The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 16, 2014

Ruling on torture could save Miranda Barbour's life

Her attorney tries to take death penalty off the table

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — An attorney for homicide suspect Miranda Barbour filed a motion Wednesday in Northumberland County Court asking a judge to rule that murder victim Troy LaFerrara was not tortured before being killed.

County chief public defender Ed Greco is seeking that ruling because torture is considered an “aggravating” circumstance under Pennsylvania law. If Barbour is convicted of first-degree murder in the case, jurors will weigh aggravating and mitigating circumstances in deciding whether to impose the death penalty. Northumberland County Coroner James Kelley has stated that LaFerrara was stabbed at least 20 times.

Miranda Barbour, 19, and her husband, Elytte, 22, are charged with the Nov. 11 slaying of LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton.

In his motion, Greco contends a packet of information prepared by the state trooper who received information at the LaFerrara autopsy on Nov. 13 stated there was no indication LaFerrara was tortured. The trooper’s report was completed on Nov. 22, Greco said.

Greco said the defense did not receive the information until March 31.

In January, Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini filed a notice saying robbery and torture were aggravating circumstances in the case.

Greco said the autopsy report does not support Rosini’s assertion that the homicide was committed by means of torture and Greco is asking that the court allow testimony on the matter and to quash the aggravating circumstances of torture and homicide while in commission on another felony.

Pennsylvania is one of 32 states that has the death penalty. There are 18 aggravating circumstances that can lead to a death sentence.

Sunbury police allege the Barbours met LaFerrara through a Craigslist ad for companionship, and Miranda Barbour lured him into her vehicle at the Susquehanna Valley Mall in Hummels Wharf before driving to Sunbury, where the slaying took place.

Police said Elytte Barbour claimed he was hiding in the backseat, and after his wife gave a signal, popped out from under a blanket and began to strangle LaFerrara with a cord, while Miranda Barbour stabbed him repeatedly.

LaFerrara’s body was discovered on Nov. 12 in an alley behind Catawissa Avenue.

According to court documents, Miranda Barbour claimed LaFerrara tried to grope her and had his hands on her throat when she stabbed him and blacked out. She never told police her husband was hiding in the backseat.

Elytte Barbour, who is represented by Sunbury attorney Jim Best, is due in court on April 30 and Miranda Barbour is due back in court on May 30.

n Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.