Trial begins for Indiana County man accused in killings of mother, aunt and sister
April 22, 2013 12:45 PM
Kevin Murphy the owner of Ferguson Glass in Loyalhanna, is accused of killing his mother, Doris Murphy, sister Kris Murphy and aunt Edith Tietge at the auto glass shop, where all three women worked. If convicted, Mr. Murphy faces the death penalty.
By Torsten Ove Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Kevin Murphy and his girlfriend of two years, Susan Bortz McGuire, wanted to live together as a couple.
But they had a problem.
His mother, sister and aunt didn't approve of his affair with the married woman and mother of three.
So, according to the Westmoreland County district attorney, Mr. Murphy murdered them at her behest and said someone else must have done it.
Now Mr. Murphy is on trial for his life in the April 23, 2009, triple slaying at his auto glass shop, Ferguson Glass, in rural Loyalhanna, Westmoreland County, where all three women worked.
The district attorney, John Peck, says he will ask for the death penalty if the jury convicts Mr. Murphy of first-degree murder in any of the three killings.
The trial started Monday with opening statements and a jury visit to the glass business and a nearby farm owned by Mr. Murphy's uncle, Roy Martin, the husband of Edith Tietge, 81, one of the victims.
Mr. Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh in Indiana County, is accused of using a .22-caliber pistol to execute his mother, Doris Murphy, 69; his sister, Kris Murphy, 43; and his aunt, Ms. Tietge.
PG graphic: Site of triple homicide (Click image for larger version)
All three were found in the garage bay of the glass shop.
In his opening statement, Mr. Peck said that Mr. Murphy, who had no children and lived with his mother and sister, killed his family members after Ms. McGuire said she was tired of sneaking around and having secret early-morning meetings with him at the Hyde Park Giant Eagle during the two years of their affair.
"She wanted a life with him," Mr. Peck said. "She basically gave him an ultimatum."
At her urging, Mr. Peck said, Mr. Murphy took a .22-caliber pistol to the shop a few days before the killings and then, April 23, used it to shoot each woman in the back of the head.
As part of his alibi, Mr. Peck said, Mr. Murphy made a point of showing his business partner, Don Shondelmyer, a burn on his hand he said was caused by using the gun to shoot at a bird. He later told police that he was terrified of birds.
He also made sure he was at his uncle's farm, feeding the cows in the barn, when his uncle discovered the bodies so that he would not be suspected, Mr. Peck said.
But the district attorney said he intends to prove that, too, was part of the alibi he worked out with Ms. McGuire.
Mr. Peck said the prosecution's case will be bolstered by the testimony of an inmate at the jail in Westmoreland County, John Meighan, who said Mr. Murphy admitted the killings to him while they were locked up together.
Both men had girlfriends who were running their businesses while they were in jail awaiting trial, and they had talked about their women finding other men while they were behind bars.
When Mr. Meighan asked Mr. Murphy how worried he was about that possibility, however, Mr. Peck said he answered that she wouldn't betray him because "I have too much on her," meaning her involvement in the murder plot.
She has not been charged.
After the shootings, she moved into Mr. Murphy's house with her three teenage children and continued to operate the glass business after his arrest a year later.
Bob Bell, Mr. Murphy's lawyer, said his client did not kill his family, saying it was "somebody else" but offering no insight as to who did it or why.
"Kevin Murphy's defense," he said, "is he wasn't there."
He said Mr. Martin found the bodies that day and yelled for Mr. Murphy as he returned from the farm.
When he saw his family members dead on the garage floor, Mr. Bell said, Mr. Murphy was devastated. He had taken over as the male figure in the house after his father died in 1985 and took care of his mother and sister, working side-by-side with them every day at the glass shop.
"He couldn't talk, he couldn't function," Mr. Bell said of his reaction to the murder scene. "He couldn't even dial 911. Roy Martin had to call."
He said Mr. Murphy suffered an anxiety attack and paramedics had to take him to the hospital, although the prosecution contends that episode was staged.
In explaining why Mr. Murphy brought a gun to the shop, Mr. Bell said he wanted it to shoot a bird behind his building.
"Kevin has a deathly fear of birds," he told the jury, stemming from a childhood incident in which a bird swooped down on him.
Mr. Bell also said he will impugn Mr. Meighan's testimony, saying the "jailhouse snitch" has a criminal record and has a deal with the district attorney in his own case.
Mr. Peck will begin presenting his witnesses today.