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Wecht testifies women were shot at close range in Loyalhanna shop

| Monday, April 29, 2013, 12:33 p.m.

Three men dressed in hunting gear, who asked for directions to Ferguson Glass on the day three women were killed there, were eliminated as suspects, a police officer testified Monday.

Defense attorney Bob Bell, through his cross-examination of the officer in the capital murder trial of Kevin Murphy, attempted to suggest that police did not properly investigate tips that could have tied other suspects to the murders.

The prosecution contends Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh Township, Indiana County, gunned down his mother, sister and aunt at the family-owned business in Loyalhanna Township on April 23, 2009. Their bodies were discovered in the shop area of the auto-glass business that evening.

Murphy is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

The defense contends Murphy was not the shooter and he was across the street, feeding cattle, when someone else slaughtered his family.

State police Cpl. Robert Depew testified that police received several tips in the months following the shootings. Murphy was arrested exactly one year later.

“When did Kevin Murphy become a suspect?” Bell asked.

“Probably the morning after the homicides,” Depew responded.

Bell questioned Depew about other tips, including one from an Avonmore barmaid who told police three men dressed in hunting clothing came into a local tavern and asked for directions to Ferguson Glass shortly after 4 p.m. on the day of the murders.

That information was investigated but produced no evidence, Depew testified.

Depew was asked about a related CrimeStoppers tip police received in June 2009 that involved a man who was reportedly arrested the same day as the shootings for a drug offense.

Bell said the tip suggested a killer or killers mistakenly went to Ferguson Glass after confusing Kevin Murphy for that man, whose name was similar.

Bell asked if police interviewed that man.

“I did not speak to (him),” Depew responded.

Depew is expected to return to the witness stand on Tuesday morning.

Depew initially was questioned by Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar about a potential motive for Murphy to kill the victims.

The prosecution contends Murphy, at the behest of his girlfriend, Susan McGuire, killed the three women because they did not approve of the relationship. They did not like McGuire because she was married, according to police. A former inmate at the county jail previously testified Murphy claimed that McGuire put him up to the murders so she could move into his home Murphy shared with his mother and sister.

A day before the murders, Keith McGuire filed for divorce, Depew testified. Susan McGuire was served with the complaint on the day the three women were fatally shot.

All of the victims were shot in the back of their heads, testified Dr. Cyril Wecht, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies.

Murphy's mother, Doris Murphy, 69, was shot twice, Wecht said.

One bullet penetrated her skull. She suffered a grazing wound to the head from a second bullet, fired from about 8 inches away, Wecht testified.

Murphy's sister, Kris Murphy, 43, was shot three times, with two bullets fired behind her left ear.

Murphy's 81-year old aunt, Edith Tietge, suffered one gunshot wound, Wecht said. “It was fired about maybe 10 to 12 inches away from the back of her head,” he testified.

Wecht testified he could not say in what order the women were shot.

Bullet fragments from Kris Murphy and her aunt matched a .22-caliber revolver found in a catch basin underneath a piece of equipment in the shop, a ballistics expert previously testified. Fragments recovered from Doris Murphy were too mutilated to make a definitive match.

Murphy told police he fired the gun at a bird on the day of the murders.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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