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Sentence too long, Greensburg torture killer says

| Thursday, July 17, 2014, 10:57 p.m.
submitted
Robert L. Masters Jr.

The man who received the shortest sentence among six roommates convicted of torturing and killing a mentally challenged woman claims his prison term is too long.

In a handwritten appeal filed in Westmoreland County, Robert Masters, 40, contends his own mental handicap prevented him from making a thoughtful decision to plead guilty to the 2010 murder of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty of Mt. Pleasant.

Masters was sentenced in February by Judge Rita Hathaway to serve 30 to 70 years in prison.

In his appeal, Masters said he wants to rescind his guilty plea or be resentenced to a lesser prison term.

“Defendant's impaired intellectual ability compounded by mental health issues, both of which made it impossible for defendant to cooperate in a meaningful manner with counsel to make a knowing and voluntary waiver of the rights of the accused,” Masters wrote.

He contends his sentence violated the federal and state constitutions and that Hathaway failed to consider that he was afraid to intervene on Daugherty's behalf out of fear for his life.

Masters was one of six Greensburg roommates convicted of the torture slaying of Daugherty. During the three days the group held the woman captive, they humiliated her, beat her and tortured her before she was stabbed to death, prosecutors said.

Masters and his girlfriend, Peggy Miller, 31, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of third-degree murder. Prosecutors said they voted to kill Daugherty and didn't help her when she was left alone with them.

Months after his arrest, Masters testified against the others during a pretrial hearing.

His 30-year minimum sentence was the shortest imposed by Hathaway.

• Co-defendants Melvin Knight and Ricky Smyrnes are on death row.

• Angela Marinucci, now 22, received a life sentence.

• Amber Meidinger, who testified against Smyrnes, Knight and Marinucci, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and was sentenced to 40 to 80 years in prison.

• Miller, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced on the same day as Masters, was ordered to spend 35 to 74 years in prison.

In his appeal, Masters contends he was poorly represented by attorney William Gallishen.

Hathaway has appointed attorney Jim Silvis to represent him in the appeal.

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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