Pa. teen minimizes role in woman's torture slaying

AP News
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Posted: May 17, 2011 6:08 PM
Pa. teen minimizes role in woman's torture slaying

A western Pennsylvania teen accused of instigating the torture and slaying of a mentally disabled woman she claimed was her friend minimized her role in the carnage and denied a relationship with a co-defendant, undercutting prosecutors' contention that her jealous rage fueled the plot.

Angela Marinucci, 18, of Greensburg, testified for three hours Tuesday in her first-degree murder trial in the February 2010 slaying of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty. She is scheduled to return to the stand Wednesday for cross-examination.

Early in her testimony, Marinucci told the court how she met five other people who were living in the apartment 30 miles east of Pittsburgh where Daugherty was allegedly tortured over about 36 hours and killed. All faces charges in Daugherty's death. Marinucci is the first, and youngest, of the defendants to go on trial and cannot face the death penalty because she was just 17 when the killing occurred.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck contends Marinucci goaded the others into torturing and killing Daugherty because she was jealous the woman was also seeing co-defendant Ricky Smyrnes. Smyrnes, 25, is one of three defendants against whom Peck will seek the death penalty when Smyrnes stands trial later this year.

But Marinucci testified that she had another boyfriend at the time and had dated Smyrnes for only about a month in 2008 until she "found out he had a wife and two kids and had one on the way."

Other witnesses previously testified that Marinucci already had a grudge against Daugherty when she allegedly helped lure the victim to the apartment where she was picked on, humiliated and eventually tortured. Marinucci acknowledged being on the outs with Daugherty when she arrived on a bus for a visit, but said she couldn't recall what fueled it _ one of few details Marinucci claimed to not remember.

"We gave each other a hug and said we were cool," Marinucci said about meeting Daugherty on Feb. 8, 2010.

By the next night, however, Marinucci acknowledged arguing with Daugherty and hitting her five or six times, after Smyrnes told her about a disparaging remark Daugherty allegedly made about Marinucci's family. Marinucci said she apologized for that attack, though it didn't stop her from hitting Daugherty again the next night, Feb. 10, over another perceived slight.

Peck contends that abuse _ and most everything else Daugherty endured_ resulted from Marinucci's jealousy. But to hear Marinucci tell it, her attacks on Daugherty were somehow separate from the increasingly violent acts perpetrated against Daugherty, whose family described her as a trusting, naive woman with the mentality of a young teen.

Peck alleges the group beat Daugherty with a towel rack, crutch and a plastic vacuum cleaner attachment, then forced her to drink a vile concoction of human waste, prescription drugs and laundry bleach. When that didn't kill her, authorities said, Daugherty was stabbed repeatedly in the chest and choked with a string of Christmas lights later used to bind her mangled corpse.

Another defendant, Amber Meidinger, 21, testified that Marinucci's urine was blended into the concoction. Marinucci said she urinated in a cup because the bathroom was occupied but didn't knowingly contribute to the mixture.

Prosecutors claim the six suspects held what Smyrnes dubbed "family meetings" at which they voted unanimously to kill Daugherty, but Marinucci denied saying the woman should die.

"I just sat there quiet. I thought there was a different way to handle it," she testified.

When asked why she didn't speak up in Daugherty's defense, Marinucci claimed she was scared of Smyrnes and another defendant, Meidinger's boyfriend, Melvin Knight, 21. Peck has said he'll pursue the death penalty against that trio but not another couple who lived at the apartment _ Peggy Miller, 28, and Robert Masters, 38 _ who are accused of playing a lesser role in the grisly events.

Marinucci contends she spent much of the time in a bedroom with Miller and Masters while, she claimed, Smyrnes and Knight inflicted most of the injuries and, eventually, killed Daugherty when Smyrnes gave Knight a knife used to stab the woman. Meidinger testified last week that Smyrnes and Knight then worked together to choke what little life remained in Daugherty by pulling the ends of on a set of Christmas lights wrapped around her neck.

Marinucci lost her composure just once, sobbing and turning red just before testifying about overhearing Smyrnes and Knight talking to the dying woman in the bathroom.

"They were talking to Jen," Marinucci said. "They asked her why she wouldn't die."

Marinucci ended her testimony by expressing remorse, even as she primarily blamed the others for the crime.

"Yes I do" have remorse, she told her attorney, Michael DeMatt. "Because I have nightmares of what happened and I cry in my cell every night for what happened to her and what I have done to her.

"And because I couldn't stop it."