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Greensburg torture killer Melvin Knight again appeals sentence

Rich Cholodofsky
| Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Melvin Knight
Melvin Knight

The attorneys for a convicted killer on death row for the February 2012 torture and slaying of a mentally disabled woman in Greensburg filed an appeal on Friday with state Superior Court.

In the appeal, attorneys for Melvin Knight identified 18 areas of the case in which they claim Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway erred during a two-week sentencing hearing and a subsequent appeal.

Knight, 24, formerly of Swissvale, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. He was one of six roommates convicted of holding 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty of Mt. Pleasant captive for more than two days in an apartment, during which time they tortured her, then stabbed her to death.

According to trial testimony, Knight stabbed Daugherty in the heart.

Knight appealed the death sentence on several grounds, including an allegation that Hathaway failed to swear in jurors at the start of the sentencing phase of the trial, which was held once Knight entered the guilty plea.

Hathaway ruled this summer that a court reporter's transcript, which failed to show that jurors were sworn in, was in error. The judge ordered that the official court record be amended to show the oath was administered.

Defense attorneys Jeffrey Miller and James Geibig claim Hathaway was wrong to do so.

“The court's opinion and order issued Aug. 14, 2014, contain reference to facts not within the record of the proceedings,” the attorneys claim.

Knight, along with Ricky Smyrnes, 28, formerly of Irwin and McKeesport, were sentenced to death for Daugherty's death.

Four accomplices have been convicted and are serving maximum sentences that range from 70 years to life in prison.

Another sentencing hearing must be held for Angela Marinucci, a former Greensburg Salem student who was 17 at the time of Daugherty's murder. She had been sentenced to life in prison when a jury convicted her of first-degree murder.

Marinucci turned the group against Daugherty because she was perceived as a threat to Marinucci for the affection of Smyrnes, accomplice Amber Meidinger testified. She said that the group took a vote on whether Daugherty should live or die.

Daugherty was beaten and forced to drink concoctions of bodily fluids and liquid cleaners. Her captors cut her hair, dumped nail polish on her, hit her with a towel rack and stole her money, according to trial testimony.

Daugherty's body was bound with Christmas lights and garland, stuffed into a plastic trash can and left under a truck parked at Greensburg Salem Middle School.

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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