Hall of Famer claims daughters wanted money

Updated: November 4, 2004, 9:49 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Hall of Fame basketball player Calvin Murphy contends a dispute over money led five of his 10 daughters to accuse him of sexually abusing them more than a decade ago.

Opening statements were set for Friday in the criminal case where prosecutors claim he abused the five daughters, now adults, between 1988 and 1991.

Both Murphy's attorney, Rusty Hardin, and prosecutor Lance Long declined to comment on the case. Jury selection began Thursday.

Murphy, 56, was a guard for the Houston Rockets from 1970 to 1983 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Following his arrest in March, Murphy tearfully declared he was innocent of the six charges -- three counts of indecency with a child and three of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Court records indicate three of the five daughters who allege Murphy abused them had been trying to claim $52,408 in death benefits left in a Teacher Retirement System of Texas account belonging to their mother, Phyllis Davidson. Davidson died in a car accident in January 1996.

Her mother, Paralee Davidson, appealed to the retirement system when she learned Murphy was listed as the beneficiary on the account.

Davidson's death certificate, issued on Feb. 21, 1996, listed Murphy as her surviving spouse. She named him as the primary beneficiary on the account in 1993 when she said he was her fiance.

It is unclear, however, if the couple ever married, although Murphy signed a notarized document in April 1996 that he was Davidson's husband when she died and had three children with her.

Paralee Davidson said she should have been listed as the account's beneficiary so she could provide for the children's education. She said her daughter and Murphy were not married.

The three daughters protested Murphy receiving the benefits this year, days after he called the system asking what he needed to do to receive the money, according to court documents subpoenaed by Murphy's attorney.

"My wife has been dead since 1996," Murphy said according to a record of the call. "Phyllis' parents have not wanted me to have these funds. We have never gotten along. At the time of my wife's death, I was not up to fighting with them."

On Feb. 20, letters went out to Murphy, his three daughters and Paralee Davidson that Murphy was the account's rightful beneficiary. The money never was paid.

A month later, Murphy, who has 14 children with nine different women, was arrested and charged with sexual abuse and indecency with the five daughters, including the three he had with Davidson.

Prosecutors have dismissed the idea the charges stem from the money dispute.

Long has said at least one of the five said she was as young as 6 when Murphy took her to a hotel room and performed oral sex on her. On another occasion, Long said, Murphy fondled one of the girls after she had moved in with him following her stepfather's death.

Children's Protective Services spokeswoman Estella Olguin said the agency has removed two of Murphy's daughters, a 3-year-old and 4-year-old, from his home because of the allegations by his five adult daughters.

The two girls are now staying with their respective biological mothers, she said.

Murphy, an unlikely star because of his 5-foot-9 frame, averaged 17.9 points and shot 89.2 percent from the free-throw line in his pro career.

He was drafted in the second round in 1970 by the San Diego Rockets, who moved to Houston the following season. He quickly became a fan favorite despite playing on several bad teams. His 17,949 points were a franchise high until Hakeem Olajuwon passed him.

Murphy, known as the "Pocket Rocket" because of his small stature, missed only nine free throws -- and made 78 straight in one stretch -- in 1980-81 for a record single-season percentage of .958.

If convicted, he faces five years to life in prison for the aggravated offenses and two to 20 years for the indecency violations. His trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press