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January 9, 2014

Warden: Name of suspect’s visitor was on list after all

SUNBURY — Northumberland County Prison Warden Roy Johnson acknowledged Thursday a reporter from The Daily Item was named on a visitor list to enter the city jail and speak with murder suspect Miranda Barbour even though prison officials said Tuesday the reporter was not.

Even relatives of murder victim Troy LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton, were disappointed in the jail’s decision of banning the reporter by saying, “We wish they would have let” the reporter in.

Earlier this week, Barbour, 19, of Selinsgrove, who with her husband is accused by Sunbury police of murdering LaFerrara in November by stabbing him 20 times, wrote a letter to The Daily Item requesting a visit from the reporter.

Northumberland County does not have a written policy on media visits with inmates, Commissioner Steve Bridy said, and Johnson on Thursday said the interview was denied because Barbour’s visiting list was never processed, thus the name of the reporter was not listed.

“She did attempt to put you on her list,” Johnson said.

“When the newspaper was told they were not on the list it was the truth because the papers were never processed.”

An article appeared in the Thursday edition of The Daily Item about the incident. Later that morning, Barbour’s attorney, Northumberland County public defender Ed Greco, appeared at the jail to talk to his client.

When Greco left around 8:45 a.m., he informed the newspaper the reporter had been taken off the list to speak with Barbour.

The Daily Item had not received word from Barbour confirming Greco’s statement, but Bridy, who defended Northumberland County Prison Commander Brian Wheary and Johnson on Tuesday and Wednesday, discovered that the reporter was in fact on the list and prison officials allegedly withheld that information from the commissioner.

Bridy on Thursday asked for the immediate resignation of Wheary and Johnson.

Bridy said the reporter was listed third on Barbour’s visitation list and was removed at 11:40 a.m. Thursday, almost three hours after Greco left.

“I knew Mr. Greco was here but I did not speak with him,” Johnson said. “I did call his office yesterday. I assume he read the newspaper and showed up to speak with his client.

“I have had no involvement with this.”

Bridy said Johnson told him on Tuesday there was a written policy on media access to the prison, but on Thursday discovered there is no policy. Johnson said Barbour would have been denied the interview anyway because she is on “nondisciplinary restrictive status.”

“That doesn’t mean she is in trouble. Don’t misquote me,” Johnson said.

“It could be several issues why, including medical, mental health (or) security issues.”

Once Barbour is off that status and if she decides to request another interview and as long as all criteria are met, Johnson said he would review the request.

Relatives of LaFerrara called The Daily Item on Thursday and said they were in favor of the reporter entering the city jail.

“She (Barbour) should be able to speak,” a relative said.

“It’s her right and we would have loved to hear what she had to say.”

LaFerrara’s relative said she is in full support of the jail house interviews and hopes Northumberland County would reconsider its stance.

“We read the newspaper on Thursday and were surprised to see you guys were not allowed in,” the woman said. “We are willing to back you with this.”

Warden: Name of suspect’s visitor was on list after all

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