prison about 27 years and today ministers to the prison population around the world.

He was guest speaker Tuesday night at the 096 Chapliaincy Ministry's annual fundraising event held at Isothermal Community College.

The event raises money for the three prison chaplains who minister to the prison population in Rutherford County and the other chaplaincy programs.

Murphy told the chaplains and supporters that after he went to prison in Florida he began receiving letters from people he did not know telling him they were praying for him. That was strange to him that people he didn't know were praying.

"The letters would say, 'Did you ever try God?'" Murphy said.

"The people would tell me that'd been watching me in the paper and they would tell me they believed God had a plan for me," he said Tuesday.

He said as he began to receive the letters, he asked himself, "What if God does loves us?" Murphy said. "What if all this is true?" 

He was told God hears prayers and would answer his prayers if he'd call out to him.

Murphy said a prison chaplain from South Carolina came to visit him one day.

 "God works through a lot of ways. The chaplain came through nine locked gates to visit me," he said. The chaplain asked Murphy if anyone had ever told him that God loved him.

Murphy said he began to listen to what the chaplain was saying and later became involved in an athletic group in prison.

Believing he would never walk out of the prison gates, Murphy said he attended an event at the prison  where Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, and other world champion athletes and local businessmen addressed the prisoners.

When he heard Staubach tell the federal inmates, "You need a manager. There are a lot religious games going on. They are always going on. But Jesus was crucified and that is the the most significant fact, the greatest event in history. The ground couldn't hold Jesus."

Murphy said he asked himself, "What do I have to lose?" Everything else in his life was pulling him down.

"So on Feb. 10. 1974 I got saved. Murphy got saved. I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart," he said.

After turning his life over to Christ, he became involved in the prison ministry and in November 1986 was released from prison by the Florida Parole Board.

He has been involved in the prison ministry since.

"God works when nothing else will. God works," he said.

Statistics say more than 65 percent of inmates will go back to prison. 

"But those who hear the word of God and accept it, only 6 percent return to jail," Murphy said. 

He said although inmates are often told that since have enough time while in prison to get a good education, the education will help them get a good job. That isn't working.

"There are 22 attorneys, six judges . . .in federal penitentiary today,"Murphy said. "It is the power of God that changes a man's life. Not better jobs. Not better education." 

"I'm representing Jesus Christ and I'm not ashamed of the power of God that changes a man life. He changed me."

"Does prison chaplain work do any good?" he asked. "Does it makes any difference" he asked as he gave his testimony.

The event raised money for the three chaplains who minister to the inmates at the Rutherford County Detention Facility and the North Carolina Department of Correction (DOC) in Spindale.

"What these people are doing in prision is touching hearts," he said. 

The chaplains in Rutherford are William Logan and Jerry Hames  who work with the male inmates at the jail and the DOC. Kriss Landry is the Women's Ministry Chaplain Rutherford Coounty Detention Facility.

In his annual report, Logan said 8,366 inmates attended services at the DOC during the past year; Hames said 2,572 males attended service in the detention fcaciity and Landry reported 1,118 women participated in her ministry during the past year.

Murphy asked everyone at the fund raising event to dig deep in their pocketbooks and support the chapliancy ministry in Rutherford County.

He said because a chaplain cared about him, he is where he is today.