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Defense: Kevin Murphy didn't fire fatal shots

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011

The lawyers for an Indiana County man facing a potential death sentence in the slayings of his mother, sister and aunt two years ago said on Monday that someone else pulled the trigger.

Defense lawyers Mark Bolkovac and Robert Bell said that when the triple homicide case against Kevin Murphy goes to trial in Westmoreland County in March, they will point the finger at other potential suspects.

"We are strongly considering other individuals," Bolkovac said yesterday after a pretrial hearing before Judge John Blahovec. Bolkovac declined to reveal the identity of those suspects.

District Attorney John Peck discounted the possibility of other suspects.

"We told them to tell us who, and we'd help," Peck said.

The defense wants the judge to bar from evidence three statements Murphy made to police hours after his family members were found gunned down in the garage of Ferguson Auto Repair, the family's Loyalhanna Township business.

Police claim that on April 23, 2009, Murphy shot his mother, Doris Murphy, 69; sister, Kris L. Murphy, 43; and aunt, Edith C. Tietge, 81. Kevin Murphy, 50, of Conemaugh Township, was arrested on the first anniversary of the killings.

Police contend he killed the three women because they disapproved of his relationship with a married woman, who told him to "knock off" his family, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing. The woman has not been charged.

In court yesterday, seven police officers testified about three statements Murphy made after he was taken by ambulance to Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, where he was treated for an apparent anxiety attack. He did not appear to be under the influence of drugs, according to police testimony.

The defense contends emergency workers gave Murphy medication and that all statements he gave to police afterward should be barred from evidence.

Investigators said Murphy was emotionless during most the questioning, which lasted more than seven hours.

"I asked if he killed them, and he said, 'I wouldn't do that to my family,'" Trooper Robert Depew testified. "He was emotionless until he spoke about his Aunt Edie. He asked, 'Do you think they suffered?'"

During each statement, Murphy told police about the hours before the bodies were discovered, adding new details with every telling.

Murphy told police the .22-caliber revolver authorities said was used in the killings was taken to the glass shop by the victims themselves for protection several weeks earlier. Murphy told investigators he used the gun the day of the murders to shoot at a robin that was nesting near a Dumpster because he is afraid of birds.

"Considering three people were killed, he went on and about this robin. He went into great detail about that, and it raised some oddities," Depew testified.

Murphy told police he knew of no disgruntled employees, angry customers or personal grievances against him or other family members. He offered police no potential suspects, according to investigators.

Detectives said Murphy eventually disclosed that he had been dating a married woman for nearly two years and that his mother and sister disapproved of the relationship. Murphy told police he met with his girlfriend the morning of the shootings and that she had been served with divorce papers later that day.

Trooper Lori Bernard testified that after Murphy was discharged from the hospital, he terminated the last questioning, which occurred at the state police barracks in Greensburg at 3:30 a.m.

"I told him it was unlikely that a stranger finds his gun and shoots his family. He didn't deny that and said, 'I didn't do this to my mom and sister.' When I said he was involved, he said he was not and that he wanted to leave," Bernard testified.

Police officers drove Murphy to his home, where Murphy found his front door unlocked.

"He was more upset about that than he was all night," Depew testified.

The defense is expected to call witnesses when the hearing reconvenes on Oct. 18.

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