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Investigation by Tennessee authorities into the Police Chief leads to 17 count indictment of former APD Deputy Chief


Days after Chattanooga, Tennessee Mayor Tim Kelly announced that Police Chief Celeste Murphy had resigned, the former law enforcement official was arrested following a grand jury’s return of a 17-count indictment against her. The charges include illegal voter registration, false entries on official registration or election documents, three counts of false entries in governmental records, three counts of forgery, three counts of perjury, and six counts of official misconduct. Murphy was booked into the Hamilton County Jail on Friday and released on a $19,000 bond.

Charges came after an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), which followed media reports of conflicting residency claims by Murphy on tax forms in Georgia and voter forms in Tennessee. The investigation began two months ago and culminated into the indictment and arrest of Murphy. 

Murphy, who served with the Atlanta Police Department for 26 years, became Chattanooga’s police chief in April 2022. Public records show that since taking the job, Murphy has claimed primary residences in both Tennessee and Georgia, contrary to Chattanooga’s code requiring employees to live in Tennessee. Tax records indicate that Murphy bought a home in Fulton County in 2020 and has claimed a homestead exemption on it, signifying it as her primary residence, since 2021. After moving to Chattanooga, Murphy registered to vote in Tennessee, which also requires certification of primary residence.

Initially, Murphy listed a house on Chattanooga’s Southside as her mailing address and a different home in St. Elmo as her residence. The St. Elmo home belongs to the family of a Chattanooga police sergeant, who stated that Murphy never lived there, a claim supported by neighbors. About two weeks after the media reported her conflicting residency claims, Murphy updated her voter registration to another Southside apartment.

Murphy has cited safety concerns as the reason for not revealing her exact residence. “We deal with violent criminals regularly,” she said in a March social media post. “There are extreme dangers in revealing where I lay my head, but rest assured, it is in the city that I serve.”

Executive Chief Harry Sommers, who oversees investigations, has been tapped to lead the department on an interim basis.


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