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Melvin Knight's new penalty phase trial set for his role in Mt. Pleasant woman's torture, murder

Rich Cholodofsky
| Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, 12:12 p.m.
Melvin Knight is escorted from the  Westmoreland County Courthouse on Aug. 31, 2012, after being sentenced to death for the murder of Jennifer Daugherty.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Melvin Knight is escorted from the Westmoreland County Courthouse on Aug. 31, 2012, after being sentenced to death for the murder of Jennifer Daugherty.
Melvin Knight
Melvin Knight

The penalty phase trial of a former Swissvale man convicted of the 2010 torture murder of a mentally challenged Mt. Pleasant woman will begin in June.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rita Hathaway on Monday said jury selection in the case against Melvin Knight will start on June 6. Testimony in the trial will begin June 18 and is expected to take about a week, Hathaway said.

Jurors will decide if Knight, 28, is sentenced to death or will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Knight pleaded guilty in 2012 to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing Jennifer Daugherty.

The 30-year-old woman was held captive in a Greensburg apartment by Knight and five others before she was stabbed to death, prosecutors said.

During her captivity, Daugherty was tortured, beaten and possibly raped, according to testimony at Knight's first trial. Her body was bound in Christmas lights and garland, stuffed into a trash can and dumped under a truck in the Greensburg Salem Middle School parking lot, police said.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year overturned Knight's death sentence and ordered a new penalty phase trial.

Hathaway said Monday that she will convene a hearing in May to rule on several outstanding pretrial issues.

The defense wants the judge to bar several autopsy photographs from evidence as well reports and video that allege Knight was a discipline problem while awaiting trial at Westmoreland County Prison.

In all, three men and three women were convicted of Daugherty's murder, including Ricky Smyrnes, 31, formerly of North Huntingdon, who also was sentenced to death.

Smyrnes is appealing his death sentence.

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