Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Pack of Wolves & the taking of Jennifer Daugherty

pack of wolves

 

Earlier this week on the local news, the body of a young woman was found in the parking lot of Greensburg Salem Middle School, approximately 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.  The victim had been bound with Christmas lights and pieces of clothing; her head was shaved & her face painted with nail polish.  She had stab wounds in the chest, neck & head.

The police soon discovered the victims identity:  Jennifer Daugherty of Mt. Pleasant, who had been reported missing since Tuesday.  Jenny was 30 years old & mentally challenged, having the mental abilities of an adolescent.  She often took a bus to Greensburg (10 miles away) for dental & counseling appointments, and Monday afternoon had called home, asking permission to spend the night in Greensburg with Peggy, a recent friend she'd made.  She was not heard from again. 

Some quick investigative leads turned up Peggy, and the police soon learned she was one of six people that had befriended Jennifer & taken part in a 36 hour torture session.  They forced her to swallow concoctions of oil, detergent & urine, while repeatedly beating her with a wooden crutch & vacuum cleaner hose.  Knight & Smyrnes then confessed to stabbing her to death.

Suspects in Jennifer's murder 

Robert Masters, Melvin Knight, Ricky Ven Smyrnes; Bottom L-R, Amber Meidinger, Angela Marinucci and Peggy Miller.

 

The defendants have all admitted to taking part in the crime, and they're currently being held in the Westmoreland County Jail without bail.  The DA is undecided whether he'll be asking for the death penalty.  A memorial service is being held for Jenny today.

All of this in one week.  

I normally don't like to share specific news events on the teepee, but to be honest I've been having a difficult time not thinking about this brutal, senseless thing.  (I'm not the only one; early yesterday a dedication page was established on Facebook for Jennifer, and now contains hundreds of comments--some angry, most sad.  People expressing their condolences, or looking for answers.)

When I was in school, I did some volunteer work at a special needs facility for children; they all went out of their way to befriend me it seemed (and one in particular, a girl named Linda with Down Syndrome who I remained close to for years.)  When I asked why I was being treated like a celebrity, the instructor told me that challenged people had a very strong need to fit in with the rest of society & be seen as equals, and considered every friendship made a real victory.  They took nothing (rather, no one) for granted.

Jennifer Daugherty had a MySpace page with her favorite music & pictures of family.  She considered herself a good aunt, and her final words there are sadly ironic:  "This is my time to make a new start for myself, and making some new friends and not being afraid of anything, so this is going to be a good thing for me."

Rest in peace, JennyMusic by James Galway - "Suo Gan" (Lullaby)

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