Former Chattanooga police chief indicted on illegal voter registration, perjury charges

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A former Chattanooga police chief has been indicted on charges that she illegally registered to vote in Tennessee and falsely filled out government documents, state investigators announced Thursday.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, a grand jury in Hamilton County, which encompasses Chattanooga, handed down a 17-count indictment against Celeste Murphy.

Murphy, 56, had been overseeing the Chattanooga Police Department since 2022 but resigned Wednesday without publicly giving a reason.

She turned herself into the Hamilton County jail Thursday and was later released on a $19,000 aggregate bond, TBI said in a statement. She is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County Criminal Court on July 12.

It was not immediately clear if Murphy had an attorney, and contact information was not made available.

The charges include one count of illegal voter registration, one count of false entries on official documents, three counts of falsifying government records, three counts of forgery, three counts of perjury, and six counts of official misconduct.

Murphy has been under investigation by the TBI since April after the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported conflicting residency claims on her tax forms in Georgia and voter forms in Tennessee.

The investigation found that Murphy claimed primary residences in both Tennessee and Georgia during her time as police chief. Chattanooga city policy requires public employees to live in Tennessee.

The newspaper reported that Murphy has claimed a homestead exemption on a house she purchased in Fulton County, Georgia, each year since 2021 — a tax break for those who certify the property is their primary residence. Meanwhile, Murphy is registered to vote in Tennessee, which requires people to certify they’re living at their primary residence in the state.

“During the investigation, agents determined Murphy knowingly entered false information on several government documents related to establishing residency in Chattanooga, though swearing to their truth in signing the documents,” the TBI said in a news release.

Murphy had previously posted on social media that she could not publicly reveal where she lives in Chattanooga due to safety reasons.