A Westmoreland County jury this afternoon convicted Ricky Smyrnes of first-degree murder in the death of Jennifer Daugherty in 2010 and will return Tuesday to decide whether he should be executed.
The jury deliberated about two hours before finding Mr. Smyrnes, the accused ringleader of the so-called "Greensburg Six," guilty on all counts, including second-degree murder, conspiracy and kidnapping in the torture slaying of Ms. Daugherty in a squalid Greensburg apartment.
Ms. Daugherty's parents hugged in the gallery after the verdict was announced but declined comment except to say they were happy with the result.
The fast verdict surprised Mr. Smyrnes' lawyer, Mike DeRiso. "It came back quicker than any of us anticipated," he said.
He thought the jury might come back with a conviction on second-degree murder, he said, but "it is what it is."
The same jury will return to court Tuesday morning to begin the penalty phase in which Mr. Smyrnes' mental capacity and criminal history will be at issue.
Another of his lawyers, Terrance Faye, will try to prove that Mr. Smyrnes is mildly retarded, an argument that Mr. DeRiso made to the jury this week. Under the law, mentally challenged people cannot be executed.
Mr. Peck is expected to present evidence that Mr. Smyrnes knew precisely what he was doing.
During his closing argument to the jury today, Mr. Peck described Mr. Smyrnes as a conniving schemer who incited his five roommates, including his girlfriend, Angela Marinucci, to hold Ms. Daugherty captive for two days while beating and torturing her. Mr. Peck said it was Mr. Smyrnes who held a "family meeting" to take a vote on whether Ms. Daugherty should live or die and then ordered a co-defendant, Melvin Knight, to kill her with a knife.
Mr. Peck said Mr. Smyrnes had deliberately pitted Ms. Daugherty against Ms. Marinucci in a bid for his affections in what amounts to a twisted love triangle.
Ms. Marinucci and the others charged then ganged up on Ms. Daugherty, according to the prosecution, and killed her.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-263-1510.