Loved ones, strangers raise money for DWI victim



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Posted on March 10, 2009 at 10:06 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 4:55 PM


Jim Douglas reports

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DECATUR - Sitting in a wheelchair, Jackie Murphree's eyes must now speak for her.

Once a Decatur High School council president, cheerleader and straight "A" marketing student at Texas A&M University, Jackie was severely injured in a crash two years ago. The crash involved a drunk driver whose blood alcohol level was three-and-a-half times over the legal limit.

"Your eyes are bright, bright, bright today," said a friend while visiting with 22-year-old Murphree at the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall on Tuesday.

Since the crash, strangers and friends have worked together to raise money for stem cell therapy for Jackie, who suffered severe brain damage that robbed her of her speech and most movement.

"What's going on in there?" said Patrick Murphree, Jackie's father. "We wonder what she understands."

"Sometimes, she gets a look in her eye," he said."She probably understands more than we think."

Her father quit his job to care of her around the clock while her mother supports the family.

But what Jackie Murphree is about to do requires a much larger family, and she's got it.

"We've already raised over $6,000 just today," said Paula Null, a fellow church member.

That's $16,000 for baked potatoes served in the Methodist church basement offDecatur's town square.Null said Decatur is that kind of small town.

"The compassion in this town is just fantastic," she said.

Organizers insist that despite the down economy, they will raise the full $50,000 needed to send Murphree to China for experimental stem cell therapy she can't get in America.

"Kind of amazing, isn't it Jax?" her father said.

While stem cell success for brain injury is almost unheard of, Patrick Murphree said he hopes the treatment will let him hear his daughter's voice once again tell him what's happening behind those bright eyes.

On Thursday, a soup and salad lunch will be served to raise more money for Jackie at the First United Methodist Church in Decatur.

Betty Ann Monroe of Decatur, the driver who struck Murphree's car, received 10 years' probation after pleading guilty to intoxication assault - the maximum sentence. Monroe must wear an ankle monitor that senses alcohol, and she must perform some community service as part of her probation.