Handcuffs couldn't stop Larry Duff from drying his tears with a tissue Thursday before he was sentenced for helping to fatally beat his mentally disabled brother as punishment for spilling soup.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel sentenced Duff, 57, to prison for 22 to 44 months in the homicide last year of Richard Duff, 60, in Harrison.
Judge McDaniel also sentenced Jason Link, 22, the boyfriend of Larry Duff's daughter, to 36 to 72 months for his role in the beating death.
She accepted a no-contest plea from Larry Duff's wife, Lisa, 40, for tampering with evidence and simple assault and sentenced her to 6 to 12 months.
Judge McDaniel called the situation a "sad case" involving two men she did not believe had inherently criminal natures but who nevertheless carried out a "vicious attack on another human being."
In brief, softly spoken statements to the court, both men expressed remorse for using fists and a wooden stick on Oct. 14, 2012, to attack Richard Duff after he dumped a bowl of soup on the floor. He was found dead the next day, when Ms. Duff tried to hide the crime by cleaning up the victim and putting him on a couch.
The fatal beating was the culmination of regular assaults by the Duffs and Link after Richard Duff was moved from a nursing home to his brother's house on Blue Ridge Avenue in Harrison about six months prior to his death.
In April, both men pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Larry Duff also pleaded guilty to neglect of a care-dependent person, while Link pleaded guilty to aggravated assault because he used a Taser on Richard Duff.
Both men will be credited for the nine months already served in jail. Judge McDaniel also gave them five years' probation.
Douglas Stankovic, Link's stepfather, was the only person to testify on behalf of the defendants besides Duff and Link.
He called Link a "pretty good kid" with a 5-month-old daughter.
Richard Duff, who was mentally disabled and infirm from a stroke, required assistance for his daily needs. According to prosecutor Julie Capone, taking caring of him was like caring for an infant.
Larry Duff's attorney, assistant public defender Matthew Dugan, said his client lacked the experience and education to care for someone in his brother's condition, and that "led him to make some very poor decisions."
The death has taken a toll on Larry Duff, who has lost about 50 pounds since October, Mr. Dugan said.
"He was truly in shock," Mr. Dugan said. "He never spent a night in Allegheny County Jail before this. He was petrified when he learned he was charged with a homicide."
Attorney J. Richard Narvin, who represented Link, said his client made a mistake.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated what type of plea Lisa Duff entered to charges of tampering with evidence and simple assault. She pleaded no contest. (Published July 19, 2013)
Claire Aronson: email@example.com, 412-263-1964 or on Twitter @Claire_Aronson. Jonathan D. Silver contributed. First Published July 18, 2013 4:30 PM