An assistant principal at a Howard County high school is on paid administrative leave after she was charged with stealing credit cards from colleagues and admitted using one of them to buy Christmas presents for her family, according to charging documents.

Patricia Kelly Murray, 40, is facing more than a dozen counts, according court papers in three separate cases. All three people identified as victims also work for the county's public schools.

Murray's attorney, Todd A. Mohink, declined to comment on the charges.

Murray, a 12-year veteran of the county's school system, became an assistant principal last year at Howard High School, according to Patti Caplan, school system spokeswoman.

According to the charging documents, Murray, of Severna Park, took the credit cards in December and ran up charges totaling more than $3,000 at stores that included Lord & Taylor at The Mall in Columbia and Michael's in Laurel.

In one, the principal of an elementary school told police that she was at home on Dec. 22 after work when she realized that a credit card was missing from her purse, according to the charging paperwork.

Susan Pennypacker Brown had been at a meeting earlier that day in her office with a parent, child and Murray — described as "her friend and colleague" in the charging documents. In January, Brown and another school employee identified Murray on Michael's store security video, which county police paired with a printout of purchases, according to court records.

Murray told police that she took Brown's credit card when she was in Brown's office, and used it to buy "several miscellaneous Christmas presents for her family" at a Michael's and CVS in Laurel and Nordstrom's in the Columbia mall, according to the charging documents.

In another case, Murray is accused of taking a credit card in mid-December that belonged to Shawn Hastings-Hauf and spending about $1,781 at four stores in Montgomery Mall.

Hastings-Hauf is an assistant principal at Long Reach High School, Caplan said.

Murray is also accused of taking a credit card that belonged to Amanda Malone and her mother shortly before Christmas and buying items totaling almost $800 at two stores in the Columbia mall, according to the charging paperwork. The school system's web site identifies Malone as a teacher at Harper's Choice Middle School.

Caplan said Murray has been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 26, and described the cases as involving only adults.

Murray is scheduled for trials later this month and in April.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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