GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania — A western Pennsylvania man has been sentenced to death for murdering his mother, sister and elderly aunt in his automotive glass shop where the victims sometimes also worked.
A Westmoreland County jury deliberated about seven hours before returning the penalty late Tuesday against Kevin Murphy, 52, of Conemaugh Township.
The penalty verdict came after brief testimony from relatives who described Murphy as hard-working and law-abiding, and a psychologist who supported those witnesses.
District Attorney John Peck argued for the death penalty based on the multiple homicides and the nature of the crimes, in which the women were shot point-blank in the back of the head by someone they had loved, trusted and known for decades.
"He used the love they had for him to lure them into Ferguson Glass and, like a coward, to shoot them in the back of the head," Peck told jurors. The prosecutor also argued that the testimony of Murphy's relatives, who said Murphy came from a close-knit, loving family and wasn't ever known to cause trouble, actually supported the need for the death penalty because Murphy, like so many other murderers, had no excuse for his crimes.
"His character witnesses don't mitigate this crime. They only make it more horrific. This defendant had all the opportunities," Peck argued.
Peck sought the death penalty after Murphy was convicted of first-degree murder on Friday for killing his mother, 69-year-old Doris Murphy; his 43-year-old sister, Kris Murphy; and his aunt, 81-year-old Edith Tietge (TEET'-jee), on April 23, 2009. The other alternative would have been for the jury to impose a life prison sentence without parole.
Murphy's mother and sister regularly worked at the glass shop, on a secluded, rural road about 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, and his aunt was known to help out and visit regularly.
Peck contends Murphy killed the women because they disapproved of his relationship with a married woman, who moved in with him days later. Peck said the crime scene, which showed the women lying roughly parallel to one another in their own blood, suggests Murphy killed his mother and sister first, then shot his aunt, probably after she unexpectedly returned to the shop late that afternoon.
Murphy's family refused comment after the sentencing.
Defense attorney Robert Bell, the former district attorney in neighboring Indiana County, argued that Murphy's age, his lack of a prior criminal record and good character warranted sparing his life.
"The death penalty should be reserved for people who are always in trouble, not a businessman who spent his whole life abiding the law," Bell told the jury.
Appeals are automatic in death penalty cases.