WHEELING – A civil case accusing the son of Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray of allegedly having sexual contact with his adopted pre-teen daughter has been remanded to state court.
In a Sept. 23 order, U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp sent the case against Jonathan Murray back to Ohio Circuit Court and Judge Ronald Wilson.
Jonathan Murray is a VP for Murray Energy and Murray American River Towing Inc. Both of those companies also are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed July 22 in Ohio Circuit Court. The complaint was filed by a woman identified as M.S., Jon Murray’s ex-wife and mother of the girl – identified as S.M. – at the heart of the issue. The same day, the defendants removed the case to federal court.
Murray’s ex-wife is Melissa Saville. Since their divorce in 2011, she has remarried. The lawsuit was filed just two days before Bob Murray hosted a private campaign fundraiser for President Donald Trump at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.
In his Sept. 23 filing, Stamp also denied without prejudice Jonathan Murray’s motion to strike as well as Murray Energy and Murray Towing’s motion to dismiss.
Jonathan Murray had requested the case be heard in federal court because of diversity of citizenship, citing that he lives in Ohio. But Stamp rejected Murray’s attempts to prove Ohio citizenship, noting that Murray owns real property in West Virginia and none in Ohio.
“Murray’s own statements that he is domiciled in Ohio are undermined by the facts presented; as such, these statements will be accorded little weight by this court,” Stamp wrote. ““Murray’s domicile, at least at the time of the removal to federal court and at the time of filing of the initial complaint, was West Virginia.”
Stamp also denied the plaintiff’s request for court costs, attorney fees and expenses “because the defendants have provided a colorable claim for removal on the basis of subject matter jurisdiction.”
Jon Murray, 43, works as a geologist for his father’s coal company, according to the original complaint.
In a press release at the time, Murray and the company described the lawsuit as "destructive, scurrilous and blatantly false."
“He is the son of a highly successful, overbearing coal baron, who has ties to the President of the United States of America, who some regard wields power as an overlord and flaunts his power and wealth but refuses to share or promote his son Jon in any meaningful way,” the complaint states. “Mr. (Jon) Murray is believed to have had inappropriate sexual contact with more than on pre-pubescent female child.”
The daughter was born in Guatemala and given up by her mother at birth. She lived in Guatemalan foster care before being adopted by Murray and his ex-wife when they were married.
“She was raised as an American and is the only life she knows,” the complaint states. “She knows nothing of her former life other than the sometimes not so subtle reminder that because of the current national climate and her father’s failure to finalize her citizenship status, this brown skinned girl may be sent back to the poverty ridden village HE ‘rescued’ her from.”
The complaint alleges Murray used “this constant threat” as one means of control over the girl. It says the incidents occurred when the daughter was 11 and 12 years old.
“But, his power wielding is frighteningly more disgusting and egregious,” the complaint states. “Like many young immigrants, S.M. disparately wants to become an American citizen. The only thing standing in her way is Mr. Murray refusing to sign simple forms for the Naturalization and Immigration process to be complete.”
The complaint also alleges Murray used his status and his father’s connections to keep his daughter from “the glorious comfort of American citizenship” by “threatening her that he could send her back … to control her with the impression that she was just a little brown girl he could send back to the ‘hellhole’ she came from if she did not comply with his desires.
“He foolishly believed that a 13-year-old Guatemalan under threat of deportation would never criticize or challenge his demands.”
The ex-wife alleges Murray used this proverbial “gun to the head” along with a series of emotional control and grooming techniques to intentionally inflict severe emotional harm by manipulating S.M. and forcing her to perform oral sex on him, sexually assaulting and abusing her and forcing her to participate in incest.
The companies are listed as defendants because, according to the complaint, these actions occurred in Murray’s office on the property of Murray Energy and Murray Towing.
According to the complaint, the daughter first disclosed the details of the improper sexual conduct to her mother on July 6. The mother immediately sought assistance at various social service agencies and contacted the Wheeling Police Department.
“As a result of the acts and/or omissions of Mr. Murray, the minor child suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress,” the complaint states. “Mr. Murray caused the minor child to suffer emotional distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.”
The 19-count complaint accuses Jon Murray of sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual battery of a minor child, sexual assault of a minor child, false imprisonment, sexual abuse by a parent, incest, loss of filial consortium and loss of parental parental consortium. The two defendant companies are accused of negligence and negligent retention, hiring and supervision.
The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages.
In its press release, Murray Energy said the "scandalous and false" allegations could destroy the lives of Jon Murray and his innocent children.
"He has been both the mother and father to the little girl at the center of the false allegations, as well as her brother, since his divorce," the press release states. "This is a confirmed attempt by Ms. Saville and Ms. (Teresa) Toriseva, Esq., to extort money from Murray Energy and its owners, as confirmed by Ms. Saville’s offer, through her attorney, to not pursue this litigation if Murray Energy would agree to a money 'settlement.' This is also another attempt by Ms. Saville to win back custody of the children involved.
