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Former Swissvale Man Sentenced to Death in Torture-Slaying

Jury sends Melvin Knight to death row in killing of mentally disabled woman in Greensburg.

Former Swissvale resident Melvin Knight took the witness stand Thursday morning to say he did not wish to plead for his life after being found guilty in the 2010 torture-slaying of a mentally disabled woman in Greensburg.

According to a story in the Tribune-Review, Knight, 22, became the 203rd person sent to Pennsylvania’s death row after a jury of six men and six women in Westmoreland County condemned him to death for the Feb. 11, 2010 death of Jennifer Daugherty, 30.

Knight pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping and two counts of conspiracy in April.

The Post-Gazette reported that, orchestrated by a ringleader, the group of six people Daugherty thought were her friends beat with their hands and feet, and then struck her with a towel rack, a crutch and a vacuum cleaner hose. The newspaper reported her torturers "bound her with Christmas decorations, shaved her hair, and painted her face with nail polish. They fed her vegetable oil, spices, detergent, medications and urine," according to police, "before carting her body a half-mile to Greensburg Salem Middle School in a neighbor's garbage can."

Defense attorney Jeff Miller told the jurors that Knight could not defend his actions in killing Daugherty, but argued that significant mental health issues in his background—including attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, paranoia and psychosis during his childhood—gave the jury justification to spare his life, the Trib reported.

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