SUNBURY — A Northumberland County judge may decide this week whether to quash aggravating circumstances that could prevent a death penalty sentence if Miranda Barbour would be found guilty in the Nov. 11 slaying of Troy LaFerrara.
Barbour, 19, and her husband, Elytte Barbour, 22, is accused in the killing of the Port Trevorton resident.
Northumberland County chief public defender Ed Greco argued in mid-April that an autopsy report does not support Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini’s assertion that the homicide was committed by means of torture. Greco is asking that the court allow testimony on the matter and quash the aggravating circumstances of torture while in commission of another felony.
LaFerrara was stabbed up to 20 times, Northumberland County Coroner Jim Kelley said.
Rosini contends that the Barbours stole LaFerrara’s wallet after they left him for dead in a city alley, but Mrs. Barbour has told police only that she stabbed LaFerrara after he began to grope her and put his hands around her neck. She has never admitted to authorities that any money was taken.
Pennsylvania is one of 32 states with the death penalty. There are 18 aggravating circumstances that can lead to a death sentence.
Mr. Barbour told police the couple lured LaFerrara after answering a Craigslist ad for companionship, but that they planned on the murder because they wanted to “kill someone, anyone, together,” police said.
Judge Charles Saylor is proceeding over the case. His office said Saylor was hoping to rule by “early (this) week.”
DA: Let jurors decide
Rosini provided the court with several cases that allowed robbery as an aggravating circumstance and said a jury, not a judge, should not decide on the issue.
Rosini also provided case law that shows the district attorney has discretion to seek the death penalty.
If Mrs. Barbour is convicted of first-degree murder in the case, jurors will weigh aggravating and mitigating circumstances in deciding whether to impose the death penalty. Greco says a packet of information prepared by the state trooper who received information at the LaFerrara autopsy on Nov. 13 stated there was no indication LaFerrara was tortured.
The trooper’s report was completed Nov. 22, Greco said.