SUNBURY - The murder scene was shocking.

A 42-year-old man lies dead in a pool of blood in the backyard of a Catawissa Avenue home after he was stabbed 20 times and likely strangled, too.

Then came the first arrest: a teenaged woman, Miranda Barbour, who said she acted in self-defense when Troy LaFerrara, who arranged through Craigslist to spend time with her in exchange for money, groped her and put his hand on her throat.

Those details alone had pushed the homicide to international news, but there was more.

Three days after her arrest, Miranda Barbour's husband, Elytte, was also charged. And he told police a different story: That he and his wife plotted to kill LaFerrara because they had always want to kill "someone together."

With worldwide attention, the case took on labels of "Craigslist killers," "thrill kill" and "newlywed killers," the later prompted by reports the couple married just three weeks prior to the homicide.

The Barbours, who had moved to Selinsgrove from North Carolina in the weeks preceding LaFerrara's Nov. 11 death, are due in court again later this month as this sensational homicide case advances.

Formal arraignments

Elytte, 22, and Miranda Barbour, 19, face formal arraignment on homicide and other charges in county court Jan. 21. Pre-trial conferences are scheduled for Feb. 7. Each pleaded not guilty and had charges of homicide and robbery, among others, bound to court Dec. 20. It's expected they will both seek trials.

Miranda Barbour, charged Dec. 3, told police said she arranged to meet LaFerrara through Craigslist to provide companionship in return for money. They met at the Susquehanna Valley Mall and drove to Sunbury, but when LaFerrara began to grope her and put his hand on her neck, she stabbed him, she told police.

She said she turned herself in because she knew police "would eventually come for her and she just wanted to get it over with."

Following his wife's arraignment, Elytte Barbour maintained he was unaware of the stabbing, but confessed to police three days later that he played a part in the gruesome scene. He said hid under a blanket in the back seat of his wife's car the night of the murder, and when his wife gave a pre-planned signal, Elytte put a cable around LaFerrara's neck and strangled him while Miranda stabbed him, police said.

A black electrical cable was found with the body, police said.

They had tried to kill others, according to the affidavit in Elytte Barbour's arrest, but weren't able to follow through on their plans until LaFerrara, Elytte Barbour told police.

Police said the couple admitted to taking the victim's wallet.

Death penalty?

The possibility of the death penalty must be addressed before the defendants' formal arraignment. District Attorney Tony Rosini said Dec. 20 he has not yet decided if he would seek the death penalty, but noted there are 18 aggravating circumstances that apply. He said torture and the fact that LaFerrara's slaying was committed during the course of another felony offense are applicable. Also, Elytte Barbour's confession included details that the killing was planned, indicating premeditation, is another aggravating circumstance.

LaFerrara, who was married, was an engineer who served on the Union-Chapman Township Regional Sewer Authority in Snyder County and was previously a Chapman Township supervisor.

A tough year

Sunbury Police Chief Stephen Mazzeo said Monday there are no new major developments in the case, and his officers continue their investigation in order to enhance the prosecution.

He acknowledged a challenging year for his department, considering the LaFerrara homicide and the case of 17-year-old Naheem Reams, who was shot by a city police officer at the culmination of a high-speed chase in the city on June 5 (Reams case was No. 6 in The News-Item list). But that comes with this line of work, he said, and the city has been successful in moving forward.

"I'm hoping to continue our job of protecting and serving the public and deal with each issue as it arrives," he said.