GREENSBURG, Pa. – A teen accused of instigating the torture and slaying of a mentally disabled woman denied dating a co-defendant at the time of the killing, undercutting prosecutors' contention that her jealous rage fueled the plot.
Angela Marinucci, 18, took the stand Tuesday in her first-degree murder trial in the February 2010 slaying of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty.
Early in her testimony, Marinucci told the court how she met five other people who also face charges in the Daugherty's death. Marinucci is the first, and youngest, of the defendants to go on trial and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Prosecutors contend Marinucci goaded the others into torturing and killing Daugherty because she was jealous the woman was also seeing co-defendant Ricky Smyrnes, 25. But Marinucci told the court Tuesday that she hadn't dated Smyrnes for more than a year by the time of Daugherty's death.
Marinucci said she dated Smyrnes for about a month in 2008 and stopped when "I found out he had a wife and two kids and had one on the way."
District Attorney John Peck contends Marinucci helped lure Daugherty to the apartment where she was picked on, humiliated and eventually tortured.
Prosecutors claim the six suspects held 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, Melvin Knight.
Investigators allege that members of the group beat Daugherty in the head with a towel rack and 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.
Peck told jurors that Marinucci instigated the attack, even though she didn't participate directly in much of it, because she was jealous that Daugherty claimed to be pregnant by Smyrnes.
Peck plans to pursue the death penalty against Smyrnes; Knight, 21; and Amber Meidinger, 21, when they're tried later this year.
Another couple who lived at the apartment — Peggy Miller, 28, and Robert Masters, 38 — are awaiting trial on murder and related charges but aren't facing the death penalty, because Peck has said they played a lesser role in the grisly events.
Earlier Tuesday, Marinucci's mother testified she hadn't seen her then-17-year-old daughter much in the days preceding Daugherty's death. Jeannie Green told the court Marinucci appeared troubled when she and another defendant dropped by for a brief visit on Feb. 10, 2010.
By that time, prosecutors contend, Daugherty was being held against her will in a Greensburg apartment where she would be murdered a few hours later.
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