COCONUT CREEK (CBS4) – She’s been missing for more than three and half months and had been the subject of an exhaustive search in Northwest Broward.
On Friday afternoon, the Broward County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed that a decomposing body discovered by hikers at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek is that of the missing woman: Maria Claudia Murphy.
“Claudia was a very special, loving, caring person,” said her husband, Frank. “She didn’t deserve to die alone in the words.”
Frank Murphy has been on an emotional roller coaster since his wife vanished in mid-March. Surveillance video showed Maria Claudia parking her car and walking away. She kept walking and walking. She was last seen in the area of Lyons Road and Copans Road — about 300 yards from where he body was discovered.
“(I) wake up with a broken heart every day,” he said. “I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through what I’ve gone through the last 3 and a half months.”
Outside the Murphy home — the black, 2-door convertible BMW that Murphy was last seen driving sits in the driveway. It is a reminder of the faith the family kept during the past several months.
Investigators say it appears Murphy’s body had been in the woods for several months.
“Dental records,” said Coral Springs Police Lt. Joe McHugh. “That’s how we confirmed that it was her. There were also items found on or near her body that lead us to believe originally that this was Maria Claudia Murphy.”
“It’s not known how she died,” McHugh told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “As of now we don’t know. An autopsy should determine that.”
The Broward Medical Examiner’s Office said results of most autopsies are not released for three to four weeks. McHugh said Coconut Creek Police were taking over the investigation since Murphy’s body was discovered in their city.
“That’s why I can’t say what items were found on or near her as it is their case now,” said McHugh.
Police initially said Murphy had no wallet, purse or cell phone with her. And while she was away, there was no activity on any of her credit cards or debit card.
“This is still a mystery,” said McHugh. “Detectives had worked this case diligently with the family and with their leads. They worked very hard and had hoped to bring her home safe to her family.”
The body was found by hikers at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek. The body was decomposing when it was discovered and was discovered in a heavily wooded area full of mangroves and nature trails. Investigators said the body has likely been in the woods for several months.
McHugh said Murphy’s remains were discovered some 300 yards from Copans and Lyons Roads.
“She was found very deep in the woods” at Tradewinds Park just west of the Florida Turnpike and south of Sample Road and not far from the tourist attraction, “Butterfly World.”
McHugh said it did not look like there was an attempt to conceal the body.
Neighbors found the news disturbing.
“I knew her from walking dogs like me,” said Sandra Frank. Frank told D’Oench, “We were dog lovers. It’s really sad. I don’t know what to say. It’s very said. We were neighbors and we are very close as neighbors.”
Coral Springs Police, family and friends have been looking for Murphy since she disappeared in Marsh shortly after making a $5 thousand bank deposit. Her car was found undamaged in the area, and a painstaking search by police found a number of surveillance videos showing her after the car was abandoned, simply walking. She was last seen on surveillance camera walking in an area not far from Tradewinds Park on March 16.
Murphy and her husband had been planning a move to Tennessee, something her family said she was looking forward to.
Nobody could explain why she apparently simply wandered away, but the search had cooled as leads and sightings dried up.
Her broken hearted husband is left with many questions about his wife’s final moments.
“Trying to decipher this information — figure out why this happened, what’s the cause, what’s the reasoning behind it,” Frank Murphy said. “I want this case to come to a close so we can lay Claudia to rest properly.”