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Updated May 21, 2014 - 4:27 pm

Tests show Arizona wrong-way driver had alcohol, drugs in system

PHOENIX — A wrong-way driver accused of causing the deaths of a young Mesa
couple had drugs and alcohol in her system, according to an affidavit
authorities filed this week.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety officer said in asking for a search
warrant that initial tests showed Patricia Murphy, 68, had a blood-alcohol
content of 0.18 percent, more than twice the amount at which a driver is
presumed to be drunk.

According to the document filed Tuesday, a urine test showed Murphy also tested
positive for opiates and benzodiazepine, which is found in drugs such as Valium
and Xanax. Opiates can include painkillers, heroin and oxycodone.

DPS spokesman Carrick Cook said Wednesday that Murphy was hospitalized in
serious condition. However, an official at the hospital named in the affidavit
said she is not currently listed as a patient.

No charges have been filed. A message left at a phone listing for Murphy was
not immediately returned Wednesday.

Authorities say Murphy was driving the wrong direction on the Loop 202 freeway
in Gilbert early Sunday when her pickup truck collided head-on with another

That vehicle was driven by Michael Ruquet, 25. His girlfriend, Ashley Adea, 20,
was a passenger. Both were killed.

Murphy’s 9-year-old grandson also was seriously injured.

The fatal head-on crash was the third on a Phoenix area freeway within a week
and the second in which impairment appears to have been a factor. In all, seven
people have died.

Three people from Indonesia died Friday on Interstate 17 about 30 miles north
of Phoenix when their minivan encountered a wrong-way driver. DPS has not
released the name of the driver in that case, a Phoenix man in his 60s.
According to Cook, the man remains in extremely critical condition and is
suspected of being impaired.

A May 12 wreck on a Tempe freeway ramp killed a wrong-way driver and an
off-duty Mesa police officer. The driver had a blood-alcohol level three times
the legal limit, authorities said.

The directors of DPS, the Department of Transportation and the Governor’s
Office of Highway Safety met Sunday to discuss possible strategies to curb
wrong-way accidents.

The agencies said in a joint statement they are focusing on enforcement,
engineering and education, and that removal of impaired drivers from the
highways is DPS’ top priority.

The Department of Transportation is looking at practices elsewhere in the
country to identify any that should be adopted in Arizona, ADOT Director John
Halikowski said.

ADOT previously reduced the height of “wrong way” signs on freeway ramps so
they’re closer to a driver’s eye level, and for the past two decades, the agency
has marked freeway lanes with reflectors that display red to wrong-way drivers.


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