Adoptive mother of convicted killer talks about his difficult childhood

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Convicted killer Ricky Smyrnes' adoptive mother told a jury today that she realized early on that he would be a challenge, but she was a trained nurse with a structured, stable home and felt she could handle him.

"I thought love could conquer all," said Audrey Smyrnes, 63, retired from UPMC Presbyterian after 40 years as a registered nurse. "I knew he was going to take a lot of patience and love and I thought I could do it all."

She couldn't.

From the time she adopted Ricky at age 10, she and her late husband struggled to deal with his outbursts, inability to learn and emotional disorders. After he left home at 18 and was on his own, she feared he was destined for a bad end.

"I knew deep in my heart something was going to happen," she said, "but I thought it would happen to him. I thought he would be the one who would be killed."

Instead, prosecutors say, he led a pack of five roommates in the torture and killing of Jennifer Daugherty in a Greensburg apartment in February 2010.

Now the district attorney wants him executed, and Ms. Smyrnes took the stand for the defense to spare him that fate in favor of life in prison.

The jury is expected to be begin deliberating Thursday.

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