Coupons for suspected killers
Your mid-week dose of Southern food news
The Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office had a break in the unsolved 1987 killing of an 82-year-old widow when 2020 testing showed hairs found at the crime scene were a potential match for three brothers.
One of them was dead. One was eliminated as a suspect through his DNA, which was already indexed in a national database. And one had moved to Mississippi.
To obtain his DNA, detectives last month enlisted the help of a Mississippi restaurant owner. Ray Murphy of Dan B. Murphy’s Restaurant & Bar in Bay St. Louis talked to The Food Section about how he secured the fork and spoon that led to the arrest of Michael Lapniewski on a first-degree murder charge.
Hanna Raskin: News reports have described you as a Waveland Police Department investigator and a restaurant owner, but which of those came first?
Ray Murphy: Well, I’ve been a policeman most of my life. I’ve been a policeman going on 47 years; I used to be a chief in Bay St. Louis. But I’ve been in the restaurant 40-some years.
My mother bought a place in ’81 and we had it until Katrina blew it down to the water. We started over: We moved inland after about a year, stayed there for a little bit, and then decided to build up on the beach. We got back open in 2017.
HR: What kind of restaurant is it?
RM: It’s a seafood place, mainly. Po’boys, boiled shrimp, crab, crawfish, alligator. I mean, we’re famous for the best roast beef you’ll ever eat.
HR: What makes it so good?
RM: It’s just the way my mother prepared it. She passed on, but my wife does most of the cooking. She does the roast beef.
HR: Has the restaurant had the same name from the time your mother opened it?
RM: Yes, ma’am. Dan B.’s. The ‘B,’ that was my daddy’s middle name. His middle name was Beverly. All my daddy’s brothers had girl middle names. I guess their daddy thought it was funny.
HR: Did your father think it was funny?
RM: He got used to it.
HR: Alright, let’s get to the sting. How did you get involved in it?
RM: Well, the Florida guys have been working this cold case for years, trying to surveille this guy and trying to get some kind of coffee cup or glass; anything they could possibly get DNA off of. They got a couple of straws or whatever, but they knew I had the restaurant, because they ate there.
They said, ‘What if we offer a one-of-a-kind flier?’ A coupon, so to speak. I said yeah.
HR: Did you put the flier on his truck?
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