SUNBURY — A prosecutor said Tuesday he will seek the death penalty for a central Pennsylvania couple charged with killing a man allegedly lured through a Craigslist ad.
Aggravating circumstances warrant death sentences for Elytte Barbour, 22, and his 19-year-old wife, Miranda, if they’re convicted of first-degree murder, Northumberland County District Attorney Anthony Rosini said.
Rosini said the Barbours tortured 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara and killed him in the commission of a robbery, making the couple eligible for the death penalty.
“We believe that this is an appropriate case in which to seek the death penalty and that a jury would be likely to impose the death penalty,” Rosini said.
Miranda Barbour stabbed LaFerrara, of Port Trevorton, in the front seat of her car while Elytte Barbour held a cord around his neck from the back seat on Nov. 11, authorities said.
Elytte Barbour allegedly told investigators they committed the crime because they wanted to kill someone together. Miranda Barbour had met LaFerrara on Craigslist, where she offered companionship for a fee, and arranged the meeting that led to his death, police said.
County Chief Public Defender Edward Greco, who is representing Miranda Barbour, said Rosini’s decision to seek the death penalty was “not something that we did not expect.”
Elytte Barbour’s attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Rosini also said he will seek to have a joint trial for the Barbours, who were married in North Carolina and moved to Pennsylvania weeks before LaFerrara’s death.
Relatives of the victim pressed Rosini to seek the death penalty, according to the Daily Item newspaper.
The paper reported that a representative for the LaFerrara family, who has asked not to be identified, said anything less than the death penalty is unacceptable.
“We told the district attorney’s office twice we want the death penalty,” the woman said. “We have also indicated we will not support any double plea deals.”
The cost of a capital murder trial is exponentially higher than a noncapital trial, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told The Daily Item several weeks ago.
“Every part of a death penalty case is longer and therefore more expensive,” he said.
Dieter said an average death sentence costs about $3 million — between the initial trial and appeals. A life sentence may cost about $1 million, he said.
Even if one or both of the Barbours were to be sentenced to death, it’s unlikely that a death sentence would be carried out, based on the state’s system, Dieter said.
“We just want the district attorney to go for the death penalty,” the family spokeswoman said. “Being on death row is much more severe than life without parole. They will not get as much free time each day outside the cell and they are always shackled.”
While Pennsylvania has the fourth-largest death-row population in the nation at 198 — including four women — the state has a very low rate of execution. It has used lethal injection on just three prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and all three chose to forgo their appeals processes, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.