"It is outrageous and uncivilized to Murray Energy and its ownership to see the lives of two innocent individuals destroyed in an attempt to extort a money 'settlement.' Since the divorce in 2009, Jonathan’s former wife, Melissa, has attempted to gain money from the Corporation and Jon Murray in any manner that she could. Now she is joined by a lawyer with the same motivation to extort Murray Energy."
The company press release says the events mentioned in Saville's lawsuit "did not happen, nor could they have happened."
"Indeed, Jon has passed a polygraph examination," the press release states. "Jon’s counsel has filed an action to that effect in federal court in West Virginia, as well as in the family court in Ohio County, West Virginia. Murray Energy and Jon Murray will vigorously defend against this lawsuit, as well as pursue any remedies it may have, against those who brought it."
In his July 19 preemptive federal complaint, Jon Murray accuses Saville of coercing the daughter "to make scandalous allegations" against him "to wrongfully obtain monies."
"The allegations are substantively and patently false, as the daughter was examined by multiple health care professionals over the years, and not once did the daughter make any type of allegation against plaintiff," Murray's federal complaint states. "In fact, after defendant coerced the daughter to make scandalous allegation, defendant continued to permit the daughter unsupervised overnight visits with plaintiff, thereby showing that the allegations are false and motivated by defendant's desire to wrongfully obtain monies from plaintiff."
In his federal filing, Murray says the 2011 divorce was "particularly contentious" and that he has reported instances of suspected abuse of himself and Saville's minor children to various authorities. He also says Saville has failed to pay child support to Murray for some time.
Murray calls Saville's actions outrageous and accuses her of intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and abuse of process. He seeks judgment in excess of $75,000 for his injuries as well as attorney fees, court costs and other relief. He is represented by Wheeling attorney Paul J. Harris in his federal complaint, which was filed in Wheeling.
Saville's July 22 complaint also defines pedophilia and sketches out accepted psychological explanations for the behavior.
“More specifically, the person who sexually molests children has both impaired motivation and impaired inhibition,” the complaint states. “In this case, Mr. Murray works as a geologist for his father’s coal company and spends much of his occupational time ‘overseeing’ tug boats and coal barges. He makes no decisions impacting the directional movement of the company yet is given a management title to suit his and his father’s ego and create apparent authority and self-indulged sense of gravitas.
“The pedophile may capitalize upon excuses in their life to justify their disgusting conduct. These possible motivational factors include social anxiety and the ‘abused-abuser theory.’ Pedophiles have been hypothesized to seek sexual relations with children in response to social anxiety, poor self-confidence or other personality traits that inhibit appropriate sexual relations with adults.
“Mr. (Jon) Murray meets all of these traits.”
The complaint then details what it calls “an intimate and vulnerable moment” in which Murray revealed to his ex-wife that he blames all of his failures in life and psychological deficiencies on his father because he is a prisoner of his father’s power thus completing the psychological paradigm of a pedophile.
“Modern literature on the topic provides evidence supporting the abused-abuser phenomenon indicating that victims of abuse, if untreated, may become abusers. Mr. Murray is expected to be truthful in testimony and admit to revealing to M.S. that he was physically abused by his father.”
The complaint alleges that because of Murray’s “failed launch out of childhood and remaining unable to enter into a successful career outside the shadow of his father,” he has a “regressed concept of self and seeks to establish power, dominance and control in other prurient ways against innocent pre-pubescent female children.”
“Mr. Murray is an employee of Murray Energy who sits on the board as a non-decisional member without an ownership interest or executive position,” the complaint states. “Essentially, Mr. Murray is powerless in his position as a board member of Murray Energy, all the while knighted with management titles and apparent authority and agency.
“Mr. Murray has been set out in the public as a meaningful figure within the company and has used this supposed authority, control, power as an arrogance to control the weak and unprotected around him.
“Mr. Murray is also an employee of Murray American River Towing, Inc. in the subservient position of ‘Assistant to the President,’ a president who is not a member of the Murray family.
“As a simple geologist, Mr. Murray was given a position on the board of Murray Energy, given multiple private offices, company vehicles, company electronic devices, and use of the corporate jets. While Mr. Murray is not given any actual authority, he is provided with substantial apparent authority.
“Mr. Murray is compelled to attend large political events in order to create the appearance of national power and influence which he uses to accomplish his sexual agenda. With this apparent control, power, and protection he created an aura of control and influence, which to a minor child, appeared to be omniscient, pervasive, and above reproach. This is particularly so in that for S.M., she was continually reminded and relegated to second class citizen status as a Guatemalan refugee.”
Toriseva declined comment.
The plaintiffs are being represented by Toriseva and Jake Polverini of Toriseva Law in Wheeling.
Ohio Circuit Court case number 19-C-173 and U.S. District Court case number 5:19-cv-00222