Sunbury homicide details met with shock; couple held in separate prisons
SUNBURY - Comments posted at stories online about Elyett and Miranda Barbour seem to sum up people's shock and disgust at the revelation that the young married couple allegedly conspired to kill because they "wanted to murder someone together."
"Pure evil," said one reader at newsitem.com.
An AP version of the story, which was already attracting international attention after Miranda Barbour's arrest Tuesday, but even more with her husband's arraignment Friday night, was also posted Saturday at Huffington Post. One reader reacted: "If they wanted to kill someone together, why didn't they kill each other? World would be a better place."
While the world reacts to the intrigue and horror of a couple that met their victim, Troy LaFerrara, on the Internet site Craigslist, from where he arranged to pay Miranda for companionship, local law enforcement officials are tempering their comments. They seem mindful that the Sunbury homicide case could lead to a high-profile trial that, because of the alleged premeditation, could include pursuit of the death penalty.
"Every homicide is a serious offense, and it's hard to imagine anyone's rationale for committing the crime," Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini said Saturday. "We are working on the prosecution's case right now. I really don't want to say anything that would prejudice a jury in Northumberland County."
Sunbury Police Chief Stephen Mazzeo said local cops are in touch with authorities elsewhere based on Elyett Barbour's reported admission to police that he and his wife had tried to kill others.
"We have some unresolved issues, and we are looking to close up those issues," the chief said Saturday. "Some
of those issues could lead to other investigations in other jurisdictions."
The Associated Press reported Saturday that Mazzeo said investigators also plan to look into the death of a man with whom Miranda Barbour had a child, but he would not say if there is a suspicion of foul play. The baby is 18 months old, Mazzeo told The News-Item, and is in the custody of Snyder County Children and Youth Services.
Meanwhile, Miranda Barbour, who turns 19 on Saturday, is in Northumberland County Prison, while her husband, who turned 22 on the day of the alleged murder, Nov. 11, is in Columbia County Prison in Bloomsburg. The Barbours, who recently moved to 101 N. Water St., Selinsgrove, from North Carolina, are not eligible for bail because of the homicide charge against each of them.
Three days after his wife was charged, Elyett Barbour admitted he was involved in the death of LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton. He said he and Miranda had planned to murder someone and, with LaFerrara, "it was just the one with whom the planned worked," according to the criminal complaint.
Elyett Barbour said he hid under a blanket in the back seat of Miranda Barbour's 2001 Honda CRV when she drove to the Susquehanna Valley Mall to meet LaFerrara. They then drove to Sunbury and used a pre-planned signal for Elyett to know it was time "to kill the victim."
When the signal, which police did not identify, was given, Elyett Barbour used a cord to strangle and hold back LaFerrara's head while his wife stabbed the victim - approximately 20 times, according to autopsy results.
Miranda Barbour originally told police that after meeting LaFerrara at the mall, they drove to an undisclosed location and that's when he began to grope her and grabbed her by the throat. She said that's why she began to stab him. She said she only recalled stabbing him two or three times and that she "blacked out" while apparently continuing to stab the victim. She told police she then drove around Sunbury for some time while the victim was choking and gasping for air and, eventually, discarded his body, cleaned the blood from her vehicle and headed to Harrisburg with her husband to celebrate his birthday.
Elyett Barbour's story did match some of those descriptions, according to the criminal complaint against him.
"(Elyett Barbour) said that he and his wife left Sunbury, drove to Selinsgrove for cleaning supplies to clean up the vehicle, then went out to eat," it says.
LaFerrara's body was found at 11:26 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in the backyard at 240 Catawissa Ave., near an alley to the rear of the home.
A quiet scene
At Magisterial District Judge Benjamin Apfelbaum's courtroom about 9:30 p.m. Friday, police officers and members of the press spoke with each other while awaiting Apfelbaum. Elyett Barbour sat in a chair at the defendant's table, his head hanging. He starred blankly at the handcuffs around his wrists.
When addressed by Apfelbaum, he asked just one question: why was he being charged with two counts of aggravated assault? The judge explained that one was for allegedly causing serious bodily injury, while the second was because of use of a deadly weapon - the cord.
Otherwise, Barbour's answers were short when Apfelbaum asked if he understood each step of the procedure.
Miranda Barbour's preliminary hearing, originally scheduled for Tuesday, is now set for Friday, Dec. 20. It will be held at the Northumberland County Courthouse rather than Apfelbaum's office, likely for space and security reasons. Elyett Barbour is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Dec. 17, before Apfelbaum, but at Friday's arraignment, Rosini said that hearing would be postponed.
Mazzeo gave credit to the state police's homicide task force that helped link LaFerrara's cell phone to Elyett, which helped set the ball rolling for the officers on his force.
"Myself and Officers Chris Blase, Jamie Quinn and Travis Bremigan worked through Thanksgiving on this investigation," Mazzeo said. "Now we continue to work to make sure all the loose ends are tied up for the case to be prosecuted."