The Story Behind the Story: Andrew Welsh-Huggins’ Sean Murphy Crime Caper

The novelist and journalist on how he put together his September feature on the 2009 Columbus Brink’s heist

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Andrew Welsh-Huggins

There are few Columbus writers I admire more than Andrew Welsh-Huggins. A reporter for the Associated Press for more than two decades, he’s covered some of the biggest stories of our times, from the death penalty to terrorism to the coronavirus pandemic to racial injustice. But for me, what makes Andrew stand out the most is this: his extraordinary productivity. Despite his demanding day job, Andrew has written 10 books since 2009, including seven novels in his Columbus-set Andy Hayes detective series, the latest of which, “An Empty Grave,” was released in June. 

How does he do it? “I’m a fairly boring but disciplined person,” he says. Every morning before work, Andrew spends a couple of hours on his personal writing, rain or shine. “My whole thing in life is just creating systems for getting stuff done,” he says. 

Over the past year, Andrew has devoted most of his personal writing time to a different kind of project. He’s mostly taken a break from fiction to concentrate on researching and writing a true-crime story about Sean Murphy, a notorious burglar who was the mastermind behind the January 2009 break-in of a Brink’s warehouse in Columbus, one of the most audacious heists ever seen in these parts. Andrew has interviewed Murphy 15 times and accumulated thousands of pages of court and law enforcement documents on Murphy’s colorful career, which also includes the theft of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl rings following their 2008 victory over the New England Patriots. For Columbus Monthly’s September issue, Andrew has written a gripping feature story about Murphy and the Brink’s case, drawing upon this impressive research. 

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Andrew’s interest in Murphy began about four years ago when he met with retired Columbus FBI agent Harry Trombitas for coffee in Dublin. Trombitas mentioned his desire to write a book about his career. “Then he went on a riff about Murphy and the Brink’s case, saying, ‘That’s a book by itself,’” Andrew says. 

Indeed, after reading Andrew’s story, it’s easy to see the potential of a book-length exploration of Murphy’s outlaw life. “He’s funny. He’s sharp. He’s engaging, well-spoken, brash, not afraid to stand by his statements,” Andrew says. “I don’t want to make him out to be this hero, but he is a very entertaining guy. There’s no question about it.” In fact, Andrew already has a 60,000-word manuscript written about the charismatic criminal and is shopping around for a literary agent to help him find a publisher. 

In the meantime, we’re excited to showcase Andrew’s work. His story is a rare, all-access glimpse into a bizarre and notorious crime, masterfully told by one of our city’s best (and most disciplined) writers.

This story is from the September 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.