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Jury selection drags for man accused of killing family

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Jury selection in the capital murder trial of an Indiana County man charged with killing three relatives limped along Tuesday as just two panelists were selected to hear the case.

Attorneys anticipate that testimony could begin next week in the trial of Kevin Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh Township, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the April 23, 2009, shooting deaths of his mother, sister and aunt.

The prosecution has said it will seek the death penalty against Murphy if he is convicted.

Police accused Murphy of shooting his mother, Doris, 61; his sister, Kris L. Murphy, 43; and his aunt, Edith Tietge, 81. All three bodies were discovered in the garage of Ferguson Glass, the Loyalhanna Township auto glass repair shop owned by the family.

The prosecution has suggested Murphy killed the three women because they disapproved of his relationship with a married woman, who allegedly told him to “knock off” his family, according to testimony at his preliminary hearing.

Murphy has maintained his innocence.

Two jurors were selected for the trial on Tuesday, but one of the panelists chosen a day earlier was excused from service because of work concerns.

After two days of jury selection, six panelists — four men and two women — have been chosen for the case.

Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell said he was frustrated with the pace of the jury selection, in which more than half of the 98 prospective panelists asked to be excused, saying they had work or family obligations.

“Starting tomorrow I'm not allowing excuses, just for medical reasons or to take care of children or spouses,” Bell said.

As the court day dragged on into early evening, the judge refused to grant hardship excuses, including a request by a woman who asked she be dismissed to care for her mother, who has Alzheimer's. She was eventually rejected as a juror by the prosecution.

The judge declined to release a man who wanted to be removed from the panel to continue his business completing an apartment renovation on schedule.

“You're plan is of little concern at this point. I need to get this jury picked,” Bell said.

That prospective juror later claimed he could not vote to impose the death penalty and subsequently was dismissed by the judge.

Bell said he is concerned that the jury won't be selected by the end of the week, when the pool of prospective panelists will be exhausted.

About 50 more potential jurors are expected to be questioned on Wednesday.

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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