Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Missing Jennifer...

The family has made it through another holiday without Jennifer here. It's been almost 2 years and it's bizarre how it still doesn't feel completely real that she is gone. I keep expecting to get a phone call from her saying, "What are you doing today?" I miss her voice, which time has faded from my memory too much. I remember that when she spoke, it was sort of sing-song like Alice from Twilight, but I wish I could hear it just once more.

I have to admit that I was very disappointed that the next trial has been postponed until April. Life right now is a series of checkpoints for us. We are just trying to make it to the next one, and when things are changed it's extremely disappointing. I know in the long run, it's better for the lawyers to be prepared; we certainly don't want to deal with anymore appeals than we have to. Five more trials at this point really puts a strain on trying to live a normal life.

I'm so lucky to have the friends in my life that I do. They love, support, adapt and carry me through this all. I've changed a lot and I've lost some friends along the way. This is hard to deal with and I appreciate the time that they invested in me. I'm sorry for the friendships lost but I valued them deeply. I appreciate even more the ones that are still here. So many people say, "You are so strong...you're amazing...you represent your family so well." The truth is I die inside sometimes a thousand times a day in silence. I have children to care for and responsibilities. I have one friend who is very dear to me. She's the one that says, "Please cry. I need you to, so I know you're okay. You have to cry with me, please." That day was the start of healing for me. Friends like this should have monuments or holidays dedicated to them or impressive titles. The best I can come up with is "Angels". You know who you are...thank you. xxxooo

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prosecutors offered deal to one of six charged in Daugherty killing

This was in todays Tribune Review:

Westmoreland County prosecutors were willing to let one of the six defendants charged with the torture slaying of a mentally handicapped woman plead guilty to a lesser charge.
District Attorney John Peck offered to drop a first-degree murder charge against Robert Masters if he agreed to testify truthfully against the other five suspects in the February 2010 stabbing death of Jennifer Daugherty, 30, of Mt. Pleasant, he said in a Oct. 29, 2010, letter.
Masters, 37, was charged in the slaying with Ricky Smyrnes, 25; Melvin Knight, 22; Amber Meidinger, 21; Peggy Miller, 28; and Angela Marinucci, 19. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Meidinger, Smyrnes and Knight.
Police said Daugherty was held captive for more than two days in a Greensburg apartment shared by the defendants. She was tortured, beaten and stabbed to death before her body was found in a trash can in the Greensburg Salem Middle School parking lot.
Details of the plea bargain talks emerged Friday during an appeal hearing for Marinucci, who was convicted in May of first-degree murder and sentenced to a mandatory life sentence. Marinucci was jealous of Daugherty for interfering with the convicted killer's relationship with Smyrnes, according to trial testimony.
Defense attorney Michael DeMatt said Marinucci deserves a new trial because Judge Rita Hathaway did not tell jurors that Masters and Miller were unavailable to testify.
In Peck's letter, he wrote that Masters could plead guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy. His sentence would be left up to Hathaway after all the alleged accomplices were tried, he said.
The maximum sentence for third-degree murder is 20 to 40 years in prison.
In January, defense attorney Bill Gallishen asked for a sentence of five to 10 years. Masters would not testify unless a plea bargain included a specific sentencing recommendation from Peck, Gallishen said in a letter to the prosecutor.
No additional offer came, Gallishen said. Masters testified against his alleged accomplices at a pretrial hearing last fall. He was not called as a witness during Marinucci's trial.
In court yesterday, Gallishen said Masters would have testified for the prosecution, but Gallishen would not let Masters testify for the defense.
"I indicated he would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination," Gallishen testified.
Defense attorney Laura Gutnick testified Miller also refused to testify for Marinucci.
Meidinger testified against Marinucci with no plea deal, providing jurors with a chilling, detailed account of Daugherty's final days.
County Detective Richard Kranitz explained the decision to use Meidinger and not Miller and Masters.
"They were inferior (witnesses) to Meidinger," Kranitz testified.
Smyrnes is scheduled to appear in court next month for a hearing to determine whether his diminished mental abilities preclude the prosecution from seeking the death penalty against him.
Knight's trial is scheduled to begin in January.

Waking up in the morning and opening the paper to read about the days news has become sickening. I used to believe that Mr. DeMatt was just an unlucky lawyer who got stuck with a really shitty case to defend, but now I am convinced more than ever that he is just a sleezebag lawyer. He did his job...AnMa received a fair trial. But here is my question to Mr. DeMatt: What about JENNIFER'S fair trial?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Victim Impact Statement at Angela Marinucci's sentencing

This is the impact statement I read at Angela Marinucci's sentencing. It's been a long, hard summer and I'm sorry it took so long to post this.

Victim Impact Statement by Joy Burkholder, sister of Jennifer Daugherty

My name is Joy Daugherty Burkholder. I am Jennifer Daugherty’s oldest sister. I am here today to speak to you about how Jennifer’s murder has affected my life. When Jennifer’s body was discovered and the elements of the crime were clear to my family, Amy Garris told us that we would have a chance to someday give an impact statement to the court. At that time, I thought about all of the things I was going to speak about. I had the rage, adrenaline and the absence of knowledge concerning Jennifer’s murder that fueled the fight. Now I am left with heartbreak, sadness and guilt that I was not a good sister to Jenny. Since her death, I have had to complete many tasks, which I should not have. Attempting to write about how this has affected me has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do yet. I can literally speak about Jennifer for days, but I’m uncomfortable to speak about myself. I just want the world to know my sister existed, she was wonderful and why she is gone. I have loved her for her whole life and will for the rest of mine. How can I possibly put 30 years onto a few pages?

My daughters are left without an aunt who adored them. They will forget her more and more over time, until she is just a person in pictures. She is no longer their Aunt Jen, they call her “the Jennifer that died.” My daughter, Bailey, was 4 when Jennifer was murdered. She is now almost 6. She says, “Jen was the sweetheart of our family. She was fun and she made me laughand she tickled me.” Breanne was almost 6 when Jennifer was murdered. She saw Jennifer’s face on TV before we could stop it. She was so excited that her Aunt Jen was famous. The next day she was sad because she said she hoped no one killed her. We thought we had done a good job shielding our children from details, but then she asked me if it hurts to be stabbed. My 7 year old daughter knows how Jennifer was killed. The youngest victim in our family is my nephew, Dylan. He is 2 years old. He will never know Jennifer or remember how much she loved him.

My life has changed drastically. I’m forced to live the life of a stranger, I am no longer who I once was. I struggle each day to stay motivated to participate in my own life. I don’t sleep much and when I do I have nightmares about my sisters murder. I have lost friends because of these changes and I can’t blame them. I have forgotten what Jennifer’s voice sounds like, and I hate that I know Angela Marinucci's. I hate the snow, it makes me think of my sisters frozen body. I no longer enjoy my hobbies of taking photographs and scrap booking my children’s lives. I can’t eat pork anymore because it makes me physically sick. Christmas lights are not decoration, they were used to keep Jennifer bound. Little Red Wagon was my favorite nail polish color. Now it’s just what was poured on her face. I was once a happier person and I didn’t worry so much. Now, I keep my doors locked during the day and I’m terrified to leave my children out of my sight. It’s a terrible feeling, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s still so hard for me to believe that this has happened. I wish that this is somehow a huge mistake. I don’t understand how something like this happened to my family in a good community. My faith has been stolen. I struggle with how could God let this happen to my sister? I am left with the guilt of our last conversation, where I yelled at her because I was late. School was cancelled, I had to dig my car out of the snow and I was running late to work. The last thing I said to her was, “I’m late and I don’t have time for you.” She called a little later to apologize to me and she had done nothing wrong. She wanted to spend the night at my house that weekend and I just blew her off. I spent that weekend planning her funeral.

I’d like to speak on Greensburg’s behalf. I can’t imagine how this has affected the people that live here. I grew up in this town, not far from this exact spot. As a parent, I can only imagine how the parents of local children are changed. People come to Greensburg because of good schools and low crime rates, only to have a mutilated body found on school property. Not only does Angela Marinucci owe my family an apology, she owes one to the people of Greensburg. She stole my sister and she stole their sense of security.

I am constantly mourning who Jennifer should have been but never will be. She wanted so badly to be a wife and mother someday. And the sad part is, I don’t think she was ever truly loved by a man. She was days away from getting her own apartment in Scottdale. She was excited to pick out curtains and dishes. I was happy for her, I just wanted her to have the life she deserved. One of her dreams was to be a mechanic. That dream will never come true. I will never get another Christmas list from her or buy her another gift. There are no more birthdays or holiday gatherings. The emptiness left by her absence is larger than I can quantify. Our family dynamic is disrupted. My family is forever changed and we are stuck, unbalanced.

