Jury told of victim's torture and Smyrnes' past

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GREENSBURG, Pa. —

Jennifer Daugherty's wounds were inflicted with the sole objective of causing serious suffering, Dr. Cyril Wecht testified.

While she was held hostage by six people, she suffered 24 different stab wounds, he told a Westmoreland County jury considering the fate of Ricky Smyrnes, 26.

Smyrnes led the attack against Daugherty in a Greensburg apartment in February 2010 and deserves to put to death, District Attorney John Peck told jurors.

Defense attorneys argued that Smyrnes life should be spared because he is intellectually deficient and mentally ill after a horrific early childhood inflicted by his biological parents, a Philadelphia prostitute and a Pittsburgh gang leader.

Peck called Wecht to the stand in the third day of testimony in Smyrnes penalty trial to describe the torture endured by Daugherty, 30, a mentally challenged woman who thought she was going to the apartment for an overnight visit with friends.

Smyrnes turned the group against her because she was competing for his affection with another roommate, Peck told jurors.

Wecht said the totality of her injuries told of her torture.

“There is no reason I can fathom for the injuries to be inflicted for any other reason other than to produce deliberate pain,” Wecht testified. “They were designed not to kill but to inflict pain.”

She died of three fatal stab wounds to the heart that ended untold hours of torture over more than two days. Her body was found in a garbage can on Feb. 11, 2010, after the six suspects tied her up, beat her, forced her to drink cleaning fluids and feces, cut her hair and tormented her, according to testimony

Peck said the torture of the victim is an aggravating circumstance that merits the death penalty.

The defense contends there is mitigating evidence to spare Smyrnes and sentence him to life in prison without parole.

Dr. Alice Applegate, a forensic psychologist testified that Smyrnes suffered sexual, mental and physical abuse until he was adopted by the Smyrnes family of North Huntingdon at age 10.

He was born in Philadelphia to a prostitute who sold her son to be used for sex, the witness said. His biological father, a Crips gang leader in Pittsburgh, molested the boy, Applegate said.

Smyrnes was in and out of treatment and foster placements in early childhood and was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, depression and mental and emotional disorders.

“One of the things Ricky learned as a child was ... to be helpless in a malicious, malevolent and pernicious family,” Applegate testified.


This article was written by Channel 11's news exchange parnters at TribLIVE.