Looking back, Murphy sees the robbery as a blessing.
"It was like God was saying, 'This stuff is holding you, so I'm going to take it away,' " he said. "It freed me to say, 'I have nothing to lose.' "
He remembers kneeling in his bedroom, praying for direction. When he finished, a commercial came on the television for "America's Got Talent." Murphy says a chill ran up his arm. He went to the show's website and submitted a video of him singing a Frank Sinatra song. A few days later, Jennifer got a call: "America's Got Talent" wanted Murphy to come to New York and audition in person.
They arrived in New York in November 2010, where Murphy waited from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. before he got a chance to sing for the show's talent scouts. It was worth the wait, because the show's producers advised him to go home and "stay out of trouble." He would return in six months to tape another audition, this one in front of celebrity judges Howie Mandell, Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne.
The world met Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. in June 2011. He introduced himself as a car washer from Logan, W.Va., who was appearing on the show to "follow his dream."
Morgan, the show's token angry judge, pointed out Landau had chewing gum in his mouth.
"I wouldn't do that when you're performing in this show, seriously," he said.
Murphy grinned at the judge, removed the gum from his mouth, and stuffed it in his pants pocket.
After a brief pause, his music started. It was just drums at first, but then the horn section entered and he opened his mouth.
"I would sacrifice anything, come what might . . ."
Though his dreadlocked hair evoked Bob Marley, Murphy's voice was pure Dean Martin. The cameras cut to the audience, filled with shocked faces.
"Don't you know, you little fool, you never can win . . ."
Mandel laughed. Cannon shot the camera a shocked look. Sharon Osbourne rose to her feet.
"I've got you under my skin . . ."
Murphy finished on a big note and gave a small bow.
"That's talent!" Cannon exclaimed backstage. "He belongs in Vegas."
And that's exactly where Murphy was headed. He coasted through the show's remaining episodes, clinching his victory in the finale episode with a cover of Frank Sinatra's "My Way."
His victory on "America's Got Talent" was closely followed by a string of concerts in Las Vegas with other performers from the show. He released "That's Life," an album of old-school standards recorded in Columbia Studios with members of Sinatra's old band, just two months later.
Murphy returned to the West Virginia a year ago to begin a statewide tour, performing to sold-out crowds nearly every night.
He said he had not intended to keep the gum in his mouth. He was chewing it to keep his nerves at bay and had already scouted out a garbage can where he could dispose of it before going onstage.
But Landau says the gum-chewing moment was instrumental in his success. It showed the world that he had a sense of humor and would not be intimidated by a bad-tempered Brit.
"I've always been scared of the entertainment industry. They build you up and try to tear you down," he said.
By stuffing a piece of gum in a perfectly good pair of pants, Landau says he showed the world he wasn't going to change for the sake of celebrity.
By all accounts, he hasn't.
Last weekend, Murphy performed at the Coalfield Jamboree in Logan. Next month he will play concerts in Beckley, Glade Springs and at The Greenbrier, plus shows in Oklahoma and Florida. In February, he will depart on a 68-city tour with other "America's Got Talent" artists.
Murphy still drives himself to every show. He doesn't hit the clubs afterward. He goes out, sings, and returns to his room. If he wants to hang out, he goes back to Logan County and surrounds himself with family members.
More than building his own career, Murphy wants to help other talented Mountaineers get their start.
"We've got to do everything we can to lift West Virginia up," he said. "I'm going to defend it with all the power I have."
He's installing a recording studio in his home and wants to start a record label.
"There's so much talent around me, and I want to show it to the world," he said.
Murphy was 36 years old when the world first took notice of him. He said there are people much older than him with just as much talent. They only need a helping hand to get started.
"It's never too late, but somebody has to believe in you. And first of all, you have to belief in yourself," he said.
It's a recipe for success, from a man who knows it works.