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THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2007

Lawyer: Bookkeeper spent loot on affair

ASHVILLE (AP) — A former Ashville High School bookkeeper has been sentenced to two years in prison for embezzling $140,000 from the school over five years, with almost all of it used for motel rooms, trips and Viagra during her affair with former St. Clair County School Superintendent Tom Sanders, court records show.

Amy Murphree, 37, of Steele, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to first-degree theft of property and three counts of second-degree forgery.

Circuit Court Judge Charles Robinson on Tuesday split a 15-year sentence, with two years to serve in prison and the remainder on probation. Murphree has already served about eight months in jail.

In a sentencing memorandum for the judge, Murphree's attorney, Lance Bell, said his client spent most of the $140,000 on her affair with Sanders, who resigned in December 2005.

Documents, which included transcripts of actual tape recordings between Murphree and Sanders, were entered into the court record by Bell.

Sanders could not be reached for comment.

In the transcripts, the former superintendent repeatedly denies knowing Murphree was stealing school funds while they were having an affair.

However, he admitted in the transcript he cashed a campaign check and gave her the money.

He said he was questioned by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation about it.

He later asks Murphree in the transcript to lie to authorities about him cashing the check and giving her the campaign funds.

Sanders also provided Murphree with the school board's gas card, according to the transcript and sentencing memorandum.

Sanders resigned from the superintendent post in December 2005, before his term expired, citing health reasons and what he believed was in the best interests of his family.

Sanders worked for the school system for 26 years and was principal of Ashville High School before he was elected superintendent.

At sentencing Tuesday, Murphree gave a tearful apology to the judge, her family and the school board.

Murphree said she hurt her children and her family, and she will have to live with that for the rest of her life.

District Attorney Richard Minor said Murphree deserved jail time for her crimes.

"I believe the only true option for Mrs. Murphree's conduct was to place her in the penitentiary for an extended time," Minor said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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