By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — State police homicide investigators are assisting Sunbury officers in the aftermath of what city Chief Steve Mazzeo is calling “the worst murder I have seen” in his six years in the Valley.
“We have half of our police force out searching every avenue and we are investigating every lead we have,” Mazzeo said Friday, three days after the body of 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara was discovered in a city resident’s back yard.
LaFerrara, of Port Trevorton, died from multiple stab wounds, Northumberland County Coroner Jim Kelley said Wednesday.
Authorities are closing in on finding the killer, said Mazzeo, who is regularly updating the media so the Valley remains informed.
The death of LaFerrara, a Penn State graduate and environmental engineer, may be one of the most gruesome homicides Sunbury has seen — if it occurred in Sunbury.
Police are unclear whether the killing occurred in the city, in Northumberland County or in Snyder County, where LaFerrara lived.
Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch may end up with the case.
Piecuch said he has been briefed on the homicide but is not “actively involved” in the investigation.
“We’re offering and providing any assistance they need,” he said.
It’s premature to say whether the case would be turned over to his office or another prosecutor if it turns out LaFerrera was killed outside of Northumberland County, Piecuch said.
“Investigations of these types are often cross-jurisdictional and there is a cooperative effort taking place,” he said.
LaFerrara was found lying face-down in a small parking area between two garages at the rear of 240 Catawissa Ave., witnesses said, adding that his body was covered in blood and his torso looked as if it had been cut repeatedly. There have been reports LaFerrara was stabbed more than 20 times, including cuts to his head and face.
Kelley on Wednesday would not identify the number of times LaFerrara was stabbed.
For the past five days, police have been gathering evidence from a black 1997 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck and a residence at 106 N. Eighth St., Sunbury, both owned by LaFerrara.
LaFerrara’s city home was being remodeled and was unoccupied, according to LaFerrara’s family.
The pickup truck was discovered in the parking lot of the Susquehanna Valley Mall, Hummels Wharf, near the Bon-Ton Court and Garfield’s Restaurant and Pub entrance.
However, the mall does not have video surveillance cameras in the parking lot, so police are unsure why the vehicle was there.
A member of the Union-Chapman Township Regional Sewer Authority in Snyder County, LaFerrara was described as a “nice man with no enemies,” by friends and family.
Police are staying mum on witnesses or suspects, but Mazzeo said law enforcement will not stop working until it has suspects in custody.
“We will continue to investigate this and will continue to pursue every lead we have,” Mazzeo said. “We will not shut down or stop until the person or persons are brought to justice.”
A homicide investigator from New York City spoke with The Daily Item on Friday, but on the condition of anonymity because he said he did not want to hamper the investigation.
“I actually saw this online,” he said of the murder. “Police are getting to a critical time with this. Although I can say I am not familiar with the case or where police may be at in the investigation, I can say the longer they go without an arrest or arrests, the harder this may become.”
The man, who said he investigated more than 20 homicides, said he understands police frustrations and being overworked.
“I know that we (police) need to take a break and clear our minds and come back fresh,” he said. “I offer no advice to anyone doing their job, but I can say it is nice to get a fresh set of eyes looking at these types of cases.”
Asked what the top five things police should be doing are, the investigator said, “They are doing it. Trust me.
“We know our business and I would not tell you what you should do when writing a newspaper article.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Sunbury police Sgt. Christopher Blase or Cpl. Jamie Quinn, who are leading the investigation, Mazzeo said.
Witnesses or those with tips are asked to call (570) 286-4584 or Northumberland County Emergency Services at (570) 988-4539.