Deliberations expected to begin today in killing of Jennifer Daugherty
A Westmoreland County jury is expected to begin deliberating Wednesday after seven days of testimony in the torture murder of a mentally challenged woman.
Defense attorney Michael DeRiso said he plans to rest his case Wednesday morning without calling Ricky Smyrnes, 26, to testify in his own defense.
“I have discussed this decision with Mr. Smyrnes at length,” DeRiso told Judge Rita Hathaway. Prosecutors are seeking a first-degree murder conviction and the death penalty against Smyrnes, formerly of Irwin and McKeesport, in the Feb. 11, 2010, death of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, of Mt. Pleasant.
Smyrnes is accused of leading his five roommates in a Greensburg apartment as they fatally stabbed Daugherty after torturing her for more than two days. Smyrnes blamed the murder on two of his roommates in a 62-minute taped statement made to police that was played for the jury Tuesday. He claimed Daugherty was “making people angry” after Smyrnes rejected her sexual overtures.
“She wanted to be with me, but I told her I couldn't be with her,” Smyrnes said on the evening of Feb. 11, 2010.
Daugherty's body, wrapped with Christmas lights, garland and plastic bags, was found early that morning in a garbage can that was left in the Greensburg Salem Middle School parking lot. Smyrnes told police that Melvin Knight, 23, and Amber Meidinger, 23, were the main culprits in the beating, torture and murder of Daugherty. Smyrnes said he feared Knight, who had drugged Smyrnes.
“My anger is not made for that, to hurt people,” Smyrnes told investigators.
The six suspects beat Daugherty, poured spices and nail polish on her head, cut her hair, forced her to drink cleaning fluids and bodily fluids, and subjected her to other torture, according to testimony. Daugherty suffered multiple stab wounds, with fatal blows inflicted to the heart and lungs, said Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist.
Daugherty's mother, Denise Murphy, 56, and stepfather, Bobby Murphy, 65, testified that Daugherty had planned to travel from home by bus to Greensburg on Feb. 8, stay overnight with friends, go to a doctor's appointment the following day and come home. When Daugherty didn't return, Denise Murphy grew concerned that she couldn't reach her daughter by phone for the next few days.
“I was kind of irritated why she wasn't calling me back,” Denise Murphy testified. “I still didn't know if she was with someone else or where she might've been.”
On Feb. 11, 2010, upon seeing a news report about the discovery of a body, Daugherty's sister contacted Greensburg police. The family identified the victim as Daugherty.
Smyrnes admitted to slicing Daugherty's wrist and helping to move her body, but he told police he feared Knight. Prosecutors allege Smyrnes ordered Daugherty's death. In the tape, Smyrnes admitted to sleeping with Daugherty a few days before her death. That upset his girlfriend, Angela Marinucci, 20, he said.
The defense called prosecution witness county Detective John Clark to enter several items of evidence, including Christmas lights that wrapped Daugherty's body and photographs showing the knife allegedly used in the murder, the lights and a room in the Greensburg apartment.
Knight, formerly of Swissvale, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death by a jury. Marinucci is serving a sentence of life in prison.
Two other codefendants — Robert Loren Masters, 39, and Peggy Darlene Miller, 30 — are expected to enter guilty pleas under negotiated plea bargains. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Meidinger, 23, a key witness against Knight, Marinucci and Smyrnes. Attorneys are expected to make closing arguments Wednesday morning.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 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.
- Agent: Polamalu undecided whether to play in 2015
- Toddler found wandering alone in Bloomfield, grandmother arrested
- Nonstop flights offered to Bahamas from Pittsburgh
- Pitt instructor witnesses history in China’s ‘Wasteland’
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is planning a summer to remember
- Reports: Actor Ford seriously injured in small-plane crash in L.A.
- Mt. Lebanon deer-culling corrals sprayed with urine, repellent
- Stocks snap losing streak as ECB reveals stimulus start date
- Pitt women make early exit from ACC tourney
- Starkey: In defense of Mel Kiper Jr.
- Spring training breakdown: Yankees 2, Pirates 1