A case in which juveniles as young as 13 in Warren and Barren counties reported receiving nude images and threats of violence over Snapchat from a man culminated Tuesday with the man pleading guilty and asking the judge whether he would be killed in prison.
Adam Murphy, 31, of Nashville, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green to charges of transfer of obscene materials to minors, attempted receipt of child pornography and interstate threatening communications.
Murphy was arrested last year after an investigation involving multiple law enforcement agencies linked him to a Snapchat account in which the user reached out to underage girls on the app and sent them messages.
According to a criminal complaint filed in August, juveniles who rebuffed Murphy or otherwise did not respond to his messages were bombarded with pictures of his genitalia and threats that he would rape them and burn down their houses, even after the users told Murphy they were underage.
In court Tuesday, Murphy said he felt nervous about going forward with the guilty plea and paused a couple of times during questioning from U.S. District Court Chief Judge Greg Stivers to confer with his attorney, federal public defender Pat Bouldin.
Murphy did go on to plead guilty, accepting an agreement that recommends the dismissal of two other criminal counts and a prison term of 11 years and three months.
Toward the end of the hearing, Stivers asked Murphy whether he had any additional questions.
“Do you think anyone’s going to try to kill me?” Murphy asked.
After consulting with Assistant U.S. Attorney Spencer McKiness, Stivers said that people convicted of sex offenses are typically segregated from the general inmate population in the federal prison system.
“I don’t believe anyone is going to try to kill you,” Stivers said to Murphy. “I wish I could guarantee you that, but you’ll be as safe as the Bureau of Prisons can ensure you.”
The Glasgow Police Department fielded complaints in April 2019 about what at the time was an unknown Snapchat user who reached out to two 14- year-old girls and sent them sexually explicit images.
That same month, the Warren County received a complaint regarding two 13-year-olds at a middle school who had received nude pictures via Snapchat from a user with the display name “Mark” after informing him of their age.
FBI Special Agent William Kurtz obtained a search warrant June 24 for the Snapchat account associated with the complaints, and found the user had sent several sexually explicit messages to multiple accounts.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol was contacted by GPD to conduct facial recognition searches on a picture sent from “Mark” to one of the identified victims, and the results of the search led to law enforcement identifying Murphy as a potential suspect.
Further investigation resulted in police identifying Murphy’s Nashville apartment and obtaining a search warrant for that location, from which officers seized multiple cellphones containing clothed and nude pictures of Murphy, court records show.
Murphy agreed to speak with the FBI in August and confirmed he was the user of the Snapchat account.
Murphy told investigators he searched girls’ names in order to find friends on Snapchat, and many users suggested by the app were for accounts belonging to juveniles in Kentucky.
“Murphy thought someone was ‘messing’ with him because he could not find a girlfriend,” Kurtz said in the criminal complaint. “Murphy felt someone was pushing him toward underage girls. ... Murphy blamed the girls for being mean to him online, which drove him to continue sending the nude pictures even after he knew they were underage. Murphy repeatedly stated he was not in the right state of mind when sending these pictures and that he would not have done these things to people who were nice to him.”
Murphy also confessed to making threats over the app and to receiving images of child pornography, but was “adamant” that he never met any of the girls in person and never had sex with underage girls, according to the complaint.
Stivers ordered Murphy detained ahead of his sentencing, which is set for June 11.