Judge: Miranda Barbour's confession admissable
SUNBURY - Miranda Barbour's confession to police that she murdered Troy LaFerrara will be admissible at trial, a Northumberland County judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Charles H. Saylor denied a motion by Barbour's defense that sought to suppress statements made at the state police station in Selinsgrove. Saylor found that Barbour's Miranda rights were not violated, that she was not due a court-appointed attorney and that there was no undue influence in her making a confession.
Barbour, 19, and her husband, Elytte, 22, are charged with the Nov. 11 stabbing death of LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trev-orton. Some have called them the "Craigslist killers" because the victim answered an ad on the Internet site from Miranda Barbour offering companionship for money prior to being killed.
The confession came after 5 a.m. Dec. 3 when
Barbour visited the state police station voluntarily and said she wanted "to tell you guys so badly what happened." But she didn't want to do it without a lawyer.
Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch told her that since she wasn't charged with a crime, she wasn't eligible for a court-appointed attorney. Saylor found that Piecuch's statement was correct, citing appellate court rulings in similar instances, and that Barbour understood it. He noted that the murder suspect and the district attorney went back and forth on the point several times.
Barbour had been escorted to the station by plainclothes police officers the night before, on Dec. 2, and was read a Miranda warning before denying any involvement in the murder. It was an official police interview. Such a warning wasn't necessary on Dec. 3 since Barbour showed up on her own and was free to leave at any point, Saylor found. She waited in the station lobby for an hour for an investigator to arrive, was told that she could leave, and went to the bathroom without escort before returning and making the confession.
Chief Public Defender Ed Greco argued his client's 5th and 6th Amendment rights to counsel were violated. He said the second police interview should have ended when Barbour requested an attorney. He also argued that she was influenced by Piecuch to waive her right to counsel and make a confession.
Saylor said neither right applied since she wasn't charged with a crime and wasn't in police custody. She was advised that if she wanted legal representation present, she'd have to obtain it herself and pay for it on her own. He pointed out that Barbour was permitted to call her husband and seek advice from him, and that the conversation between Miranda Barbour and law enforcement remained cordial.
Greco said Thursday that he'd reviewed Saylor's order and that "we're just going to move on to our next issues and at this point proceed to trial."
Remaining at issue is the legality of a search warrant served at the Barbour's residence that had a wrong address listed three times. A legal brief is due from the prosecution in two weeks, and a ruling will follow.