Kevin Murphy, facing a potential death sentence in the triple killings of his relatives four years ago at his Westmoreland County glass shop, took the stand in his own defense Wednesday and said he didn't do it.
Asked by his lawyer, Bob Bell, if he loved his mother, Doris Murphy, his sister, Kris Murphy, and his aunt, Edith Tietge, he said yes.
"Did you shoot and kill your mother?" Mr. Bell then asked.
"No," Mr. Murphy said flatly.
He had the same answer when asked if he killed his sister and his aunt.
All three were found shot to death on April 23, 2009, at Ferguson Glass in rural Loyalhanna. Pennsylvania State Police charged Mr. Murphy with the killings exactly one year later.
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck contends that Mr. Murphy, 52, executed the women in the garage of his shop because they disapproved of his affair with his girlfriend, Susan McGuire, a married woman and mother of three who was in the process of getting a divorce.
Mr. Murphy's two attorneys are trying to convince the jury that someone else killed his relatives, although they haven't named anyone.
One key to the case is the testimony of John Meighan, a former jail inmate who said Mr. Murphy admitted the killings to him during conversations at the Westmoreland County Prison in 2010 after Mr. Murphy had been arrested.
Mr. Meighan told the jury Mr. Murphy told him he and Ms. McGuire planned the killings and came up with a cover story for Mr. Murphy to help deflect suspicion. Part of that story was for Mr. Murphy to make sure he was across the street from the glass shop at his uncle Roy Martin's farm feeding the cows when his uncle came home from an auction and found the bodies on the late afternoon of April 23, Mr. Meighan said.
On the stand yesterday, Mr. Murphy said he and Mr. Meighan talked in jail about their families but denied that he ever said anything about the homicide case.
"That's personal," he said.
For more than an hour, Mr. Murphy answered questions from Mr. Bell in a low voice devoid of emotion, even when he described finding the bodies.
The jury listened earlier to a recording of a 911 call that Mr. Murphy and Mr. Martin made that day in which Mr. Murphy can be heard screaming in the background.
Mr. Martin testified that his nephew was so shaken he could not speak intelligibly to the 911 dispatcher and could not help him attempt to revive the women.
But on the stand, Mr. Murphy spoke in a monotone and did not look at the jury.
"I just couldn't talk, I was too shook up," he said of the 911 call. "I remember I was just out of it."
Mr. Murphy also repeated a story he told police about using a .22, the same caliber as the gun that killed his relatives, to shoot at a bird on the morning of the slayings.
He said that at about 9 a.m., he retrieved the gun, kept in a drawer in the shop, and fired at a robin that was building a nest behind the building.
He told police that he was "deathly" afraid of birds and told the jury the same thing.
"When I was a young kid," he said, "I was chased by a bird."
He said he later told his co-worker, Don Shondelmyer, that the gun burned his hand when he fired it.
The bird story, Mr. Meighan said, was also part of the alibi he said Mr. Murphy told him he and Ms. McGuire concocted on the morning of the killings.
After shooting at the bird, Mr. Murphy said he put in a full work day and then went to Roy Martin's farm to feed the cows.
He was there working, he said, when his uncle arrived home and went to look for his sister, Edith, and the other women.
Mr. Martin found them dead in the garage and yelled for Mr. Murphy to come.
He said he watched as his uncle tried to revive the women with CPR. He said he wasn't trained in CPR and was too distraught to help.
"I just stood there and watched [Roy] until the ambulance came," he said.
He was taken to Westmoreland County Hospital, where police questioned him at length.
State troopers said he was a suspect almost from the beginning.
Mr. Murphy will be cross-examined by Mr. Peck on Thursday.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations on Friday.
Torsten Ove: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1510.