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E'town man pleads guilty to abuse, marijuana cultivation

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Commonwealth recommends 10-year sentence

By Sarah Bennett

Eight days before his case was scheduled for jury trial, an Elizabethtown man pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of criminal abuse and marijuana cultivation.

Michael J. Murray, 34, was indicted in January on charges of second-degree criminal abuse, cultivating marijuana — gun enhanced and less than five plants, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and first-degree persistent felony offense.

Murray pleaded guilty Tuesday to those offenses and an amended charge of second-degree persistent felony offense.

He has two previous felony convictions, Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young said, but Murray’s persistent felony offender status was amended because he was younger than 18 years old at the time his first offense was committed.

Prosecutors recommended five years each for the abuse, cultivation and weapon possession charges, which is to be enhanced to 10 years because of Murray’s persistent felony offender status. The sentences are to run concurrent for a total of 10 years.

Murray was arrested Dec. 9 after his child’s mother reported allegations of child abuse to Elizabethtown Police Department, according to police.

The 6-year-old child suffered severe bruising, which police believed resulted from Murray striking her with a belt, according to a citation.

When investigators responded to his Tami Court residence, they found four marijuana plants, a rifle and a handgun, police said.

During Tuesday’s hearing in Hardin Circuit Court, Murray said he told police his daughter sustained the bruises while he was punishing her.

While answering questions from Judge Ken Howard and Young about the offense and his guilty plea, Murray repeatedly shook his head as he answered “yes.”

When Howard asked if Murray wanted to cease going forward with the guilty plea, the defendant told the judge he was upset.

Formal sentencing is set for May 14. Howard may accept or reject the plea agreement.

Murray remains lodged at Hardin County Detention Center in lieu of a $25,000 cash bond.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.