Jury seated in torture, killing of mentally challenged woman
In two weeks, a jury of seven men and five women will begin hearing evidence in the capital murder trial of a man prosecutors contend was the ringleader of a group of six roommates who tortured and killed a mentally disabled woman.
Jury selection was completed Thursday when attorneys chose four alternates for the panel. Testimony in the case against Ricky Smyrnes is scheduled to begin Feb. 4.
Prosecutors contend Smyrnes, 26, formerly of Irwin and McKeesport, was the man in charge as 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty was held captive for more than two days at a Greensburg apartment.
While in Smyrnes' custody, Daugherty was beaten, drugged, raped, humiliated and forced to drink concoctions of bodily fluids and cleaning products, according to the prosecution.
Testimony from previous trials revealed that she was stabbed in the heart then bound with Christmas lights and garland, stuffed into a trash bin and left under a parked truck in a snow-covered parking lot at Greensburg Salem Middle School.
Two of Smyrnes' co-defendants already have been convicted of first-degree murder.
Melvin Knight, 22, formerly of Swissvale, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to death.
Angela Marinucci, 20, of Greensburg was ineligible for the death penalty and is serving a life prison sentence.
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty against 23-year-old Amber Meidinger of Greensburg if she is convicted of first-degree murder. Meidinger testified against Knight and Marinucci and is expected to testify against Smyrnes.
Peggy Miller, 29, and Robert Masters, 39, have cooperated with prosecutors and are expected to plead guilty to lesser charges.
Smyrnes' defense team is expected to argue that he is retarded and that his mental deficiency prevents jurors from finding him guilty of first-degree murder and exempts him from the death penalty.
During the four days of jury selection, attorneys asked 268 prospective jurors their opinions about the death penalty and about mental retardation.
Several of the jurors selected for the case said they had relatives with mental disabilities or worked with people who faced mental challenges.
Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway told jurors the trial is expected to last about four weeks.
The long trial resulted in the judge asking that four alternate jurors be selected.
Selected Thursday were two men and two women to serve as alternates.
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.
- Family of man accused of shooting St. Clair officer say allegations don’t fit his character
- 40 years later, siblings of South Greensburg girl who disappeared still seek closure
- French and Indian War re-enactor Wilson commits to pioneer lifestyle in Murrysville cabin
- Drones hover at top of holiday wish lists
- Greensburg streetlights to be updated, save city $90K
- Family collecting donations for Salem man seriously injured in deer stand fall
- Jeannette trudges through blight
- Contractor eyes early finish to work on New Stanton interchange of Interstate 70
- Western Pa. students bristle at changing menu choices
- $2,000 donated for abused puppies recovering at South Huntingdon shelter
- School lunch group hopes to revise rules it calls impractical, too restrictive