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Attorney wants lesser term for woman in Greensburg torture death

- Westmoreland County Prison provided photo of suspect Angela Marinucci
Westmoreland County Prison provided photo of suspect Angela Marinucci
- Jennifer Daugherty
Jennifer Daugherty

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Sunday, April 20, 2014, 10:39 p.m.
 

The attorney for Angela Marinucci, one of six people convicted in the 2010 torture slaying of a mentally challenged woman in a Greensburg apartment, said his client has earned consideration for a lesser sentence.

Marinucci, 21, is serving a life sentence in prison without parole.

But she will return to the Westmoreland County Courthouse this year for a new sentencing hearing.

Federal and state appellate courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional to automatically impose mandatory life sentences on juveniles.

That cleared the way for Marinucci to seek a new sentence, because the former Greensburg Salem Senior High student was 17 when she instigated the torture of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, of Mt. Pleasant. A jury convicted her of first-degree murder.

Daugherty had come to Greensburg for an overnight visit with six people sharing an apartment, including Marinucci. But the teen was jealous of Daugherty's relationship with Marinucci's boyfriend, Ricky Smyrnes, who led the roommates in torturing Daugherty until she was stabbed by Smyrnes and Melvin Knight.

In March, the state Supreme Court denied Marinucci's latest appeal.

Her second sentencing hearing will be scheduled before Judge Rita Hathaway.

Last week, defenseattorney Mike DeMatt asked that Marinucci be given the opportunity to secure a new pre-sentence investigation prior to her next court appearance. Such an investigation reports on a defendant's background for consideration by the sentencing judge.

Marinucci “has been participating in different programs while in prison, and she's making the best of her situation and trying to be as productive as she can,” DeMatt said.

He said Marinucci refused to participate in the first pre-sentence investigation following her conviction in 2011.

“Her situation has changed,” DeMatt said in court documents.

DeMatt argues that Marinucci deserves consideration for a lesser sentence because of her involvement in undisclosed treatment programs while in prison.

“She's already showing the potential and that she's making the best of a bad situation for her,” DeMatt said.

The argument does not sway District Attorney John Peck.

“At this time it is the position of the district attorney's office to seek a life sentence because of the horrible nature of the crime and that Marinucci was an integral part in bringing about the crime,” Peck said. “It's very arguable that had Marinucci not been involved, Jennifer would not have been killed.”

Jurors concluded Marinucci conspired with the five others in the apartment as they held Daugherty captive for more than two days. They humiliated her, beat her and tortured her by forcing her to drink concoctions of bodily fluids, cleaning supplies and spices. They cut her hair, dumped nail polish on her and took money from her purse, according to trial testimony.

Smyrnes and Knight took turns stabbing her, according to trial testimony. They bound her body with strings of Christmas lights and garland, stuffed it into a plastic trash can and then dragged the can through the snow to dump it in the parking lot of Greensburg Salem Middle School.

Prosecutors said Marinucci, jealous that Daugherty was romantically interested in Smyrnes, lured her to the Greensburg apartment and set in motion the violence that ultimately led to the murder.

Smyrnes, 27, formerly of North Huntingdon and McKeesport, and Melvin Knight, 23, formerly of Swissvale, have been sentenced to death.

Knight's former fiancee and the mother of his child, Amber Meidinger, 24, of Greensburg, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of third-degree murder and was sentenced to 40 to 80 years in prison.

Meidinger was the key prosecution witnesses against Marinucci, Smyrnes and Knight.

Last month, Peggy Miller, 31, was sentenced to serve 35 to 74 years in prison, and Robert Masters, 40, was ordered to serve 30 to 70 years in prison. Both pleaded guilty to third-degree murder late last year.

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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