A pre-trial conference has been set for a Ridgway couple accused in the 2016 death of their 5-year-old nephew.
Scott J. Murphy, 29, and Kristy M. Murphy, 39, face charges including criminal homicide after 5-year-old O’Ryan Murphy was found dead in their home due to blunt force trauma on Feb. 3, 2016. The pair have been incarcerated without bail since May 5, 2016.
A pre-trial conference is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 18 in judge’s chambers. Senior Judge Richard Masson has been hearing the case.
In June 2016, former Elk County district attorney Shawn McMahon announced his intention to seek the death penalty against both defendants.
District Attorney Thomas Coppolo, who took on the position when McMahon was named president judge, confirmed on Monday that the death penalty is still on the table.
No date has been set for jury selection or trial, and Coppolo does not have an estimate at this time for how long the trial will take.
While the case will be moving one step closer to trial with the Aug. 18 conference, Coppolo said that does not necessarily mean the trial will be scheduled soon, noting, “Elk County is doing limited trials due to COVID.”
As for the delay in resolving the cases, which were filed more than four years ago, Coppolo said, “I am not going to answer this question; It is not my job to assign blame or responsibility for such issues.”
However, in response to whether delays were related to the decision to seek the death penalty, he explained, “The delays were the result of procedural issues.”
So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected the prosecution of the case, but “from this point forward it will likely delay it,” Coppolo said.
O’Ryan and his brother came to live temporarily with their aunt and uncle on Dec. 3, 2015, when Scott Murphy’s brother, Daniel Murphy, dropped the boys off at their Ridgway apartment.
Daniel Murphy and the boys’ mother, Ashlee Druhot, were initially charged for allegations that they put the children in danger by leaving them with a couple who they knew had a violent past; Masson dismissed the charges against the parents in response to writs of habeas corpus.
On the morning of Feb. 3, 2016, Kristy Murphy called 911 because she couldn’t wake O’Ryan up and he wasn’t breathing.
Testimony at the preliminary hearing in the cases indicated that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, and 20 impact marks were found on the interior of the boy’s skull.
Investigators allege that the injuries the boy suffered were not accidental, and that no one but Scott and Kristy Murphy would have had the opportunity to hurt him.
First responders at the scene alleged that the apartment was filthy and had little to no heat and that there were numerous prescription medications lying around the apartment. Police seized a blackjack and a broom handle from the residence that might have been used to injure the boy.
Each faces the same nine charges: criminal homicide and aggravated assault-circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, first-degree felonies; aggravated assault and aggravated assault-victim less than 6, second-degree felonies; two counts of endangering the welfare of children, third-degree felonies; simple assault and possession of an offensive weapon, first-degree misdemeanors; and recklessly endangering another person, a second-degree misdemeanor.
Court records list Punxsutawney attorney John Ingros as Scott Murphy’s lawyer and DuBois attorney Gary Knaresboro as Kristy Murphy’s lawyer.