That wasn't the end of Murphy's legal troubles.
In 1969, he was convicted of killing Terry Rae Frank, 24, and sentenced to life in prison. In 1970, he received a second life sentence, plus 20 years, for conspiracy and assault to commit robbery against Olive Wofford. Yet he was paroled in 1986 because of his religious awakening and later settled in the quiet Florida west coast town of Crystal River with his wife, Kitten, while establishing a nationwide prison ministry.
“I found God in prison,” Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times a few years ago. "Listen, I loved the life. I loved the insanity. I loved stealing jewels. It was like (actor) Cary Grant, very exciting, and the people you stole from always had insurance. But I also know I was out of control and so I had to have a new manager.”
Murphy also has acknowledged he and others stole from waterfront Miami-area homes, using boats to sidle up to the wealthy places, climbing over walls and fences to steal jewelry from the mansions along Biscayne Bay. Murphy has said he would swim off the boat with the jewels so that if the boat were stopped by authorities there would be nothing incriminating aboard.
At the time, he was called the Miami cat burglar.
Before all of this, Murphy was a championship surfer. Born in California, he established himself on the waves across the country by winning the 1966 East Coast Surfing Championships in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He won other titles, leading to his induction in the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 1996.
It was in Florida where he got his nickname, according to a post on the surf hall of fame website.
“There was no surf scene in Florida when I got there. There were guys who had surfed up in Daytona on 16-foot paddleboards in the ’20s and ‘30s," Murphy said in the post. “But in the ’50s, there was nobody really surfing in Florida, so the lifeguards called me “Murf the Surf.”
He also at one point had a business in Indialantic, Florida, called “Murf's Surf Shop.” In earlier times, Murphy attended the University of Pittsburgh on a tennis scholarship and was also an accomplished violinist. The state Department of Corrections once reported he tested at a genius level on IQ exams.
Murphy told the Tampa Bay Times a while back that he never expected to get out of prison alive.
“On your own, you don’t have the strength to deal with the blunders of your life, the evil things you’ve done, the people you’ve hurt," he said. "The guilt was overwhelming. I felt that I had to turn all my guilt over to a higher power. I prayed a lot and read scripture about redemption and forgiveness.″
Yerkes, the friend who is also a championship surfer and today owns a Florida surf shop, said there was nothing false about Murphy.
“He was the real deal. There was nothing phony, nothing put on about him. He was real,” Yerkes said.
FILE - In this Jan. 28, 1968 file photo, Jack "Murph the Surf" Murphy is escorted to the Miami Beach Police Station by detectives in Miami Beach, Fla., after he was arrested with three other men for armed robbery. Murphy, a Hall of Fame surfer best known for stealing some of the most valuable jewels at New York's American Museum of Natural History including the famous Star of India sapphire, has died in Florida. He was 83. (AP Photo, File)
FILE- In this Feb. 1, 2006 file photo, Jack Murphy, also known as "Murph the Surf" leans on his prized 1984 cadillac at his home in Crystal River, Fla. Murphy, a Hall of Fame surfer best known for stealing some of the most valuable jewels at New York's American Museum of Natural History including the famous Star of India sapphire, has died in Florida. He was 83. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)
Credit: PHIL SANDLIN
Credit: PHIL SANDLIN