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Latrobe woman charged in deadly standoff claims coercion

| Thursday, July 31, 2014, 11:21 p.m.
Julian Upholster is accused of stealing the guns that Scott Murphy used to shoot during a standoff in July 2013.

A Latrobe woman accused of giving two guns to a man who wounded a police officer during a fatal standoff last summer contended in court on Thursday that she was coerced into giving a confession.

Defense attorney Mike Ferguson contends the statement given by Julian Upholster, 26, was invalid.

She was questioned a day after her boyfriend, Scott M. Murphy, 46, used both firearms during a robbery and a subsequent 17-hour standoff and gunbattle with police in Latrobe that left him dead and a state trooper wounded, according to police.

Upholster is charged with illegal possession of a firearm, theft, firearms not to be carried without a license, robbery and two counts each of receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit robbery.

“We believe the environment created by the state police (during Upholster's interrogation) was coercive. It was custodial,” Ferguson said.

Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway said she would decide whether Upholster's confession is valid after reviewing written legal arguments from both sides.

The defense contends Upholster was not advised of her constitutional rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present during questioning.

During the confession, police said, Upholster admitted to stealing a handgun and rifle from her roommate and giving them to Murphy.

Ferguson said the statement should be barred from evidence at Upholster's upcoming trial.

Police said Murphy used the handgun to steal 140 painkillers from Precision Care Pharmacy in Latrobe on July 18, 2013.

According to court records, police were led to Murphy's home on Lloyd Avenue after a witness provided a license plate of his getaway car, where Upholster was waiting.

Police said Murphy went home and barricaded himself in an upstairs room with a rifle as police arrived.

A standoff lasted for the next 17 hours as police failed in attempts to negotiate a peaceful surrender, eventually shutting off power to the home and evacuating neighbors.

Troopers eventually stormed the house as Murphy fired shots from behind a closed door, according to police. One struck Trooper Brian King's bulletproof face shield and helmet.

After a brief retreat, troopers again stormed the home. Witnesses reported that as many as 20 shots were fired. Murphy was found dead in the aftermath.

Hathaway is still considering a defense request for Upholster to have two separate trials, one focusing specifically on charges associated with the robbery and a second trial on the gun offenses.

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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