GREENSBURG, Pa. - A day after a judge rejected a mental infirmity defense in the guilt phase of the ongoing trial of a man charged in the torture killing of a mentally disabled Greensburg woman, Ricky Smyrnes blamed the slaying on two of his roommates.
A Westmoreland County jury listened Tuesday to a 62-minute taped statement Smyrnes gave to police.
The tape was played in the seventh day of testimony presented by prosecutors against Smyrnes, 26, formerly of Irwin and McKeesport. They are seeking a first-degree murder conviction and the death penalty against Smyrnes, accused of leading a gang of roommates in a Greensburg apartment to kill the victim after torturing for more than two days in February 2010.
On the tape, Smyrnes told police that the victim, Jennifer Daugherty, 30, was “making people angry” after Smyrnes rejected her sexual overtures.
“She wanted to be with me, but I told her I couldn't be with her,” Smyrnes said on the evening of Feb. 11, 2010.
Daugherty's body was found early that morning. It had been stuffed in a garbage can that was left in the Greensburg Salem Middle School parking lot.
Smyrnes told police Melvin Knight, 23, and Amber Meidinger, 23, were the main culprits in the beating, torture and murder of Daugherty.
Smyrnes said he feared Knight, who had drugged Smyrnes.
“My anger is not made for that, to hurt people,” Smyrnes told investigators.
He admitted to slicing Daugherty's wrist and helping to move her body, but claimed he was afraid and was threatened by Knight. Prosecutors allege Smyrnes ordered Daugherty's death. In the tape, Smyrnes admits to sleeping with Daugherty a few days before her death. That upset his girlfriend, Angela Marinucci, 20, he said.
At the end of the interview, Smyrnes laughed when he told investigators that a “sucker bite” on his neck came from Marinucci.
Two caseworkers testified that Smyrnes was accompanied by Marinucci during appointments before and after Daugherty's death.
Former Westmoreland Children's Bureau caseworker Jodi Wiltenbaugh testified that the pair was “light-hearted” and giggling during a Feb. 8, 2010 session, when she suggested Smyrnes visit Westmoreland Case Management Inc.
At about 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 11, 2010, Smyrnes and Marinucci met with Nathan Ford, who was employed as a caseworker at Westmoreland Case Management at that time. Ford testified that he helped Smyrnes fill out paperwork and took him to get a money order to purchase a photo identification so Smyrnes could cash a check to pay his rent.
Judge Rita Hathaway had hoped to have closing arguments Tuesday afternoon, but the defense may decide to recall Detective Adam Jack to the stand to enter photos and a notebook into evidence. Jack testified for the prosecution last week.
Defense attorney Michael DeRiso said Jack would not be available until Wednesday morning.
Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.