Karen Murphy charged in boy's death in Bristow car

The case against a mother of a 2-year-old who died after he was left in the family van for hours continued in a Prince William County court Wednesday.

There is no disagreement that this was a horrible accident, but prosecutors say it was also a crime.

Karen Murphy made a brief appearance before the case was moved to July 15 at 9 a.m.

A Prince William grand jury indicted Murphy on one count of felony murder and two counts of child neglect. The penalties carry a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Murphy, a Bristow veterinarian, left the Prince William courthouse with her husband, refusing to answer questions.

“We hope it'd be a wake up call for other people who might be inclined not to take care of their children,” said Paul Ebert, the Prince William Commonwealth's attorney.

Murphy's lawyer, Edward MacMahon, said that while he believes the action wasn't intentional, state law provides that charges can be filed.

“She is just devastated by this loss,” said MacMahon. He also said that he was upset with the Commonwealth attorney’s decision to charge Murphy with murder.

“I'm surprised that the prosecutor elected to bring these charges literally within two weeks of the death of the child. The family hasn't had the chance to mourn," he said.

The 40-year-old Murphy has two other daughters. She surrendered to authorities Wednesday morning and was released on a $25,000 bond.

Prosecutors pointed out that Murphy had forgotten the child in the car once previously in January. According to the affidavit, the boy had been left in the car in the parking lot of the animal clinic where Murphy worked. He was left in the car for about 20 minutes until an employee of his day care called Murphy to ask where the boy was.

While heading into court Wednesday morning, Murphy's lawyer initially told reporters to "leave them alone," but later said that his client is a “good and loving” mother, and that he would do everything in his power to keep her family together. That's what's best for her two other children, he said.

When she showed up to the courthouse at about 9:30 a.m., Murphy was dressed in black and looked somber, ABC7's Jummy Olabanji reports.

The child was found unresponsive in the family’s van in their Bristow driveway two and a half weeks ago. According to court documents, 2-year-old Ryan Murphy was left strapped in his car seat while his mother was at work inside an animal hospital on June 17th.

It wasn't until she got home around 4 p.m. that she saw the boy. After hearing her cries for help in the driveway, Neighbors tried to perform CPR to save the boy, but were unsuccessful.

The child was reportedly last seen alive at around 9 a.m. the same morning. At the time, police said it seemed to be a tragic accident.

While some residents, like Simon Lufuluadu, say leaving a child for that long is negligent, some were more sympathetic.

“Some form of manslaughter, sure, because the kid is dead, but murder, I think that's outrage talking,” said Bristow resident Eric Burton.

“I think she should be charged, she should have known her kid was in the van,” said another Bristow resident, Cynthia Blevins.

No one answered at the Murphy home Tuesday night and almost in an act of solidarity, the neighbors are not commenting about the incident, either.

Murphy’s arraignment was postponed. She is set to be back in court a week from Friday.