LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The family of Patricia Hoff and DUI victim advocates are sounding the alarm after DUI convict Steven Murray was approved for a residential housing program outside of prison.
The ordeal started on a warm, sunny July morning in 2008.
Hoff, 55 at that time, along with Porsche Hughes, 26, were waiting for a bus at Boulder Highway and Flamingo.
Steven Murray, a three-time previously-convicted DUI felon was headed to work as an electrician.
He was swerving from lane to lane, according to witnesses, moments before he slammed his red Dodge Ram truck into the bus stop shelter.
Hoff and Hughes had no where to hide or time to react.
"It was like Russian roulette, he didn't know who he was going to hit," said Robin Wynkoop, Patricia Hoff's daughter.
Hoff was pronounced dead a short time later.
Hughes lost both of her legs in the crash but survived.
Investigators would learn Murray was on a potent cocktail of painkillers when he crashed.
Months later, a jury convicted Murray of DUI causing death or substantial bodily harm and he was the first to be convicted under Nevada's vehicular homicide law, which is considered a Class A felony, or the most serious under the law.
"The way the attorneys and everybody described it to me, it would be probably a good 40 years before he could step onto a Las Vegas sidewalk," said Wynkoop.
Murray was sentenced to between 10 years and life in prison with the possibility of parole.
It seemed like a distant point in time or so Wynkoop thought.
Murray went before the Nevada Parole Board on April 18, 2018, nearly 10 years after the deadly crash.
"You have repetitive criminal conduct, you continue to drink and drive," said one of the board members during the hearing.
The present parole board members gave Murray a chance to explain himself.
"I can't even imagine the fear they had to feel, to see me coming at them in my truck," said Murray.
"I can't even imagine the fear," he added.
Murray went on to address Hughes and Hoff's surviving family.
"I'd like my victim's Porsche, Robin and their families to know I express my deepest sympathy and compassion for what I did to them," said Murray.
"I know by saying 'sorry' will never be enough," said Murray.
According to a case worker, Murray had completed a number of courses while behind bars, and was unable to enter treatment programs for addiction due to the classification of crime he was serving time under.
The parole board decided Murray deserved parole on the violent vehicular homicide charge, which then cleared him to begin serving his next sentence, DUI resulting in death.
That crime is considered "non-violent" according to Nevada law.
The non-violent crime also makes him eligible for release from prison into a residential treatment program much sooner than Wynkoop knew or realized.
"I got this letter less than 2 years ago that he was going to be moved from [prison in] Indian Springs to Casa Grande [transitional housing program] and I said that doesn't make sense, how does this happen?" said Wynkoop.
According to a letter from the Department of Corrections Victim Services Unit to Wynkoop, Murray applied for and was accepted into the Casa Grande Transitional Housing program located in Las Vegas, which would allow him to work in the community and secure permanent housing in preparation to reenter society.
Wynkoop argues Murray's time spent behind bars was not enough, pointing to his past convictions.
"We brought this to Casa Grande's attention month ago, so they were already aware of it," said Wynkoop.
"How does a class A felon, with four previous DUI convictions in Texas, served time in prison in that state for injuring a person and was convicted of vehicular homicide in Nevada, qualify for the Casa Grande program?"
"The Casa Grande program states its for nonviolent offenders, Steven Murray does not fit that definition."
Due to privacy restrictions, 13 Investigates could not obtain a timeline of where Murray has been housed.
13 Investigates has been able to confirm Murray is currently in the Department of Corrections custody at Three Lakes Conservation Camp in Indian Springs.
"Hopefully in the next legislative session, we hope to ask the legislature to pass a bill that would require second-degree murder charges be charged against anyone who causes a DUI death," said Sandy Heverly with STOP DUI Nevada.
Heverly says at best, Nevada DUI laws and their nonviolent designation are confusing for victims and their families, adding there is nothing non-violent about DUI deaths.
The Department of Corrections revealed the following, written details regarding the situation and Steven Murray:
NDOC Responses to Joe Bartels, KTNV
1) I am trying to figure out if inmate Steven Murray, #1037015, was placed in the Casa Grande Transitional Housing Program at any point, and If so, why.
