Loyalhanna man seeks to overturn conviction for killing his mother, sister and aunt
Westmoreland County prosecutors on Monday challenged a judge’s ruling allocating up to $2,500 in taxpayer money for defense lawyers to hire a ballistics expert to help craft an appeal for a death row inmate.
Kevin Murphy, 58, of Loyalhanna, is seeking to overturn his conviction to three counts of first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting deaths of his mother, sister and aunt in the workshop of a family-owned auto glass repair business. Police said Doris Murphy, 69; sister Kris Murphy, 43; and aunt Edith Tietge, 81, were each shot in the back of the head with a .22 caliber revolver linked to Murphy. Prosecutors contended at trial the woman were killed because they disapproved of Murphy’s romantic relationship with a married woman and didn’t want her to live at the family home near Saltsburg, Indiana County.
A jury in 2013 sentenced Murphy to death by lethal injection.
Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio last week signed a court order presented without the prosecution being notified that allocated funds for court-appointed lawyers Brian Aston and Ken Noga to hire a private ballistics expert to review evidence used against Murphy in his trial.
District Attorney John Peck and Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar said the prosecution should have been allowed to challenge Murphy’s need to hire a ballistics expert.
“The fact that the defendant has already hired and presented an expert in the field of ballistics makes it difficult to imagine on which grounds for relief … a new ballistic expert could be relevant,” Peck and Lazar wrote.
Murphy was represented at his 2013 trial by private attorneys and as part of his defense his lawyers retained their own ballistics evidence prior to the trial, prosecutors said.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2016 denied Murphy’s initial appeal, saying the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions.
Murphy’s latest appeal has yet to be filed.
According to court documents filed last week, Aston and Noga said a new ballistics expert is needed to review evidence used against Murphy in which witnesses linked the murder weapon to a gun owned by Murphy and found at the crime scene. Two bullet fragments from one of the victims could not be linked to the recovered weapon and DNA evidence introduced at Murphy’s trial indicated an unknown person had contact with the gun, the defense lawyers said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .