The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

April 2, 2014

Prison guard: Barbour's story made me sick

SUNBURY — A Northumberland County Prison guard testified she overheard a jailhouse interview conducted by a Daily Item reporter with murder suspect Miranda Barbour on Valentine’s Day and said what she heard made her sick to her stomach.

“And I’ll never forget it,” correctional officer Deborah Zaleskie testified on Tuesday.

Reporter Francis Scarcella interviewed Barbour in the prison in mid-February. Zaleskie was one of three people to testify at Tuesday hearing before Judge Charles Saylor.

Barbour’s attorney, Northumberland County chief public defender Ed Greco, requested the hearing. Greco is attempting to have a tape recording of the interview excluded as evidence at trial.

Barbour and her husband, Elytte, are charged with the Nov. 11 strangling and stabbing death of Troy LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton.

Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini played a few segments of the hour-long tape recording. Prison officials taped the interview, which is prison policy. After the interview, prison Commander Brian Wheary gave the recording to Sunbury police officer Travis Bremigen, an investigator in the case.

Wheary and Bremigen testified about the exchange of the recording.

Zaleskie said she was in charge of supervising the visit between Barbour and Scarcella. Zaleskie also testified she took notes during the interview and that she was able to hear the conversation between Barbour and Scarcella even though Scarcella was on a phone and the conversation took place through a glass panel.

Zaleski said on Friday — the same day the state withdrew two subpoenas for Scarcella’s testimony — she compiled a report at the request of Rosini. Zaleski said she destroyed the original notes she took.

After the hearing, Scarcella said the tape speaks for itself.

Scarcella was subpoenaed to testify Tuesday, but Rosini withdrew the subpoena Friday before a hearing could be held on the newspaper’s request to prevent the reporter’s testimony.

Rosini said he had learned of Zaleski’s information just prior to the Friday hearing.

The interview Barbour gave to Scarcella included a confession to the LaFerrara killing and the 19-year-old also said that she had killed at least 22 other people while in Alaska, California, North Carolina, Texas and Florida.

LaFerrara’s widow, mother and sister were present for Tuesday’s hearing. His widow, Colleen, was seen with tears in her eyes during the proceedings.

“The family is pleased with the overall progress in the case so far,” a LaFerrara family spokesman said after the hearing. “Many of these defense machinations are expected. This is simply the legal system working, and it has to run its course. We are confident in District Attorney Rosini and his team and the irrefutable evidence that will eventually be presented in front of the jury. This is one more step toward justice for Troy.”

A decision is expected in the next month or so on whether the taped interview will be entered into evidence.

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