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May 7, 2014

Murder suspect's 12 pleas for lawyer refused

Public defender: Confession by Miranda at barracks inadmissible

SUNBURY — Miranda Barbour begged law enforcement authorities at least 12 times to provide her an attorney during her two interviews at the Selinsgrove state police barracks Dec. 2-3, and screamed for representation when officers forcibly seized her cell phone.

After being read her Miranda rights early in the first of two trips to the barracks that night, Barbour, 19, of Selinsgrove, was told because she was not under arrest, a public defender could not be provided to her, according to evidence suppression hearing testimony Tuesday in Northumberland County Court.

Without an attorney present and having been read rights that stated she was entitled to one, Barbour continued to be interviewed while being denied legal counsel, her public defender contends.

She was not provided an attorney until more than 12 hours after her first appearance at Selinsgrove, when she was taken to the Sunbury Police Department, arrested and charged in the Nov. 11 slaying of Troy LaFerrara, of Port Trevorton.

During the second interview at the barracks early Dec. 3, Barbour admitted to killing LaFerrara in self-defense, according to those who questioned her.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Northumberland County chief public defender Ed Greco sought to have the confession and subsequent evidence collected against Barbour thrown out.

Greco began interrogating Snyder County District Attorney Mike Piecuch, Selingrove state trooper Brent Bobb and Sunbury police officer Travis Bremigen after Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini played portions of the video of Mrs. Barbour being interviewed by the trio at the Selinsgrove state police barracks.

Mrs. Barbour and her husband, Elytte, 22, of Selinsgrove, are accused in the slaying of LaFerrara.

Authorities claim Mrs. Barbour arrived for the first time at the Selinsgrove barracks at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and was not under arrest when she began to speak for two hours.

“I want to tell you guys so badly what happened,” Mrs. Barbour told police during that first interview, “but I can’t without a lawyer.”

Video of her interview was played for 50 minutes in Northumberland County Court.

Bobb sat with Mrs. Barbour and explained if she helped police understand what happened, police would be in a better position to help her.

And if she didn’t, “(Police will) find out anyway.”

Mrs. Barbour eventually called her husband from the state police barracks and informed him she was not going to be provided an attorney, and even though she could “tell them everything,” she didn’t feel comfortable without counsel present.

At some point during the interview, Barbour decided to leave, but was informed she would do so without taking her cell phone.

That didn’t sit well with Mrs. Barbour, who became irritated and told authorities she didn’t do anything wrong, and that she was leaving with her phone because police did not have a search warrant.

Bobb said they were only seizing her phone, not searching it.

Mrs. Barbour walked out of the police interview room and could be heard screaming: “Don’t touch me. I demand a lawyer. I didn’t do anything.”

Bobb testified that he grabbed the phone from Mrs. Barbour.

Mrs. Barbour returned to the barracks around 4:15 a.m. Dec. 3 after learning her husband had been there speaking with police. Authorities told her that Piecuch was on his way to explain that she was not under arrest and could not get an attorney unless she hired one.

Police had called Piecuch to the barracks.

The Snyder County prosecutor informed Mrs. Barbour that she was not under arrest, so she would not be entitled to a public defender, Piecuch testified Tuesday during about 90 minutes on the witness stand.

Mrs. Barbour again requested the presence of an attorney and can be heard on video saying: “I want to tell you guys everything, but I want an attorney.” Mrs. Barbour continued to explain to police that she was willing to speak if they would provide her with legal representation.

Piecuch, Bobb and Bremigen all testified Mrs. Barbour was not under arrest and there was not enough evidence to hold her even though while Mrs. Barbour was at the barracks, her red Honda CRV was seized from the parking lot of a Routes 11-15 restaurant, where Mr. Barbour was employed.

Police also arrived at the Barbour residence because one of the Barbours’ roommates was under the watch of Snyder County Probation and a spot check was done at the home.

Greco contended Mrs. Barbour should have been given an attorney after the first interview at the barracks, when she was read her Miranda rights by Bremigen, and that when she returned the second time — even though she spoke with police — they should have given her the opportunity to have an attorney present.

Rosini contends Mrs. Barbour was not under arrest and voluntarily came to the barracks to confess to the slaying of LaFerrara.

Bremigen testified that Mrs. Barbour was driven to her first interview at the Selinsgrove barracks in an unmarked cruiser with Bobb, city police Sgt. Chris Blase and Bremigen, who sat in the back seat with Mrs. Barbour.

Where the story becomes conflicted for the district attorney’s office is the confession given by Mrs. Barbour doesn’t match that of her husband, who was arrested three days after his wife.

Mr. Barbour told police the newlywed couple lured LaFerrara from Craiglist after his wife and LaFerrara began corresponding with each other.

The Barbours wanted to “kill someone, anyone, together,” Mr. Barbour told police, according to court documents.

Mr. Barbour said he was hiding under a blanket and when a sign was given he popped up and began to strangle LaFerrara with a cord while his wife stabbed him, according to police documents.

The couple then found an alley behind Catawissa Avenue, where they dumped the body, court documents said.

Mrs. Barbour however, said LaFerrara tried to grope her and that when he put his hands around her neck, she pulled out a knife and stabbed him. Mrs. Barbour has never told police her husband was in the vehicle or that the newlyweds planned to kill someone.

Greco will be presenting evidence when the second part of the suppression hearing continues June 2.

 

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