Judge to decide if knife is admissible in Barbour case
SUNBURY - A Northumberland County judge is mulling legal arguments to determine if the knife Miranda Barbour confessed to using to stab a Port Trevorton man to death will be admitted as evidence during her capital murder trial.
The defense and prosecution questioned two police officers and a former roommate of Barbour's about the residence where she lived with her co-defendant husband, Elytte Barbour.
Both are facing trial for the Nov. 11 murder of Troy LaFerrara.
Edward Greco, Northumberland County chief public defender, has motioned that the incorrect listing on a search warrant of the address of the Barbour's home makes the warrant invalid. As a result, Greco believes the alleged murder weapon should be barred as evidence.
The Barbours lived at 101 N. Water St., a two-story white home. That's where the warrant was served and the knife found hidden in the attic, tucked into insulation inside a wall. However, the address on the warrant was listed three times as 101 N. Market St., a three-story yellow brick home. Both addresses were listed in the affidavit used to acquire the warrant, and photos of both homes were displayed in court.
Sunbury Cpl. Jamie Quinn and Detective Travis Bremigen both testified in court Tuesday that they were unaware how the error occurred and who made it. Quinn said a team of at least three city police officers had worked on 18 separate warrants and eight court orders.
"It was just a mistake, a typo we didn't catch," she said.
However, Bremigen said he was at the home on six separate occasions and would not have mixed them up in the process of serving the warrant. He recounted each visit, culminating with the Dec. 9 service of the warrant.
Lessee welcomed officers
Elytte told officers where the alleged murder weapon was located on the Friday prior. Police obtained the warrant the following Monday. Bremigen said he was aware of the error prior to executing the warrant.
"I went to that residence because that was the residence where Mr. and Mrs. Barbour lived," he said.
Valerie Spring, the lessee of 101 N. Water St. and former roommate of the Barbours, testified that she told police officers to come to a rear door at the house. She didn't use the front door where the address numbers are hung.
She said police officers had consent to search the property, warrant or no warrant.
"I told them specifically that they didn't need a warrant and could come into my house at any time," Spring said.
Spring had trouble recalling if officers showed her the front page of a "closed" search warrant upon arrival, but said she definitely saw it after the search concluded.
It had been speculated that Miranda may had testified Tuesday, but Greco ruled that out at the onset of the hearing when he said the defense would not be calling any witnesses.
A legal brief from the defense on the matter is due June 24, and a reply from the prosecution is due July 9. The matter of appointing a forensic pathologist for the defense will also be considered.
Briefs had been submitted in the defense's motion to suppress Miranda's confession made to law enforcement. She had requested legal counsel several times before confessing, but her request was not met. A hearing had been held last month regarding the confession, and a ruling is expected by the end of June, according to Northumberland County Judge Charles H. Saylor.
During a five-minute hearing for Elytte Barbour Tuesday afternoon, defense attorney James Best decided not to pursue the dismissal of the robbery and criminal conspiracy charges against his client based on Saylor's ruling last month that allows the commonwealth to pursue the death penalty against Miranda Barbour because it proved there is enough evidence to support aggravating circumstances in the case.
Since Best believes the cases will be consolidated, he felt it was a moot point to argue the aggravating circumstances.
In January, Rosini filed a "notice of aggravating circumstances" that would permit jury members to impose the death penalty if they unanimously find that aggravating circumstances outweigh any mitigating circumstances. He previously said aggravating circumstances include torture and the fact that a felony offense of robbery was allegedly committed during the killing. His contention was challenged by Greco, but Saylor later ruled in favor of the commonwealth.
"We plan to proceed to trial," Best said.
Rosini reserved comment after the brief hearing.
The commonwealth filed a notice to consolidate the cases shortly after the charges were filed against both defendants. Greco has since filed numerous motions, including one to sever the cases so Miranda and Elytte Barbour could have separate trials. Saylor has not yet ruled on the motion to sever.
Best doesn't oppose consolidating the cases into one trial.
Attorneys in the case don't expect a trial to begin until next year.
Saylor deferred ruling on Best's request to hire a private investigator.