In the end, it was as mundane and meaningless as this: He threw his soup, and they killed him.
The younger brother and housemate of a disabled man pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter Thursday, admitting to beating 60-year-old Ronald Duff to death in October after months of abuse and near-starvation.
Mentally and physically disabled, Ronald Duff had recently moved from a nursing home to his brother Larry's house in Harrison. By October, things got bad. Larry Duff, his wife Lisa and housemate Jason Link beat the older man regularly, spanking him if he didn't obey and shocking him with a stun gun when he acted out.
On Oct. 14, they went too far. After Ronald Duff threw his soup on the floor, Mr. Link punched him twice in the temple, police said. He then sprayed black paint onto the man's arm and leg, purportedly making a Halloween costume
Larry Duff joined in later that night, hitting his brother two more times.
The men called police the next day, telling them Ronald had fallen down the stairs.
Both appeared in court Thursday before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel. They avoided homicide charges, but they'll still spend some time in jail -- 36 to 54 months for Mr. Link, who was also charged with aggravated assault for using a stun gun, and 22 to 36 months for Mr. Duff, who also pleaded guilty to neglect charges.
Their common charge, involuntary manslaughter, is applied when reckless or negligent actions cause the death of another person. They will be formally sentenced on July 18.
Ms. Duff, who has been charged with neglect, tampering with evidence and simple assault, did not appear in court because her lawyer was busy elsewhere.
After the final beating, the two men left Ronald Duff on the couch, thinking he was asleep, police said.
In the morning, Ms. Duff washed the blood from her brother-in-law's body, dressed him in clean clothes and sat him back on the couch.
Paramedics alerted authorities after discovering scratches and bruises on the body, prosecutors said.
Larry Duff was his brother's primary caregiver and collected his Social Security checks.
Andrew McGill: 412-263-1497 or email@example.com First Published April 11, 2013 2:45 PM