Trial continues in Westmoreland County triple slayings

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

An employee and close friend of accused killer Kevin Murphy told a jury Wednesday that the defendant has been living with the woman the prosecution says spurred Mr. Murphy to kill three of his family members in 2009 so that the two could live together without their interference.

Donald Shondelmyer, who knows Mr. Murphy from childhood and worked for him at his glass shop in Loyalhanna, testified that Mr. Murphy and Susan McGuire now run the company and that Mr. Murphy had been living with her and her three children in the home that he had shared with the mother and sister he is accused of killing.

Mr. Shondelmyer said Mr. Murphy divorced his wife and had been living with Ms. McGuire at the former Murphy home in Conemaugh, Indiana County,until his arrest in 2010.

The revelation marked the third day of Mr. Murphy's trial in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court, where he could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

He is accused of killing his mother, Doris Murphy, 69; his sister, Kris Murphy, 43; and his aunt, Edith Tietge, 81. All three were found shot in the back of the head in the garage of the glass shop on April 23, 2009.

District Attorney John Peck is arguing to the jury that Mr. Murphy killed the three because they disapproved of his two-year affair with Ms. McGuire, who was married at the time.

Mr. Murphy's former cellmate at the Westmoreland County Jail has testified that Mr. Murphy told him that he shot his relatives at the behest of Ms. McGuire, who Mr. Murphy also said helped him come up with a cover story to tell police.

She has not been charged.

Mr. Murphy's lawyers are arguing that someone else killed the women. They haven't said who that might have been.

State police almost immediately suspected Mr. Murphy. At the hospital where he had been taken after what he said was an anxiety attack, state troopers questioned him for hours and noted that he seemed largely devoid of emotion despite having lost three relatives with whom he had spent most of his life.

"He did not appear to be crying," Trooper James Brown testified.

Asked about the shootings, Mr. Murphy said, "I have no idea what happened today. I wouldn't have a guess who to suspect," the trooper said.

The only time Mr. Murphy appeared emotional was when he was discussing the death of his elderly aunt.

Police testified that they discovered what they believe was the murder weapon, a .22-caliber revolver, in the catch basin of a belt sander in the glass shop. Mr. Murphy said he had used the gun at about 9 that morning, about eight hours before the killings are believed to have occurred, to shoot at a robin that was nesting behind his building. Mr. Murphy said he had been "deathly afraid" of birds ever since a red-winged blackbird swooped down on him when he was a little boy.

He said he had burned his finger firing the gun and showed his hand to the lead investigator, state Trooper Robert Depew.

"I didn't see anything," Trooper Depew said.

Police believe the bird incident was part of the cover story cooked up by Mr. Murphy and Ms. McGuire.

As the questioning continued that night, Trooper Depew said, Mr. Murphy told him about the affair with Ms. McGuire and how she was getting a divorce so the two could "get married and grow old together."

Finally, Trooper Depew said, he told Mr. Murphy that it was unlikely that a stranger had killed the women and asked him directly if he had done it.

"I wouldn't do that to my family," Mr. Murphy said as he looked down and "twiddled his thumbs," the trooper said.

When questioned about the death of his aunt, Trooper Depew said, Mr. Murphy started to cry and then asked: "Do you think they suffered?"

neigh_westmoreland

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com.


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here