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Murder-suicide in Murrysville was 'an isolated incident'

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 4:21 p.m.

The domestic situation that fueled a murder-suicide in a Murrysville parking lot Saturday night could have happened anywhere, police said.

Police say Michael Lunsford, 21, shot and killed Gina Llewellyn on Saturday after he had an argument with his wife, Ashley McHugh, 22.

Lunsford also shot Llewellyn's daughter — Lynall Llewellyn, 22, who is recovering at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh — before fatally shooting himself. Lynall Llewellyn and McHugh, who was not injured in the altercation, are close friends. McHugh had been lured to meet her husband near East Suburban Animal Hospital under a ruse that her dog had been hit by a car.

“She had moved herself away from the area and took cover as best as she could,” Murrysville police Chief Tom Seefeld said. “This could have happened anywhere.”

Though Lunsford did not strike or shoot at his wife during Saturday's altercation, Seefeld said, McHugh later told police that her husband had become violent with her two or three weeks ago. McHugh told police that Lunsford had grabbed and punched her.

Nationwide statistics show that one in three people have experienced abuse in a relationship, Regan said.

“We know that (domestic violence) is very under reported,” said Shirl Regan, president and CEO of the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, which helps about 8,000 victims of domestic violence annually. “Many times, women try to work the problem out on their own because they're embarrassed or afraid about what might happen.”

Regan called Saturday's incident in Murrysville “ghastly” and “just awful.” Seefeld said Lunsford and McHugh's marriage was “rocky,” despite the couple's October 2012 nuptials. He said Lunsford appeared to be obsessive and controlling of his wife.

That behavior is one of the warning signs that crisis counselors look for, Regan said.

“It's one, but not the only one,” she said. “I'm not sure of anything else (McHugh) could have done to keep herself safe at that moment. It happens way too frequently where there are attacks and sometimes murders.”

Ann Emmerling, executive director of the Blackburn Center in Greensburg agreed.

“Every situation is unique,” Emmerling said. “Every situation has the potential to be lethal. What we see with people in those situations is they have to make a decision that makes sense to them at the time.”

Since 2010, Murrysville police have responded to 470 calls involving domestic incidents.

“The victims aren't always in a bad situation. Sometimes it's something verbal where it's settled and solved before we even get there,” Seefeld said. “Some families have issues and we get called in. But when it gets violent, it's important to call law enforcement in.”

But many people, including McHugh, do not contact police, officials said.

The homicide of Gina Llewellyn, 50, of Allegheny Township was the first in the municipality since 2000, Seefeld said. According to FBI statistics, Murrysville police have responded to just 21 violent crimes – which are defined as aggravated assault, rape, murder or burglary – between 2007 and 2011.

“It was an isolated incident,” Seefeld said. “We're not in the situation where we have someone running around shooting. It really is an unfortunate incident.”

“We're a relatively safe community here. We enjoy a pretty good safety net.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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