Attorney rethinks consolidated trial for Elytte Barbour
SUNBURY - Miranda Barbour's recent claims to a reporter that she killed at least 22 people will not alter the approach taken by her husband's attorney, who has advised his client since his arrest not to talk with the media.
"I have no idea if any of the allegations are true," said James Best, who represents 22-year-old Elytte Barbour in the Troy LaFerrara homicide case. "But all that alleged behavior occurred before she met my client."
However, after initially favoring a consolidated trial for the Barbours, Best said Monday he's not sure that would be the best option for his client.
"A lot can happen between now and then, and it already has," he said.
For now, the Sunbury attorney said he plans to file pre-trial motions by the end of the week.
"I'm hoping the psychiatric evaluation that was approved for Mr. Barbour will be held within the next month," he said. "I'm still waiting for discovery evidence from the district attorney's office," he added. "I realize there's a voluminous amount of information they need to gather before making it available to the defense attorneys."
Since District Attorney Tony Rosini announced that he plans to seek the death penalty against the couple, Best said his intention was to seek a trial. He has still not ruled out the possibility, however, of advising his client to enter a guilty plea.
Interview? 'No chance'
Asked if he would allow a reporter to interview his client, who is incarcerated at Columbia County Prison, Bloomsburg, Best said, "No chance. I think it's in the best interest of all criminal defendants to remain silent.
"I've advised Mr. Barbour not to talk with the media," he continued, "but Attorney (Edward) Greco gave the same advice to Miranda and she didn't listen."
Miranda Barbour, who told Daily Item reporter Francis Scarcella that she practiced satanism, admitted to killing LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton, and said she has killed many others in the past six years, having "stopped counting" at 22. She said she can "pinpoint on a map" the locations of the bodies, according to his story, published late Saturday at the newspaper's website and in the Sunday print edition.
Her statements were made during a recorded interview with Scarcella Friday night at Northumberland County Prison, where she is incarcerated.
Greco declined comment Sunday about the alleged confession. He also declined comment about Miranda Barbour's statement to the reporter that she had wanted to plead guilty in the LaFerrara homicide, but because of Greco's advice pleaded not guilty.
Greco said he still plans to proceed with a pre-trial motion hearing and ultimately a trial.
Rosini said he is skeptical of Miranda Barbour's claims, but that it will not change his approach to prosecuting the case.
Miranda, 19, and her husband, are charged in the Nov. 11 slaying of LaFerrara in Sunbury.
Mazzeo: No one else here
Meanwhile, Sunbury Police Chief Steve Mazzeo said Monday his department is taking Barbour's claims seriously.
"We are treating the claims as legitimate until they are proved wrong," he said. "What if she is telling the truth?"
It's not believed that she has killed anybody else in Sunbury, he noted.
Sunbury police had requested the assistance of state and federal agencies, including the FBI, ever since Elytte Barbour's reported admission upon his Dec. 6 arrest that he and his wife had tried to kill others. Officer Travis Bremigen has been looking into the Barbours' criminal background for more than two months, the chief said.
Mazzeo said Miranda Barbour has no prior adult criminal record, and Best said he doesn't believe Elytte Barbour has a prior criminal record.
During her interview with The Daily Item, Miranda Barbour reportedly admitted to murders in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California, the majority in Alaska.
She had allegedly told police in a confession just prior to her Dec. 3 arrest that LaFerrara responded to a Craigslist ad she posted offering companionship for money. She told Scarcella she agreed to sex with LaFerrara for $100.
The two met in the parking lot at the Susquehanna Valley Mall and drove to Sunbury. She told police she began to stab LaFerrara after he groped her and put his hand on her throat. She told Scarcella that, too, but also said she lied to LaFerrara and told him she had just turned 16. "He told me that it was OK. If he would have said no, that he wasn't going to go through with the arrangement, I would have let him go," Barbour was quoted in Scarcella's story.
Miranda Barbour had told police she acted alone, but in her interview with The Daily Item, she said her husband participated in the killing.
Elytte Barbour had said as much upon his arrest, according to police. He said he was along in the car and, at a signal from his wife, sprung from under a blanket in the back seat and put a cord around the victim's neck while his wife stabbed him.
An autopsy showed LaFerrara had been stabbed about 20 times and that there were signs of strangulation.
Police said the Barbours dumped the body near an alley behind Catawissa Avenue and stole the victim's wallet.
The Barbours were married only three weeks and had recently moved to Selinsgrove from North Carolina when they allegedly killed LaFerrara. The slaying occurred on Elytte Barbour's birthday.
Hearing Feb. 26
Because they are indigent, the Barbours' attorneys have been granted permission by Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor to hire psychiatrists at the county's expense to conduct examinations to determine their competency to stand trial.
Miranda Barbour is scheduled to appear for a hearing in county court at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at which Greco's pre-trial motions will be heard.
Greco is seeking separate trials and wants to move the trial outside the county and or have a jury selected from outside the county because of the publicity surrounding the case. The defense also is seeking to suppress statements, including Miranda Barbour's alleged confession to police.
The defense wants to quash aggravating circumstances that would allow the commonwealth to seek the death penalty. Rosini previously noted that torture and robbery, both alleged in this case, are among 18 aggravating circumstances that can be cited in death penalty cases in Pennsylvania.