Man who killed girlfriend while riding in car sentenced to 31 years in prison

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SEATTLE — A man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend last year
while both were riding in a car on Interstate 5 in Seattle was sentenced Friday
to 31 years in prison.

Christel Murphy pleaded guilty in September to first-degree
murder for the October 2008 stabbing death of his longtime girlfriend, Jane
Kariuki, 42.

Kariuki’s family asked King County Superior Court Judge
Palmer Robinson to hand down the harshest sentence possible. Rosemary Kariuki,
the slain woman’s mother, told the judge that she wanted to know why her
daughter was murdered.

While asking Robinson for leniency, Murphy said he wasn’t
sure why he killed Kariuki.

Murphy, 42, has a manslaughter conviction in North Carolina
and a string of assault convictions here. He served a 60-day jail sentence
three years ago for third-degree domestic-violence assault after beating
Kariuki, cutting her with broken glass and threatening to kill her with knives.

Seattle police said Kariuki had told Murphy earlier the day
of the slaying that he would have to move out of the Kent residence they
shared.

“It just got bigger than I thought I could
handle,” Murphy said about his relationship with Kariuki. “I don’t
know. I don’t know. This is just not me.”

Kariuki was riding in the front seat of a car driven by
another man on Oct. 16, 2008, when Murphy, who was in the back seat, reached
forward, put her in a headlock and stabbed her repeatedly in the face and
chest, according to police and King County prosecutors.

The driver of the car pulled over and called 911 while
Murphy got out of the vehicle, threw the knife on the ground, lit a cigarette
and calmly sat down on the guardrail to wait for police, according to court
documents.

At least two no-contact orders had been issued in an attempt
to protect Kariuki from Murphy, but in 2007 Kariuki successfully petitioned the
court to lift the order issued earlier.

Prosecutors had asked for a 32-year prison sentence. Defense
attorney Paula Peach asked the judge for a sentence of about 22 years.

Murphy’s mother, brother and aunt also spoke during the
sentencing, each asking for leniency.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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