The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 17, 2014

Murder victim's family seeks death penalty for two accused killers

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Relatives of homicide victim Troy LaFerrara want Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini to seek the death penalty in his case against the Selinsgrove newlyweds accused of murdering the Port Trevorton resident and leaving his body in a city alley.

In an emailed response to the question about the death penalty for Elytte and Miranda Barbour, Rosini was noncommittal, stating only, “We will make that decision prior to the arraignment on Jan. 21.”

Sunbury police in December charged the Barbours — Elytte, 22, and Miranda, 19 — with criminal homicide, accusing them of luring LaFerrara into a vehicle on Nov. 11 after the 42-year-old environmental engineer answered an ad placed by Miranda Barbour offering “companionship” on Craigslist.

Once LaFerrara was inside the vehicle in the parking lot of the Susquehanna Valley Mall, Hummels Wharf, they proceeded to Sunbury. Charging documents allege that when Miranda Barbour gave an arranged signal, Elytte Barbour popped up from under a blanket and began to strangle the 275-pound LaFerrara with a cable, while Miranda Barbour stabbed LaFerrara 20 times.

Miranda Barbour is due in Northumberland County Court at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

A representative for the LaFerrara family, who has asked not to be identified, said anything less than the death penalty is unacceptable.

“We told the district attorney’s office twice we want the death penalty,” the woman said. “We have also indicated we will not support any double plea deals.”

The newlyweds were scheduled to appear simultaneously on Tuesday, unlike the initial arraignments they faced four hours apart before Christmas.

However, Elytte Barbour waived his formal arraignment and will next appear before Judge Charles Saylor in February at a competency hearing, Elytte Barbour’s attorney Jim Best said Thursday.

Best anticipates that Rosini will seek the death penalty.

Miranda Barbour is scheduled to appear on Tuesday, Northumberland County chief public defender Ed Greco said.

Greco also said he had no idea whether Rosini would seek the death penalty. Greco said he has taken no action to join the cases for trial, but Best indicated he is seeking to merge them.

“It is always beneficial to have the facts presented together,” Best said Thursday. “With two trials you run the risk of jurists giving inconsistent decisions.”

The LaFerrara family wants the public to know it feels strongly that the Barbours see “the inside of a courtroom.”

“This is where Troy (LaFerrara) will get his say,” the woman said, “in front of a judge and jury.”

Pennsylvania is one of 32 states that still has the death penalty. There are 18 aggravating circumstances that can lead to a capital murder conviction. Several of those may apply to the Barbours’ case, including that the offense was committed during the commission of another specified felony — in this instance robbery — and if the jury decides the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved or involved torture.

The cost of a capital murder trial is exponentially higher than a noncapital trial, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told The Daily Item several weeks ago.

“Every part of a death penalty case is longer and therefore more expensive,” he said.

Dieter said an average death sentence costs about $3 million — between the initial trial and appeals. A life sentence may cost about $1 million, he said.

Even if one or both of the Barbours were to be sentenced to death, it’s unlikely that a death sentence would be carried out, based on the state’s system, Dieter said.

“We just want the district attorney to go for the death penalty,” the family spokeswoman said. “Being on death row is much more severe than life without parole. They will not get as much free time each day outside the cell and they are always shackled.”

While Pennsylvania has the fourth-largest death-row population in the nation at 198 — including four women — the state has a very low rate of execution. It has used lethal injection on just three prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and all three chose to forgo their appeals processes, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.