Triple murder trial of Indiana County man to open
By Rich Cholodofsky
Published: Monday, April 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jurors on Monday will get a firsthand look at the Loyalhanna Township glass shop where the bodies of three women were found shot to death four years ago.
Attorneys will deliver opening remarks on Monday morning in the trial of Kevin Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh Township, Indiana County, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of his mother, sister and aunt on April 23, 2009.
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck will seek the death penalty against Murphy, who was arrested on the one-year anniversary of the killings, should jurors find him guilty of first-degree murder.
On Monday, jurors will board a bus after lunch for the 30-minute drive to view the secluded, wooded area where the Murphy family made its living at Ferguson Glass LLC on 11 acres along Loyalhanna Dam Road. The business repaired auto glass and did specialty work for clients such as Amish craftsmen, Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, St. Vincent College and The Kiski School, a nearby private college preparatory school.
Judge Al Bell said that jurors will tour the business office, the garage shop area and a storage room. They will have a chance to see a belt sander in the shop, where the murder weapon, a .22-caliber Magnum revolver, was found by state police.
Jurors will view a barn on a nearby property owned by Murphy's uncle, Ray Martin, Bell said.
Prosecutors believe Murphy was the man who executed his mother, Doris Murphy, 69; his sister, Kris Murphy, 43; and his aunt, Edith Tietge, 81. Tietge lived with her brother, Martin.
Defense attorneys Bob Bell and Mark Bolkovac contend police arrested the wrong man.
All three victims were shot in the head. Doris Murphy suffered three bullet wounds. Her daughter was shot twice. The killer shot Tietge once.
Judge John Blahovec previously denied a defense request to prevent Peck from presenting to the jurors blood, DNA and gunshot residue evidence. The specifics of that evidence have yet to be revealed.
After the bodies were discovered, Kevin Murphy was hospitalized with a panic attack. Later, he spoke to police and said he used the handgun on the day of the killings to shoot at a bird.
Kevin Murphy claimed he was at his uncle's farm, feeding cows, as the fatal shots felled the three women early in the evening, according to testimony during a preliminary hearing.
Kevin Murphy lived with his mother and sister in a tidy house on Leech Avenue near Saltsburg. He has filed routine court documents to claim their estate, valued at more than $315,000 at the time of the filing. Neither left a will.
Testimony from Kevin Murphy's former cellmate at the county jail was used during a preliminary hearing to link him to the killings.
John Meighan, 50, formerly of Greensburg, who is awaiting trial on drunken-driving offenses, testified that Kevin Murphy claimed he killed his relatives at the behest of his girlfriend. Kevin Murphy killed them because they disapproved of his relationship with a married woman, who told him to “knock off” his family, according to hearing testimony. The woman has not been charged.
Meighan claimed Kevin Murphy hid the .22-calber handgun in the base of the sanding machine.
Meighan's testimony could be integral for the prosecution during the upcoming trial, which could take about three weeks.
Prospective jurors were asked during last week's selection process about their views of defendants who exchange testimony for recommendations of lighter sentences in unrelated criminal cases. Peck said one or more witnesses with pending charges could testify against Murphy.
The defense said those witnesses' criminal records could benefit Murphy.
“It happens a lot in these kinds of cases,” Bell said. “We'll find out when they testify, but we want it to not have much weight.”
Prosecutors previously said Meighan was not promised a plea bargain deal for his testimony.
But during jury selection Peck said prosecutors could recommend lighter sentences for cooperating witnesses.
Court records indicate Meighan has several pending cases in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties for drunken driving and other offenses. Meighan has been arrested at least 11 times for drunken driving, court records show.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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