Daugherty's friend says suspect confessed to murder

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GREENSBURG, Pa. - After Laura Piper visited her boyfriend in Jeannette on Feb. 11, 2010, she was shocked to learn some news from two acquaintances in Greensburg, she testified Monday.

“Angela (Marinucci) and Ricky (Smyrnes) ... told me they killed somebody,” Piper, 21, of Greensburg, told a Westmoreland County jury Monday. “He told me that he wrapped her in plastic and put her out by the middle school. I was shocked and I didn’t want to believe him.”

Piper's testimony came on the sixth day of trial for Smyrnes, 26, who is accused in the torture murder of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, of Mt. Pleasant.

“I want justice for her family. It wasn’t right what they did to her,” Piper said.

Piper testified that she was friends with Daugherty, who was mentally challenged.

“She was a really good friend of mine. We pretty much did anything together,” Piper said.

Her body, bound with Christmas lights and garland, was wrapped in two plastic garbage bags, placed in a garbage can and left in the parking lot of Greensburg Salem Middle School on Main Street, police witnesses said last week.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Smyrnes, who is accused of leading a gang of six roommates in a North Pennsylvania Avenue apartment to torture and fatally stab Daugherty after he set up Marinucci, who was then 17, and Daugherty in a war over his affections, witnesses have testified.

The suspects beat Daugherty, poured spices and red nail polish on her head, cut her hair, forced her to drink cleaning fluids and bodily fluids, and subjected her to other torture, roommate Amber Meidinger, 23, of Greensburg testified.

Andrew Smith, 26, of Greensburg, testified Monday that he was enlisted by a friend to drive Smyrnes to cash a check on Feb. 10, 2010. He described Smyrnes as an acquaintance.

Smith said he picked Smyrnes up at a house on Pennsylvania Avenue and later returned to pick up Melvin Knight, another roommate.

The group visited two Greensburg banks in an attempt to cash Smyrnes' check. While traveling in a rear passenger seat, Smyrnes received a phone call.

Smith testified that Smyrnes said, “She's done for, whenever I get back. We're getting rid of her.”

After the call, Smith said, Smyrnes commented that Daugherty was “getting on everybody's nerves at the house ... and that they just wanted her to be done with.”

Smith testified that he knew Smyrnes was referring to Daugherty, but didn't know what he meant.

Upon dropping Smyrnes and Knight off, “I heard something that sounded like screaming coming from the house,” Smith testified.

He questioned Smyrnes about it.

“(Smyrnes) said it's probably just some people fighting,” Smith testified.

Knight, 23, formerly of Swissvale, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death by a jury. Marinucci is serving a sentence of life in prison. District Attorney John Peck did not seek the death penalty against Marinucci, 20, a former Greensburg resident, due to her age.

Peck has filed notice he will seek the death penalty against Meidinger, who has testified against her co-defendants with no plea deal in place.

 

Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.