DA questions Murphy in triple-homicide trial
Kevin Murphy testified Thursday he did not tell police about his girlfriend because it “slipped my mind” and he did not believe their affair had anything to do with the murders of his mother, sister and aunt.
Four years after their bodies were discovered, prosecutors are seeking to convince a Westmoreland County jury that Murphy's girlfriend was the reason he fatally shot the three victims at the family's glass shop in Loyalhanna Township on April 23, 2009.
District Attorney John Peck questioned Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh Township, Indiana County, for about an hour on Thursday morning in the ninth day of testimony before Judge Al Bell.
Testimony in the case was completed Thursday. Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Friday morning and the jury is expected to begin its deliberations today.
Peck is seeking three first-degree murder verdicts against Murphy for the killings of his mother, Doris Murphy, 69; his sister, Kris Murphy, 43, and his aunt, Edith Tietge, 81. Each victim was shot in the back of the head. Peck repeatedly asked Murphy about why he did not tell police about his relationship with Susan McGuire, identified in previous testimony as his girlfriend.
She immediately moved into Murphy's house after the slayings and runs his business, Ferguson Glass, according to testimony.
Murphy and McGuire became engaged four months after the murders, he told jurors. She now lives with Ferguson Glass employee Donald Shondelmyer, the employee previously testified.
Peck confronted Murphy with documents detailing engagement rings he purchased in August 2009 for more than $14,000.
Throughout the trial, the defense has suggested someone else was the shooter, although no one has been identified specifically.
Murphy testified that on the day of the murders, he met McGuire, as he did most days, early in the morning in the Giant Eagle parking lot in Vandergrift. He conceded he did not initially tell police about that meeting.
“I was so shook up at that time; losing my mother, sister and aunt, naturally you'd forget some things,” Murphy told jurors.
He said he did not think his relationship with his girlfriend was related to the murders.
Prosecutors contend he killed the victims at the behest of McGuire, who was getting a divorce and wanted to move in with Murphy, who lived with his mother and sister. The victims did not approve of Murphy dating a married woman, according to testimony.
Peck asked Murphy to explain why he resisted helping the victims, who were lying on the shop floor as his uncle made failed resuscitation efforts.
“Isn't it because you knew they were dead?” Peck asked.
“No, I didn't,” Murphy said.
Murphy was questioned about why he had a .22-caliber revolver in the shop. Experts testified that gun was used in at least two of the murders. Slugs found in one victim were too damaged to positively link them to Murphy's gun, two ballistics experts previously testified.
Murphy testified he directed his sister to bring the gun to the shop for protection.
Peck asked Murphy why he pulled out the weapon on the day of the murders to shoot at a bird after he had not fired a gun for two decades. Murphy previously testified he had a fear of birds, but could offer no explanation about why he shot at one on the morning of April 23, 2009.
Defense attorney Robert Bell called four character witnesses to complete Murphy's case. Each witness, including a business associate, a friend and a former school principal, testified Murphy was peaceful and law abiding.
The prosecution presented one rebuttal witness to dispute an allegation from the defense that police failed to investigate a tip reported two months after the murders.
The defense contends police were told that a man with a name similar to Murphy's was arrested on drug charges the day before the shootings and that man was the true target of whoever killed the three victims.
That man's brother, Gregory Muffie of Avonmore, testified that he was the man who was arrested for drugs on April 22, 2009. He said he and his family were never threatened by anyone.
Muffie is currently serving a seven- to 14-year prison sentence.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.