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Loyalhanna triple-murder case gets April trial date

| Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

An April trial date has been scheduled in the death penalty case of an Indiana County man accused of murdering three of his family members.

Judge Al Bell met Thursday morning with attorneys and defendant Kevin Murphy, 51, of Conemaugh Township for a status conference after Bell was assigned the case.

“This case is two years old. These things shouldn't linger,” Bell said.

Murphy allegedly shot his mother, Doris Murphy, 69; his sister, Kris L. Murphy, 43; and his aunt, Edith C. Tietge, 81, in the garage of Ferguson Glass LLC in Loyalhanna Township on April 23, 2009.

Judge John Blahovec had presided over the case since charges were filed a year after the killings.

But Blahovec recused himself last month, citing a conflict of interest. Blahovec's secretary is involved in another case that District Attorney John Peck is handling. Police in West Virginia seized her computer because it allegedly contains information from her nephew, who is awaiting trial with his wife for the killing of her father.

In that case, Peck defended the enforcement of the search warrant sought by West Virginia police.

Peck and an assistant in his office are prosecuting the Murphy case.

In October, Blahovec denied a series of pretrial motions in which the defense unsuccessfully sought to have evidence excluded from trial. On Thursday, Bell ordered that a defense ballistics expert provide a report to prosecutors within 30 days of examining the murder weapon.

The victims were shot in the head with a .22-caliber gun, according to investigators.

Doris Murphy was shot three times, and her daughter was shot twice. Tietge died from a single bullet wound.

The prosecution has suggested that Murphy killed the three women because they disapproved of his relationship with a married woman, who told him to “knock off” his family, according to testimony during a preliminary hearing.

The woman has not been charged.

If Murphy is convicted of first-degree homicide, prosecutors will ask a jury to sentence him to death.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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