I can’t ever lose the image of Jennifer’s bruised face and her throat cut. I am unable to forget the images of her body left misshapen and unnatural from rigor. I have seen the inside of my sisters body. She was stabbed in the head. She was raped. She was forced to eat and drink horrible things. She was never a person. She was an object of torment and sick amusement. Her body was in such bad shape, that we were not able to identify her in person.

I had to plan a funeral and what to do about her body. The thought of her being buried like that made me sick. I couldn’t imagine her body spending eternity like that. Then the thought of cremating her was just as bad. I have had to make choices that people make everyday, but this was just wrong. I never should have had to do this. I am the oldest sister and I should have died first, many years from now. Instead, she was cremated and what was left of her has been placed into a blue and white marble box.

I am going to close with what 7 minutes means to me. It used to be the time it took to steam vegetables in the microwave, how long it took me to start a new load of laundry, the time it takes me to walk my daughter to the bus stop and walk back home. It takes 7 minutes to bake a tray of cookies, design a scrapbook page, for Zoey to eat her dog food or to pay a bill online. Now, 7 minutes is how long my sister laid on a bathroom floor alone, waiting to die.

Your honor, it has taken me a year to write this statement. I had no idea what I should say or how to begin. In my research, it said to request restitution if I wished to. I have no idea if you can even do that in this court right now, but I am requesting that you order Angela Marinucci to pay $3,625 to my family for lost wages, childcare costs and traveling expenses. This dollar amount would also include the vacation time my husband had to use so that he could attend the trial and hearings. I can not put a dollar amount on the pain and suffering that my husband, children and I have been living with. I also request you to order Angela Marinucci to serve her sentences consecutively.

Thank you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jury selection...

Jury selection starts today. It's been a long road to get to this point. It's hard to believe that it has been almost 15 months since Jenny was murdered. I hope that an impartial jury can be formed this week. It's time for some closure. I never realzied how exhausting the act of just waiting is. I'm not sure of what to expect of the process. I don't expect to feel like justice has been served, because I truly don't know if I'll ever feel that it can be. Death penalty, life sentence or lesser sentence just feels so foreign to me. I wonder about the other six families. I hope they are well. I feel for them and I pray for them also. I can't imagine being on that side of this mess is any easier.

I miss her so much everday. We should be making Mother's Day plans about going somewhere for lunch or dinner and deciding what to get for our mom.

There will not be anymore interviews or comments until after the trial is completed. My family and I deeply appreciate the love and support we have received.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

National Crime Victims Week...

Friday night was spent honoring the victims of crime. I wouldn't say it was fun, but it was great to see some family and friends. While my mother was there to honor my sister and uncle, I honored my friend Mark Van Horn. He was murdered on Jan. 15, 2007 outside of a club where he worked. The men that killed him also murdered his shipmate Michael Porter. One man was sentenced to 93 years and the other was sentenced to 54 years. Mark was such a great guy. The first year after a bad relationship break-up, he took me out for valentine's day. We were just friends but he didn't want me to be alone. We would have dance contests and play video games. He was fun, kind, loving, hilarious and the kind of person you'd be lucky to have as a friend. I miss his (always) bright red cheeks!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Angela Marinucci will be tried as an adult!!!

Tribune Review:
The family of murder victim Jennifer Daugherty expressed elation yesterday after the attorney for Angela Marinucci withdrew a petition to have her case transferred to juvenile court.

"It's a tremendous victory for the family and for Jennifer," Bobby Murphy, Daugherty's stepfather, said outside the courtroom.

Marinucci is accused of ganging up with five other suspects to kill the mentally challenged Daugherty in a Greensburg apartment after she had been tortured. She will be tried as an adult in the February 2010 homicide.

District Attorney John Peck will seek the death penalty against three of the accused. Marinucci, 18 , is ineligible for the death penalty because of the age at which she is accused of committing the crime.

Daugherty's sister, Joy Burkholder, said that avoiding the death penalty is all the luck Marinucci deserves.

"She will not be put to death. I don't think she deserves any more of a break. If she doesn't want to spend her life in jail, she shouldn't kill people," Burkholder said.

Marinucci's attorney, Michael DeMatt, told Judge Rita Hathaway during a brief hearing that he and Marinucci decided to keep her case in Common Pleas Court.

"After reviewing everything and speaking with my client, we decided it was not in her best interest to proceed" with the transfer, DeMatt said after the hearing.

Daugherty was beaten and tortured for more than two days and then stabbed. Her body, tied with Christmas decorations and wrapped in garbage bags, was found in a garbage can in the parking lot of Greensburg Salem Middle School on Feb. 11, 2010.

