Westmoreland jury learns details of torture slaying
Just hours after Ricky Smyrnes allegedly dumped Jennifer Daugherty's body in a trash can, he walked up to detectives investigating her murder and asked, “What's going on?”
Greensburg Detective Jerry Vernail testified Tuesday that Smyrnes and his girlfriend, Angela Marinucci, showed no concern about Daugherty's death when questioned about it outside the Pennsylvania Avenue apartment where she was held captive for more than two days, beaten, tortured and killed.
“He said he knew her and she was there Monday but hadn't seen her since,” Vernail told a Westmoreland County jury who will decide if Smyrnes should be convicted for plotting Daugherty's murder.
District Attorney John Peck will seek the death penalty for Smyrnes, 26, formerly of Irwin and McKeesport, for allegedly orchestrating the victim's torture and fatal stabbing with his five roommates in the apartment.
The body of the 30-year-old mentally disabled woman from Mt. Pleasant was found on Feb. 11, 2010.
Vernail said Smyrnes denied any involvement as they stood outside the apartment building.
“He said he was gone all night long and was locked out of the apartment. He said he spent the night on the street, looking for cigarette butts,” Vernail testified.
Smyrnes claimed he spent the night at the Greensburg Train Station, county Detective Will Brown testified.
Smyrnes told police he lived in the apartment with Marinucci, Amber Meidinger, Melvin Knight, Peggy Miller and Robert Masters.
Knight, 23, has been sentenced to death and Marinucci, 20, is serving a life prison sentence for first-degree murder convictions.
Meidinger, 23, testified against Knight and Marinucci and is expected to do so against Smyrnes.
Miller, 30, and Masters, 39, are trying to get plea deals to less serious charges.
Prosecutors contend that group, at Smyrnes' direction, tortured and killed Daugherty.
Jurors saw a series of photographs, projected on a high-definition television, of Daugherty's body as it was discovered in a 45-gallon plastic trash can left under a truck in the snow-covered Greensburg Salem Middle School parking lot.
Waynesburg University professor Adam Jack, a former county detective, testified about the victim's body, her injuries and items seized from the apartment where she died.
Pictures showed Daugherty's body, in a fetal position, stuffed head-down in the trash can.
Five feet of Christmas lights, with only one blue bulb intact, bound Daugherty's hands. Pink pajamas and another 12-foot cord of lights were wrapped around her neck. Silver and blue Christmas garland was tied around her ankles. Her head was covered with red nail polish and bruises.
Daugherty's parents, Denise and Bobby Murphy, seated in the courtroom gallery behind the prosecution, fought back tears as the pictures were shown.
In the apartment, Jack testified, police found a crutch and a towel rack used to beat Daugherty and a library book, “The Gates of Hell Are About to Open.”
Police discovered a fake suicide note, torn into pieces, that Peck said Smyrnes forced Daugherty to write.
“I am done with life. Good-bye. Jennifer,” was one part of the message.
Jack testified police found an 8-inch knife in the attic believed to be the murder weapon.
They found the victim's personal items, including a bag of hair the assailants had hacked from her head.
The prosecution will continue presenting evidence Wednesday morning before Judge Rita Hathaway.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Taylor unlikely to play, Harrison ‘ready’
- Pitt: Football coach hire comes 1st, athletic director 2nd
- Man involved with crash with officer dies in Pittsburgh hospital
- Despite intimidation, women still passionate about video games
- Michigan State defensive coordinator a Pitt coaching candidate
- Penguins’ defensive depth proves valuable
- Pirates sign Corey Hart to 1-year deal
- Police gather in Ligonier for Perryopolis officer’s funeral
- Steelers must be creative in providing snaps for linebackers
- Giant Eagle Inc. appears to have settled ‘fuelperks!’ lawsuit
- Rossi: Brawl for ADs between Pitt and WVU