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 my blog, but I've been having a difficult time not thinking about this brutal, senseless thing.  I'm not the only one, 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 (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, their 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)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It’s beginning to look like the Storm of the Century (& so early in the century, too)


Blogs about snow are boring!  But I feel I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Pittsburgh has just experienced it's fourth largest snowfall in recorded weather history.  It began Friday afternoon as a light snowfall, and by noon on Saturday we were buried under 2 feet of snow.

What makes it worse is that today, "the day after", is the coldest day we've had this year, zero degrees.  Salt is ineffective on the roads, and all you can do with the mountains of snow is push it around.  My car is currently buried in a giant drift--not that I'll be needing it anytime soon, most of the local businesses are shut down.

I've been far luckier than most, though--much of the surrounding areas are still without power (my poor sister Shawn & her family were without electric or heat until late day yesterday).  I lost mine for a couple hours sometime around 2:00am Saturday, but I was in bed & didn't even notice.617D5C2B848A9C67_5413_1


Shawn's husband Jim & my fun niece Sophie had no choice but to build an igloo...

What I've been wondering is... why aren't I enjoying this calamity like these two, safe within my snug & warm little apartment?  I recall (and so does everyone else apparently) the "Saint Patrick's Day Blizzard of '93".  It's difficult to believe that was nearly 17 years ago--it was a Saturday, the day had started out ordinary enough; but that afternoon (as the St. Patty's Parade progressed downtown), we were hit with a major storm that buried the city under two feet of snow within a matter of hours.  We nearly became a joke, as the national news jokingly reported that Pittsburgh was having a parade in the middle of a blizzard. 

I just remember being downright gleeful at the time, watching the event unfurl from the deck of my old apartment, feeling marooned and enjoying every minute of it.  This time around however...all I can think about is the godawful trek I'll be making to the office tomorrow morning and how I'll probably be soaked from the knees down.  Am I becoming one of those crotchety old men?



The day wasn't a total washout-- I made a roasted chuck steak with garlic, carrots & mushrooms, boy it turned out excellent!


I should also be thankful to my friend Julie, who loaned me an assortment of movies before this storm hit and are turning out to be especially handy--and surprising too.  "Moon" (with Sam Rockwell) was such a superior sci-fi picture that as soon as it was over, I went back to the beginning & watched most of it again!  And "This Is It" (a doc about Michael Jackson's comeback tour before his untimely death) was a slick, honest production.  I was impressed.

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Well, before watching (or eating) anything else, I really should go outside & attempt to dig out my car.  Yesterday afternoon I went downstairs to my building's lobby (to see if there was any mail--I know, of all the nerve) and ran into one of my favorite neighbors--Bill Morris, 77 years old and a nicer person you couldn't meet. 

He was just standing there, looking out the lobby's windows with a big grin on his face.  I said "You look pretty happy about something..."  He laughed and said "I sure am, Doug.  I was just thinking I don't have to worry about my car anymore."  When I asked why, he said "My daughter asked me last month to stop driving; I finally had a reason to get rid of it!"