Sentences doled out for Harrison residents convicted in involuntary manslaughter of disabled roommate
By Adam Brandolph
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013, 4:57 p.m.
When Larry Duff offered to care for his disabled older brother, Ronald, he was not prepared for the 24-hour job it would become.
“I think he was a little naive,” his lawyer, public defender Matthew Dugan, said on Thursday. “He didn't have the knowledge, the experience or the capability to know what he was getting into. ... He clearly lacked the experience to care for someone in Ronald's condition.”
Frustrations grew so great that on Oct. 14, Larry Duff and Jason Link, a man with whom the Duffs shared their Harrison home, beat Ronald Duff with their fists and a wooden stick because he spilled a bowl of soup.
The next morning, they found him unresponsive, moved him to the sofa and told a 911 operator that he fell down the stairs.
In April, Link, 22, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Duff, 57, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and neglect of care.
On Thursday, Allegheny County Common Pleas President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel sentenced Link to serve 36 to 72 months in prison and ordered Larry Duff to serve 22 to 44 months in prison. Both men will receive eight months credit for time served and spend five years on probation following their incarceration.
“We have two opposite ends of the spectrum in this case,” McDaniel said. ”We have two gentlemen who have not really been in trouble … but they both committed a vicious attack on another human being that led to his death.”
Duff has been distraught since the incident, Dugan said. He lost 50 pounds since October and was diagnosed with depression.
“This case has had a dramatic effect on his life. When he learned he was charged with criminal homicide, he was petrified,” he said. “This is a terrible case. Every meeting I have with Mr. Duff ends with him in tears.”
Duff expressed remorse and sadness that he would be in jail for his daughter's 16th birthday.
“I'm really sad,” he said. “I take responsibility for what happened.”
Richard Narvin, head of the Allegheny County Office of Conflict Counsel, told the judge that Link is “capable of contributing to society.”
“I'm sorry for what I did,” Link said.
Shortly before the sentencing hearing, Lisa Duff, 40, pleaded no contest to charges that she helped her husband move her brother-in-law's body from the second floor to a sofa on the first floor.
McDaniel ordered her to serve six to 12 months in jail with credit for 150 days spent incarcerated.
Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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