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Dozens support Va. mother charged in toddler’s hot-van death

Dozens of men and wearing matching white t-shirts came to Prince William County General District Court Friday to support a mother charged with murder after her toddler son died in June when he was left in the family’s minivan for several hours.

With shirts reading “I Support the Murphy family,” they came out for Karen Murphy, 40, a mother of three. Murphy, who left the courthouse just after 9 a.m., did not speak, but her attorney thanked them on her behalf.

"In my judgment, she doesn't need to be prosecuted," said attorney Edward B. MacMahon Jr. in an interview. "She's doing everything she can to continue to be a good mother."

During the hearing, a trial was scheduled for March 12. 

Family and friends have written messsages of support on a Facebook page with more than 600 fans as of Friday.

“This page is a place to share your support for the loving, caring and compassionate mother Karen Murphy is,” the Facebook page description states. “We cannot begin to imagine the devastation and grief the Murphy Family is experiencing since the passing of their precious son Ryan.”

Murphy was indicted July 5 on charges of felony murder and child neglect.

Murphy, of Gentle Shade Drive in the Bristow area, allegedly left her son, Ryan, just shy of his third birthday, strapped in his car seat when she went to work on the morning of June 17.

Her husband went to pick up Ryan from day care later that day and called his wife, telling her their son was not there. Murphy then discovered Ryan unresponsive in the minivan parked in the driveway, authorities said.

Murphy and her husband, who was also at the courthouse, have two pre-teen daughters. MacMahon said Ryan's death has been devastating for the family.

"She has an amazing community support," MacMahon said. "That kind of support is really sustaining her through this terrible time."

This item has been updated.

From the archives: Gene Weingarten’s Pulitzer-winning piece: Forgetting a child in the backseat of a car is a horrifying mistake. Is it a crime?

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