Trial begins for Pittsburgh-region man accused of killing mother, sister, aunt

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A Westmoreland County jury will hear opening statements today in the trial of Kevin Murphy, accused of killing his sister, mother and aunt at the family's auto glass shop in Loyalhanna.

The jury will then take a road trip to the scene of the killings, an unusual move in a murder case.

Mr. Murphy, 52, is charged with shooting his mother, Doris, 69, his sister, Kris Murphy, 43, and his aunt, Edith Tietge, 81.

Their bodies were found April 23, 2009, in the garage of Ferguson Glass.

Police say Mr. Murphy, of Conemaugh in Indiana County, killed his family because they disapproved of his affair with a married woman, Susan Bortz.

He could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

The trial has been delayed numerous times by defense motions.

Mr. Murphy's lawyers initially tried to bar evidence from statements their client made to the police in the hours after the bodies were found, saying he was under the influence of medication given to him by paramedics after an anxiety attack.

In an earlier court proceeding, police officers testified that he didn't appear to be impaired when questioned.

At one point, when speaking about the killing of his elderly aunt, he asked a state trooper, "Do you think they suffered?"

Mr. Murphy told police that the gun used in the killing, a .22-caliber weapon, had been taken to the glass shop by the victims for protection. He also said he used the gun to shoot a bird because he was afraid of birds, police said.

Although Mr. Murphy maintained his innocence and insisted someone else killed his family, he could not provide any motive or possible suspects.

Police said he later told them he had been dating a married woman with children and that his mother and sister disapproved.

At a preliminary hearing, a Westmoreland County prison inmate shed new light on the killings.

Inmate John Meighan said Mr. Murphy admitted the killings to him, explaining that Ms. Bortz had been served with divorce papers by her husband that morning and told Mr. Murphy their relationship would end if he didn't "knock off" his family.

After the killings, he said, Mr. Murphy moved Ms. Bortz and her children into the house he had shared with his mother and sister.

Mr. Meighan said Mr. Murphy and Ms. Bortz had discussed alibis on the morning of the shootings.

Ms. Bortz told Mr. Murphy to use the .22, which belonged to his father, to shoot birds and then say he burned his hand on the barrel of the weapon, according to Mr. Meighan. Police later noticed burn marks on his hand during questioning, and lab tests show he is a probable match for DNA found on the gun.

Mr. Murphy and Ms. Bortz also came up with a plan for him to feed his uncle's cows at a farm across from the glass business after the shootings so that his uncle would not suspect him when the bodies were found, Mr. Meighan testified.

In addition, he said, Mr. Murphy told him that he faked his anxiety attack after police began questioning him.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

region - neigh_westmoreland

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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