Miranda Barbour confession sickening to witness
SUNBURY - A correctional officer at Northumberland County Prison who was present for a jailhouse interview with accused killer Miranda Barbour said some statements she heard in the defendant's alleged confession made her sick to her stomach.
Deborah Zaleskie testified Tuesday that she took notes of a recorded interview conducted by Daily Item reporter Francis Scarcella with Barbour on Valentine's Day in the visiting room at the prison that she was assigned to supervise.
Zaleskie, who has been a guard at the prison for two years, said she used her notes to compile an incident report about the interview at the request of prison operations commander Brian Wheary and District Attorney Tony Rosini. The guard said she has since destroyed the notes.
Zaleskie said she didn't listen to or receive a transcript of the 8:30 p.m. interview prior to completing her incident report Friday, which was the same day Rosini agreed to withdraw his subpoena ordering Scarcella to testify about his interview with Barbour at Tuesday's hearing.
Barbour's attorney, Edward Greco, who serves as the chief public defender for the county, objected twice to Zaleskie's testimony because he felt parts of it violated her client's rights under spousal privilege that protects married couples from making incriminating statements against each other. But after Rosini argued that spousal privilege only covers direct communications, not observations, Saylor reserved making a ruling on the issue and allowed Zaleskie to continue her testimony.
Zaleskie said she was standing 5 to 6 feet away from Scarcella and Barbour. Zaleskie said she didn't include the entire interview in her report because she couldn't recall everything that was said. But the correctional officer said she did include certain statements given by Barbour that stuck out to her and made her sick to her stomach.
Several times during her testimony, Zaleskie stated, "Mr. Scarcella was there as a reporter, not a friend."
Rosini played several segments of the one-hour tape containing Barbour's alleged confession to murdering 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara of Port Trevorton on Nov. 11 and at least 22 other people. The tape was obtained from the prison by Sunbury police and secured as evidence.
According to the tape, when Scarcella asks Barbour why did the stabbing take place, she replied, "Because it just did. It got out of control. The situation got out of control."
During another segment of the tape, Barbour is heard telling Scarcella that her husband (Elytte Barbour) hid in the back of their vehicle "because the whole point was for us to do it together."
Zaleskie identified the voices on the tape as being Scarcella and Barbour.
Wheary and Sunbury Officer Travis Bremigen, one of the arresting officers in the homicide case, also testified at the hearing, which involved Barbour's petition for writ of habeas corpus and several motions filed by Greco.
Wheary, who is in charge of recording all calls at the prison, said he turned over a copy of the taped interview done through the telephone system in the visiting room to Bremigen. Wheary said only he and warden Roy Johnson have access to recorded phone calls at the prison.
Bremigen said he went to the prison to obtain a copy of the recorded interview, which was reviewed by himself, Sunbury Police Chief Steve Mazzeo and Scarcella.
Saylor granted Greco's request to hire a computer/electronics expert to assist the defense in gathering a voluminous amount of computer-generated information, including 65,000 pages from Google. No fee for the expert was established.
The judge did not hear argument from either attorney over Greco's motion to quash aggravating circumstances in the case, which could lead to the death penalty if Barbour is convicted of first-degree murder. Instead, Saylor gave attorneys approximately two weeks to file briefs on Greco's motion before establishing a hearing date, which he said he'll do later this month.
Greco said he was happy Saylor granted his motion to hire a computer/electronics expert, but declined further comment. Rosini also declined comment after the hearing.
Barbour, who wore an orange prison jumpsuit and sneakers and had her legs shackled, remained emotionless in court and offered no comment as she was escorted back to Northumberland County Prison by Wolfe and deputy sheriff Brad Harvey. Barbour may remain at the prison until her next court appearance or be transferred back to SCI-Muncy.
LaFerrara's wife, Colleen; his mother, Harriett LaFerrara, and his sister, Holly LaFerrara, were in attendance, but declined comment. Colleen LaFerrara was seen crying at times during the hearing.
Sheriff Robert Wolfe and four of his deputies provided security. There were no incidents.
Asked for comment, Scarcella said the tape speaks for itself.
"Whatever we printed is my recollection of the interview," he said.
Mazzeo added, "This remains an active homicide investigation. Mr. Greco has advised his client not to talk with police and we must honor that request, because if we don't, it would violate her civil rights and we could be sued."
He said his department continues to communicate with other law enforcement agencies in regard to Barbour's allegations that she has killed at least 22 people in several states, including Alaska, where she claimed to have belonged to a satanic cult.
"We want this case to be resolved without any appeals," Mazzeo said.
Barbour, 19, and her 22-year-old husband, Elytte, are both charged with criminal homicide and other offenses in LaFerrara's slaying. The victim was found stabbed to death in the backyard of a home in the 200 block of Catawissa Avenue in Sunbury. Elytte Barbour is incarcerated at the county jail.