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Jury convicts Murphy in triple murders at Loyalhanna business

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Friday, May 3, 2013, 10:48 a.m.
 

Westmoreland County jurors convicted on Friday convicted a Loyalhanna Township businessman of executing his mother, sister and aunt four years ago — but Kevin Murphy plans to ask a jury to spare his life.

The trial jury of eight men and four women deliberated for 3 12 hours before finding him guilty of three counts of first-degree murder.

Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh Township, Indiana County, fired a .22-caliber revolver into the back of the heads of his mother, Doris Murphy, 69; sister, Kris Murphy, 43; and aunt, Edith Tietge, 81. Their bodies were discovered in the shop area of Murphy's business, Ferguson Glass, on April 23, 2009.

He showed no emotion as the jury foreman announced the verdict after 10 days of testimony before Common Pleas Judge Al Bell.

The prosecution contended Murphy killed his relatives so he could move his soon-to-be-divorced girlfriend into the home near Saltsburg that he shared with his mother and sister.

“Naturally, we're disappointed. Kevin is somebody who I thought had a very good defense. We're surprised at how fast the jury came back,” defense attorney Bob Bell said.

Murphy's two uncles, an aunt and family friends left the courthouse without comment.

The jury will return on Monday, when District Attorney John Peck will argue that Murphy should be put to death. He declined to comment after the verdict.

Bell said the defense team will spend the weekend preparing evidence of mitigating circumstances that could convince jurors to sentence Murphy to life in prison.

In a closing argument, Peck told jurors that Murphy had the motive, means and opportunity to kill the victims.

A series of witnesses, Murphy's own statements to police and testimony from a jailhouse informant placed Murphy at the crime scene.

Peck told jurors that Murphy killed his mother first and then killed his sister when she walked into the shop. Peck said Murphy killed his Aunt Edie because she returned to the shop and saw the other victims.

“The person who brought them into the garage is someone they knew, someone they trusted, someone they thought loved them as a son, a brother and a nephew,” Peck told jurors.

Murphy wanted to “knock off” the victims because they objected to his relationship with Susan McGuire, who received divorce papers from her husband on the day of the murders, according to testimony.

A day after the shooting, McGuire moved into Murphy's home. Four months later, he bought her a $14,000 ring, and they became engaged.

John Meighan, who was facing drunken driving charges when he befriended Murphy in prison, testified Murphy said that McGuire put him up to the murders. McGuire has not been charged.

She is running Murphy's business with her live-in boyfriend, Donald Shondelmyer, Murphy's lifelong friend who worked with him at Ferguson Glass.

“When you look at the facts, it's inconceivable anyone else but the defendant committed these crimes,” Peck told jurors.

During his closing argument, defense attorney Mark Bolkovac deflected blame toward McGuire and Shondelmyer, saying they had motive and opportunity to commit the murders.

“I'm not saying they did this. But I'm saying you can find motive in many places,” Bolkovac told jurors.

Murphy testified he was across the road, feeding cows at his uncle's farm, when the women were killed.

He explained that his DNA was on the murder weapon because he used it earlier that day to shoot at a nesting robin outside the shop. Murphy testified he was “deathly afraid” of birds since he was attacked by one as a teenager.

The prosecution argued Murphy staged the bird shooting in an attempt cover up his role in 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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