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Witness heard 'slamming' noise in apartment before Daugherty murder

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 12:30 p.m.

A blood-stained bathroom where prosecutors contend Jennifer Daugherty was stabbed four times in the heart was later sanitized by someone, according to a detective who testified Wednesday in the capital murder trial of Ricky Smyrnes.

Forensic Detective Hugh Shearer told a Westmoreland County jury that large amounts of blood had been left on the floor, wall, sink, toilet and shower of the North Pennsylvania Avenue apartment where Daugherty was tortured and killed in February 2010.

“There were haphazard attempts made to clean up this blood,” Shearer told jurors during the third day of testimony in Smyrnes' trial.

Smyrnes, 26, formerly of Irwin and McKeesport, is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and other offenses in connection with the torture slaying of Daugherty, a 30-year-old mentally challenged woman from Mt. Pleasant. Smyrnes could face the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors contend Smyrnes was the ringleader of a group of six roommates who held Daugherty captive for two days, beat her with implements and forced her to drink concoctions of bodily fluids, spices and cleaning supplies before she was stabbed in the heart.

Police have said co-defendant Melvin Knight, at Smyrnes' urging, killed Daugherty in the bathroom.

Shearer testified there was a copious amount of blood in the bathroom, and traces of detergent left behind indicated that someone tried to cover their tracks after disposing of Daugherty's body in a trash can left a few blocks away at Greensburg Salem Middle School.

“There is evidence there was an attempt to clean this blood up,” Shearer testified.

Blood found in the bathroom and on pieces of a metal crutch, towel rack and a knife were linked to Daugherty, Timothy Gavel, a Pennsylvania State Police forensic DNA expert, told jurors yesterday.

Jurors heard testimony from a neighbor who said she heard the sound of a body repeatedly slamming against the floor from the upstairs apartment at the time police said Daugherty was being tortured and killed.

“I heard something on the floor like somebody was slamming the body onto the floor,” said neighbor Floria Headen.

Headen told jurors that she spoke with Smyrnes after she heard the noises from the apartment above.

Smyrnes and a woman came downstairs to ask her to turn down the volume of her television set, she said.

“Ricky told me his girlfriend was upstairs in bed with a headache,” Headen said.

When she told them she would not turn down the volume, Smyrnes “gave me attitude” and left, she testified.

The trial will continue on Thursday before Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway.

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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