by: Brian Rogers
Their relationship began innocently enough: A 15-year-old Memorial Middle School student from Costa Rica was trying to learn English with help from a teacher.
His tutor, in her third year at Spring Branch ISD, started keeping him after school and passing him notes that contained promises of a happy life together.
The goings-on came to an abrupt end when the teen’s younger brother caught the pair in bed. The younger boy told his parents, who had been away from the house at the time, about what he’d seen and about finding a condom and a tan bra.
On Tuesday, the teen’s parents said their son had been victimized first by 30-year-old Kathryn Camille Murray and then by the system.
The former teacher was sentenced to a year in jail and a year of probation, which was too lenient, the boy’s family said.
“If this had been a 27-year-old man and a 15- year-old girl, the judgment in there would have been completely different,” the teen’s father said outside of a Harris County courtroom. “It goes to show you the double standard.”
The boy’s adopted mother said her son was an easy target for Murray because he was in a new country and was trying to learn the language.
“This was not justice,” she said after Murray was sentenced. “This was a child who believed and trusted in his teacher.”
Classroom, hotel room
Murray, an English language support teacher who taught language arts at the middle school, pleaded guilty last month to two charges of sexual assault of a child.
Investigators said the teacher and student began a sexual relationship in her classroom on Feb. 7, 2012. According to court records, Murray on one occasion picked up the eighth-grader at a school dance after his father had dropped him off and took him to a hotel for two hours where they had sex.
The next night, Murray is accused of going to the teen’s home to have sex with him while his parents were gone. Murray was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child under 17, after the brother informed his parents.
While free on $50,000 bail last year, Murray was again arrested after the teen ran away from home and was found at her house. The teacher was charged with harboring a runaway, a charge that was dropped as part of her plea agreement.
Appearing Tuesday in an orange jail uniform and with her hair pulled up in a loose bun, Murray smiled broadly to her family members sitting in the court’s gallery.
A mother’s anger
After the sentencing, the teen’s mother gave a victim impact statement, in which she pleaded with Murray to leave the boy alone. “I’m asking you Kathryn Murray to keep away from my son,” the teen’s mother said. “He has a right to be happy and put this behind him.”
Defendants in Texas are forced to listen to impact statements without responding.
Murray was sentenced to two years’ deferred adjudication – a form of probation that means she will not have a final conviction if successfully completed – for each of the sexual assault charges she admitted to. Those two punishments will run at the same time.
As a condition for each probation, she was sentenced to six months in jail. Those two jail sentences will run one after another for a total of a year. While in jail, Murray’s probation also begins, meaning she will have only one year of reporting to a probation officer when she is released.
Murray, who has been behind bars since January 2013 when her bail was revoked, does not get that time applied to her sentence. In addition to being prohibited from contacting or communicating with the teen while on probation, she will have to register as a sex offender for life.