Offender housing history is not available for public information. Current housing location as well as sentence information is available on the NDOC web page as well as Nevada VINElink. Offender Murray is currently at Three Lakes Valley Conservation Camp.
2) He was convicted of vehicular homicide in 2008, and to my understanding, this is a violent offense and therefore would not be eligible for Casa Grande.
Minimum custody offenders are eligible to work within the perimeter of the Transitional Housing Facilities in anticipation of earning status as a Community Trustee. These offenders are not housed for the purpose of participation in the Transitional Housing program. Offenders with violent offenses are not precluded from minimum custody status. Additionally, Offender Murray is paroled from the sentence of Vehicular Homicide. He is currently serving a sentence for DUI Causing Death or Substantial Bodily Harm which is a DUI offense under state law.
AR 543.01 Department Candidates, Section 2-B: The offenders serving an active felony DUI sentence(s) may be considered for transitional housing if the offender is within 24 months of probable release.
AR 543.01 Department Candidates, Section 2-I: Minimum custody offenders who may be selected to work inside the perimeter of the facility shall eventually be eligible for Community Trustee Status.
3) Attached it a letter indicating he was accepted into the program a couple of years ago, despite the vehement objection by the victim’s family, and until last month, the family of the victim was under the impression he was still there.
Minimum custody offenders are eligible for housing within Transitional Housing facilities in an effort to work toward Community Trustee status per NRS 209.481. Past and current behavior are always taken into consideration when classifying an offender. Current state law does not permit NDOC to refuse programming to an offender based on victim input with regard to Transitional Housing or Minimum custody assignment.
4) Can you help guide me through what happened?
Offender Murray was sentenced to 10 years-Life for Vehicular Homicide and 8-20 years for DUI Causing Death or Substantial Bodily Harm. The Parole Board granted Offender Murray parole from the sentence of Vehicular Homicide effective 07/06/2018. On that date, he began serving the sentence for DUI Causing Death or Substantial Bodily Harm. Offender Murray is a minimum custody offender currently housed at Three Lakes Valley Conservation Camp. He has a parole eligibility date of 07/06/2026 and a projected sentence expiration date of 03/04/2027.
5) I understand he is currently housed at Three Lakes Valley Conservation Camp. Correct
6) Are you able to provide the qualifications for someone to be admitted into the Casa Grande Transitional Housing program?
The minimum qualifications according to AR 521 are: Have a risk factor score of 13 points or less; within 36 months of probable release from NDOC custody (this is waived for DUI offender’s sentences under NRS 484C.400, 484C.410, 484C.430, 484C.440, 488.420, 488.425 AND 488.427) if they meet other criteria. Have performed duties in a faithful or orderly manner. Have not had a serious violent major infraction of AR 707 within the last 12 months. Have not had any major or work infraction of AR 707 within the last 6 months. Have never been convicted of a sexual offense that is punishable as a felony.
7) The website is pretty broad and I was hoping for a more specific qualification?
The web page lists all Administrative Regulations, including the authority under which those regulations are written, in the form of Nevada Revised Statutes at the top of every regulation text. http://doc.nv.gov/About/Administrative_Regulations/Administrative_Regulations/
8) Until today, they were under the impression he was still there. Can you confirm is Steven Murray was ever placed at Casa Grande, and if so, why he was moved to Three Lakes Valley Conservation camp?
We can confirm that he is currently housed at Three Lakes Valley CC
The Victim Services Unit provides notifications about sentence structure such as the parole eligibility date and projected expiration date, discharge, death, escape, and re-capture. The Victim Services Unit cannot provide information about the offender's internal disciplinary history or programming information.
9) I have another question about the Casa Grande Transitional Housing program. Does this program allow any “Class A” inmates? Or is it “Class B” and below? I searched on the website and I’m unable to locate this information.
AR’s 521 and 543 do not specifically disqualify Class A and B felonies for Minimum Custody or CT approval. AR 521 states: The following criteria will disqualify an offender from minimum custody… having ever been convicted of a felony crime for any offense involving the intended death of any victim. For clarification purposes, this preclusion should only be used if the victim(s) actually died. If there was no death, offenders may still be precluded from minimum custody, but it would be a discretionary preclusion due to "Violent Offender" and not for "intended death of the victim."