Marinucci testified that she understood and agreed with her attorney's decision. "I felt comfortable to deny (withdraw) it," Marinucci told Hathaway.

She was living with the five other suspects who allegedly abused and murdered Daugherty when she came to their apartment for a visit.

Marinucci, along with Ricky V. Smyrnes, 25; Melvin Knight, 21; Amber Meidinger, 21; Peggy Darlene Miller, 28; and Robert Loren Masters, 37, is charged with first-degree homicide, kidnapping and related charges.

Marinucci and Smyrnes were romantically involved, and she became enraged when she thought Daugherty made sexual overtures toward Smyrnes, according to previous testimony.

Attorneys for Masters and Miller are trying to negotiate plea bargains. Masters, who testified against the group in a pretrial hearing, claimed that he and Miller were in another room when Daugherty was stabbed.

Peck is seeking the death penalty against Smyrnes, Knight and Meidinger.

DeMatt asked Hathaway to direct the prosecution to provide him with potential evidence for trial, including text messages and telephone records for several defendants and a copy of a report following Greensburg police Detective Jerry Vernail's interview of a new witness.

Marinucci has a history of mental illness and no prior criminal record, according to DeMatt.

Had she been tried as a juvenile and convicted of homicide, she could not have been held in custody beyond her 21st birthday. A conviction of first-degree murder in adult court carries a mandatory life sentence.

"If a plea deal is out there, I would be more than happy to explore all options," DeMatt said. "We are preparing for trial."

Peck declined to comment about a possible plea deal for Marinucci.

Jury selection will begin May 2, Hathaway said.

Read more: Daugherty torture suspect to be tried as adult - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/westmoreland/s_731761.html#ixzz1JcYPg1To

I can't tell you how happy I am that she is going to prison for the rest of her life. I feel very sorry for her family though, no family should have to go through this. I know how exhausting it is for us physically and emotionally. I just feel for them. I hope they don't think we hate them, it's just a terrible situation to be a part of.

On another note, I hope to see many people at tonights Victims Rally at the Greensburg courthouse from 6 to 9.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Important dates...

We were in court on Thursday February 3rd. There is a status/motions hearing for April 11th. Angela Marinucci's trial is scheduled to start on May 2nd. We'll see if the date holds; hopefully her lawyers won't try to delay anything.

I have to say something about the judge. I've had thoughts and feelings about her since the beginning. I like Rita Hathaway. I can't say exactly why, but she reminds me of someone I must have known. I guess maybe it's her strong character. She's a tiny woman, yet has a presense about her. She refuses to tolerate nonsense in the courtroom. She may be the "stuff" that women I respect are made of. She appears to be a woman of values and it comforts me. And honestly, not much has comforted me lately. I look forward to this all being finished someday. I look forward to having a conversation with her.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'm tired of saying the appropriate things...

In the Tribune Review on January 12, 2011
Meidinger wants the judge to prohibit the prosecution from seeking the death penalty. Smarto argued in her court brief that federal law bars the prosecution from seeking the death penalty in cases where a defendant did not actively participate in a killing.

"A non-murdering participant in a felony murder may not be subject to the death penalty unless he played a major role in the murder and acted with extreme disregard for human life," Smarto wrote.

Smarto is expected to present evidence at a future hearing that Meidinger's mental capacity bars the prosecution from seeking the death penalty. Smarto wrote that the defense is awaiting records of Meidinger's mental history and an analysis of her mental abilities by a neuropsychologist.
Did she not play a major role in holding Jennifer against her will? What about when Jennifer was bound and beaten by Amber? When she was raped? What about the "family" decision to murder her? Were these acts committed with extreme disregard for human life? I believe so. Amber Meidinger should get the death penalty. I believe they all should.

Every participant should have the same acts committed against them with the exception of murder. Murder would be too easy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Life is all about changes...

If you asked me a year ago where I would be today, my answer would be nothing like my current reality. In the last 11 months, life has been all about changes. I quit my job and decided to stay home with my children until something 'happened' to me. What happened was my enrollment in college. In May, I will be a college graduate (fingers crossed) and will have my BA in Criminal Justice. Who knows after that, but I have a specific goal for the next 4 months. I'm excited/scared/unsure about the future and what it holds for me. But I'm grateful for the opportunity to do this. It may appear to be just what it is to some people, but it's a dedication to my sister, who wanted to go to college. She never had that opportunity. I dedicate this accomplishment to her.