It was not an ordinary homicide.
When a body was found in a Sunbury alley a month ago, it was different from the word “go.”
It was neither a domestic dispute, nor a drug deal gone wrong. There was no family history to track down. In this part of the world, that is where police work often starts and finishes with someone in the kitchen holding a knife.
This time Sunbury’s Police Department was facing a mystery. Turf familiarity or knowing who’s who among local miscreants mattered little.
Backed by Chief Steve Mazzeo, lead investigators Sgt. Chris Blase, Cpl. Jamie Quinn and officer Travis Bremigen, with the help of officers Brad Slack and Brad Hare, dug through dark holes of various social networking sites, following sordid channels few in the Valley even knew existed.
When Miranda and Elytte Barbour were arrested within days of each other last week, it capped three weeks of tireless investigation and meticulous police work.
Police reached out to the public strategically and cleverly. Law enforcement officials talked to dozens of individuals, followed leads, considered tips. They looked at surveillance video from Sunbury’s new cameras and more established locations.
Police were trying to solve a drive-by homicide, trying to pull motive, means and opportunity from a chance meeting between cyber strangers, a realm where communication is coded and identities are invented.
There wasn’t much of a trail from the scene, only limited evidence from which to build a case using unfamiliar tactics.
It was a step-by-step process with each step crunched through the skepticism and experience of the entire team.
Officers worked around the clock and through the Thanksgiving holiday. In a few weeks, they focused their attention on a female teenager with no local ties and no obvious attachment to the victim.
But there were doubts that she could pull off a crime like that on her own. So police stayed focused, pushing for the missing pieces until the young woman’s husband completed the puzzle a few days later.
Questions of skill, experience and tenacity follow a community police department when it confronts the unusual, when it steps off the beat and into the bizarre.
Doubts would follow any police department on the trail of a crime like this.
But, today, the arrests look solid. And so does the team that made them.
Here are some Facebook comments on the work of the local department:
“Nothing should be taken away from the police actions in solving this difficult case. They did an outstanding job!” – Granny Charli
“Police officers put their lives on the line for us … RESPECT THEM!” – Toni Broyan
“Way to Sunbury P.D. on a job very well done. You had very little to go on, and you made the pieces of the puzzle come together. We are a safer community with you in it.” – Michelle Sinko
“You are all amazing, and very proud to call you friends, prayers said in your names nightly.” – Ann Showers
“We are fortunate to have these individuals watching out for our city everyday! Awesome job guys and gals!” – Bart Peters