Harrison pair will stand trial for murder
By Chuck Biedka
Published: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, 12:16 p.m.
Two Harrison men were ordered Friday to stand trial for abusing a disabled man who died in their now-condemned house last month.
Larry Duff, 56, and Jason Link, 22, both of 112 Blue Ridge Ave., Natrona, are accused in the death of Duff's brother, Ronald, 61.
The men are charged with third-degree murder, aggravated assault, neglect of a care-dependent person, and conspiracy. Tampering with evidence charges against both men have been withdrawn.
Both men, who are pleading not guilty, are in the Allegheny County Jail without bond awaiting trial.
At a preliminary hearing on Friday, Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli said the men probably didn't intend for the victim to die. Investigators could not determine a single cause for Ronald Duff's death, but authorities say the evidence shows Ronald Duff died from cumulative abuse.
Attorneys for Link and Duff failed in their attempts to have the homicide charges be dismissed because a single cause wasn't identified.
Tranquilli said an autopsy revealed an already medically frail Ronald Duff, who largely used hand gestures to communicate after a stroke, had suffered dozen of injuries.
They including to an eye, broken ribs and bleeding on the brain. A county detective testified that Ronald Duff had been administered medicine before he began living in his brother's house, but none was found in the house after his death. He had high blood pressure, clogged heart arteries and fluid in his lungs.
In addition, the victim had lost more than 60 pounds during the six months in which he lived in the dilapidated Natrona house, where he largely stayed in a small, second living room.
Tranquilli said Duff weighed 178 pounds in April when released from Butler Memorial Hospital to stay in his brother's Natrona house, but weighed only 112 pounds when he died in mid-October.
Tranquilli said Larry Duff and Link admitted to spanking, slapping and punching Ronald Duff during the six months because he was often incontinent, exposed himself to Larry Duff's wife and three daughters, and was frequently unruly.
Family members told police they locked up food because Ronald would get up at night and eat a large amount of food.
Link allegedly told police that on the day before Ronald Duff died, Link handed him a bowl of bean soup, only to have the victim throw it at him.Police said Link admitted to punching Ronald Duff and that Larry Duff said he shoved the victim soon after.
Two county detectives said Larry Duff and Link changed their stories about how Ronald Duff died.
The men also said Link and Larry Duff's wife, Lisa, used a 3-foot-long, half-inch-square stick to punish the victim.
Tranquilli said the stick didn't cause serious injuries, but a lab is checking to determine whether Ronald Duff's blood or DNA is on it.Lisa Duff, 39, is facing separate charges of neglect of a care-dependent person, simple assault, and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.
Her preliminary hearing is scheduled next week in Brackenridge.
After the hearing, the suspects' attorneys said they will likely ask the court to appoint an expert to review the autopsy to determine whether Ronald Duff died from his medical conditions, not abuse.
“The autopsy says many things, but not why he died,” said Richard Narvin, Link's attorney. Trial will be scheduled at a later date.
Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Orpik on IR; Dumoulin recalled
- Kovacevic: Enough of these Steelers already
- Aliquippa’s Henry picks West Virginia over Pitt
- Penguins players are not out looking for fights
- Steelers WR Brown says ‘I thought I had it clean’ after wild, near-miss finish
- Late Thanksgiving diminishes jingle of Salvation Army kettles
- Former Pirate Parker does not make Hall of Fame
- Keno, lottery privatization could be back before Pennsylvania Senate
- Robinson: $500K proposal for August Wilson Center brought threats, vitriol
- Likely loss of Steelers draft pick looms because of Tomlin misstep
- Greensburg man dies after multi-vehicle crash on Route 22