Greensburg torture, slaying suspect surprisingly pleads guilty, faces death penalty

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GREENSBURG, Pa. - A man accused of being involved in torturing and killing a Greensburg woman in February 2010 pleaded guilty to first-and-second-degree murder charges on Thursday.

Channel 11's Courtney Brennan reported that Melvin Knight now faces the possibility of the death penalty in the killing of Jennifer Daugherty.

Knight was in court on Thursday and took the stand. Brennan was there when Knight told the judge, "It's the right thing to do because I have to fess up to what I did." Brennan reported that after the judge repeatedly told Knight what pleaded guilty entailed, he agreed and said he was sorry.

The penalty phase of his trial will begin in August. A jury will decide if Knight will get the death penalty or life in prison.

Daugherty’s sister, Joy Burkeholder, said Knight’s apology isn’t enough.

“He should die. He should be put to death because I believe in ‘an eye for an eye,’” Burkeholder said. “It’s completely insulting to my sister’s memory.”

Daugherty's bound and tortured body was found in a garbage can in the Greensburg-Salem Middle School parking lot on Feb. 11, 2010.

A taped interview with Knight was played in previous court hearings. In the tape, Knight told officers that the incident began when two of the suspects became upset with Daugherty, who had been sleeping with Ricky Smyrnes, 25.

Knight then detailed how the defendants forced Daugherty to drink urine and feces before using garland and holiday lights to bind her. According to Knight, Smyrnes then told him to get a knife.

According to police, Daugherty's body was found with her hair either cut or shaven off. She was bound with holiday lights and clothing in a black plastic garbage bag stuffed inside a residential rubber garbage can, which was rolled underneath a truck.

Last year, Angela Marinucci was convicted of murder in the case. The murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Marinucci could not face the death penalty because she was 17 at the time of the killing.

District Attorney John Peck said Marinucci instigated the 36-hour ordeal in a dingy apartment in Greensburg that was shared by five other defendants, including Knight.

Peck charges they beat Daugherty with a vacuum hose, a crutch and a towel rack -- as well as their fists -- and forced her to undress while pouring water, oatmeal and spices on her -- including onion powder thrown in her eyes. She was then forced to drink a cocktail of human waste, laundry bleach and prescription drugs, which the defendants reportedly thought would kill her.

When it didn't, Peck said she was stabbed by Knight, 22, apparently on orders from Smyrnes, the alleged focus of the deadly romantic rivalry.

Peck is pursuing the death penalty against both as well as Knight's girlfriend, Amber Meidinger, 21, who testified against Marinucci and acknowledged mixing and forcing Daugherty to drink the concoction.

Peggy Darlene Miller and Robert Loren Masters also facing charges in the case.

 


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