Greensburg man sentenced to death after he admitted torturing, killing woman
Joy Burkholder, left, receives a hug from her husband, Lance, Thursday after Melvin Knight was sentenced to death for the torture and murder of Jennifer Daugherty at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg. Ms. Burkholder is Jennifer's sister. Heather Smitley, right, hugs Daugherty's mother, Denise Murphy.
Melvin Knight was sentenced to the death penalty for the torture and murder of Jennifer Daugherty.
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A jury has sentenced Melvin Knight to death in the torture killing of a mentally disabled Greensburg woman.
Closing arguments concluded this afternoon in the sentencing phase.
Mr. Knight, 22, was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the death of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty, whose body was found stuffed in a trash can on Feb. 11, 2010. Prosecutors said Mr. Knight and five others tortured the woman for days, forcing pills and feces down her throat and beating her before stabbing her to death.
Today was the ninth day of testimony for Mr. Knight's sentencing hearing, in which a jury weighed whether he would receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole. This morning, Mr. Knight declined to testify during the penalty phase.
In closing arguments, Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck called the case "the worst of the worst and the defendant the worst of the worst."
Mr. Knight's attorney, Jeffrey Miller, urged the jury to consider mitigating circumstances, such as his client's age at the time of the crime -- he was 20 -- and the fact that he was mentally ill and had documented cognitive difficulties. One doctor, he testified, diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.
Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway presided over the sentencing hearing.
Another member of the so-called Greensburg Six, Angela Marinucci, has been convicted and was sentenced to life without parole. She was 17 at the time of the crime and is therefore ineligible for the death penalty.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against two of the four still awaiting trial.
First Published August 30, 2012 12:12 am