Jury told of victim's torture and Smyrnes' past
Ricky Smyrnes said he was sorry for failing his “true friend,” Jennifer Daugherty, a psychologist testified on Monday in his penalty trial for Daugherty's murder.
Dr. Alice Applegate said Smyrnes expressed remorse during a jailhouse interview in 2011, less than a year after his arrest for Daugherty's fatal stabbing in February 2010.
“Jen got killed. She was also a really wonderful person. I never found a true friend like her. I let her (down),” Smyrnes said, according to Applegate, a forensic psychologist hired by the defense in an attempt to spare him from the death penalty.
Smyrnes, 26, was convicted of first-degree murder for being the mastermind of a group of six roommates who tortured and murdered Daugherty, a 30-year-old mentally challenged woman from Mt. Pleasant.
Smyrnes invited Daugherty to visit their Greensburg apartment, then incited the group to turn on the victim, who was vying with Angela Marinucci for Smyrnes' affection, according to District Attorney John Peck.
The defense contends that Smyrnes should be sentenced to life imprisonment because of his mental and intellectual shortcomings. Applegate said Smyrnes is intellectually deficient, suffers from mental illness and was physically, emotionally and sexually abused as a child.
Smyrnes knew what happened to Daugherty was wrong, Applegate told jurors.
“He said, ‘Why did I let that happen? Why didn't I call the cops?' He said at one point, he just gave up,” Applegate testified.
Smyrnes' problems stem from a horrific early childhood inflicted by his biological parents, a Philadelphia prostitute and a Pittsburgh gang leader, the defense contends.
Smyrnes suffered sexual, mental and physical abuse until he was adopted by the Smyrnes family of North Huntingdon at age 10, Applegate testified.
He was born in Philadelphia to a prostitute who sold her son to be used for sex, the witness said. Smyrnes' biological father, a Crips gang leader in Pittsburgh, molested the boy, and his paternal uncles raped him, she told jurors.
Smyrnes was in and out of treatment and foster placements in early childhood and was diagnosed with 16 disorders, including multiple personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental and emotional deficiencies, Applegate testified.
“One of the things Ricky learned as a child was ... to be helpless in a malicious, malevolent and pernicious family,” Applegate said.
She described Smyrnes as “mildly mentally retarded.” In five of eight IQ tests, Smyrnes' scores fell between 60 and 75.
Peck will question Applegate as she resumes testifying on Tuesday before Judge Rita Hathaway.
Peck contends Smyrnes' criminal record and evidence of the torture inflicted against Daugherty warrant the death penalty.
Dr. Cyril Wecht testified on Monday that Daugherty's wounds were inflicted with the sole objective of causing serious suffering.
While she was held hostage by Smyrnes and his five roommates, Daugherty suffered 24 stab wounds, Wecht testified.
“There is no reason I can fathom for the injuries to be inflicted for any other reason other than to produce deliberate pain,” Wecht testified. “They were designed not to kill, but to inflict pain.”
She died of three fatal stab wounds to the heart that ended more than two days of captivity, according to the prosecution.
Daugherty was tied up, beaten, forced to drink cleaning fluids and feces, raped, drugged and forced to write a suicide note. The others taunted her, cut her hair and poured fingernail polish on her head, according to trial testimony.
Marinucci, 20, of Greensburg is serving life in prison. Peck did not seek the death penalty because she was a teen when she was arrested. Former Swissvale resident Melvin Knight, another roommate, has been sentenced to death. Amber Meidinger has been a key witness in the trials for Marinucci, Smyrnes and Knight, the father of Meidinger's child, a daughter who was born in prison after Daugherty's slaying.
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.
- High school football notebook: State record possible for South Fayette QB
- Jobs on state website include ‘private party dancing,’ ‘car dates’
- Steelers notebook: Mitchell aware of need to reduce penalties
- Girl missing for 12 years rescued in Mexico; mother arrested
- White woman sues sperm bank for giving her donation from black man
- Pirates notebook: Nutting says team may ‘stretch’ for Martin
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office seeks halt to sheriff’s sale of Conneaut Lake Park
- VIA Festival in Pittsburgh stays on cutting-edge for music, visual/video art
- Consol Energy cutting retiree health benefits, phasing out pension
- Sloppy Dogzz? Yeah, but the taste is what matters in Lower Burrell
- Steelers’ Tomlin does not like his coaching style to be characterized