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Man who got shortest sentence in mentally disabled Pa. woman's torture murder files appeal

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GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania — A man who received the shortest sentence among six people in the torture killing of a mentally disabled Pennsylvania woman appealed the term.

Robert Masters, 40, filed a handwritten appeal in Westmoreland County Court asking that he be allowed to rescind his guilty plea or receive a lesser sentence, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (http://bit.ly/1tZct8J ) reported Friday.

Masters was sentenced to 30 to 70 years in the 2010 death of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, who was tortured over two days and then killed in Greensburg, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Masters said his mental impairment prevented him from making a thoughtful decision in pleading guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy. He also contends his sentence violated the federal and state constitutions and that the judge failed to consider that he was afraid to intervene on Daugherty's behalf because he feared for his own life.

Masters' girlfriend, Peggy Miller, also pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy and was sentenced to 35 to 74 years. Both were accused of having failed to help Daugherty while others abused and killed her. Amber Meidinger, who testified against three other defendants, also pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and was sentenced to 40 to 80 years in prison.

Before she died, Daugherty was beaten, had her hair cut, had her purse looted and was forced to drink a vile mixture of human waste, cleaning fluids and prescription drugs, which Ricky Smyrnes and the others hoped would kill her. When she vomited and survived, the six voted to kill her, and Melvin Knight stabbed Daugherty at Smyrnes' request, then choked her with a strand of Christmas lights with Smyrnes' help, Meidinger testified.

Daugherty's body was found wrapped in plastic and stuffed into a garbage can wedged beneath a truck parked at a school after Knight and Smyrnes dragged the container several blocks across town during a snowstorm, authorities said.

Co-defendant Angela Marinucci was sentenced to life in prison. Knight and Smyrnes were sentenced to death.


Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, http://pghtrib.com

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