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Witness in Smyrnes sentencing hearing says he raped her at age 10

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 2:36 p.m.

A former classmate of Ricky Smyrnes told a Westmoreland County jury Tuesday that he raped her and threatened her life during a childhood play date at his North Huntingdon home when she was just 10 years old.

“He took off my clothes. He took off his swim trunks and he forced himself on top of me,” the woman, who is now 26, said in the first day of testimony in the penalty phase of Smyrnes' capital murder trial.

The jury, which last week convicted Smyrnes, 26, of first-degree murder, is now hearing evidence as to whether he should be condemned to death by lethal injection or sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Smyrnes was found guilty for the February 2010 torture murder of Jennifer Daugherty, a 30-year-old mentally challenged woman from Mt. Pleasant.

District Attorney John Peck said Smyrnes was the catalyst who led a group of six roommates to turn on Daugherty in their Greensburg apartment. Prosecutors said Daugherty was kidnapped and held against her will as they beat her, tied her up and tortured her. Her body, bound in Christmas lights and garland, was put in a garbage can and left in a parking lot on North Main Street in Greensburg.

Peck told jurors that Smyrnes should be put to death because he helped to torture Daugherty and because he has an extensive criminal history marked by violence.

That includes two convictions in juvenile court when he was just 11.

Jurors heard evidence from his former classmate at Stewartsville Elementary School in North Huntingdon, who said she was sexually assaulted by Smyrnes in June 1997. The woman looked down, repeatedly rubbed her arms and sobbed as she described how Smyrnes forced himself upon her and then held a needle to her neck and threatened her.

“He said he was going to ... kill me,” she testified.

According to court records, Smyrnes was adjudicated delinquent for one felony count of aggravated indecent assault.

The prosecution said that in 1997, Smyrnes was convicted of burglarizing his neighbors' home and stealing knives, ammunition and guitars.

“There are certainly some killings worse than other killings. There are killers worse than other killers. Let me tell you now, Ricky Smyrnes is one of those killers,” Peck told jurors. “Life in prison is woefully inadequate.”

Defense attorney Terrance Faye in a 45-minute opening statement outlined Smyrnes' deplorable childhood. He was sold into sex by his biological mother and molested by his biological father, Faye said.

He was adopted in 1994 by the Smyrnes family but has never been able to overcome the scars inflicted in early childhood, Faye said.

Smyrnes has been diagnosed with depression, a psychotic disorder and attention deficit disorder. Faye said Smyrnes suffers from hallucinations and hears voices. According to Faye, Smyrnes has multiple personality disorder and has as many as seven personalities with names such as “Baby,” “Lashonda,” “Higher Power” and “Big Guy.”

“Ricky's childhood was total chaos,” Faye said.

Faye asked jurors to consider Smyrnes' intellectual deficiencies as a means to spare his life. Smyrnes' intelligence tests average in the “mild mentally retarded” range, Faye said.

“Mentally retarded people are not killed in the (United States) for their crimes,” Faye said.

Smyrnes was one of seven children who were mistreated by his biological mother and eventually put into foster care. He was adopted after the Smyrnes family saw him featured on a local television news program.

Smyrnes suffered from sexual dysfunction, Faye said. He dressed his stuffed animals in women's clothing, then dated and had sex with them, Faye said.

“An appropriate sentence is life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Faye said.

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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