SUNBURY, Pa. (AP) — Newlyweds who police said wanted to kill someone together were ordered Friday to stand trial on charges they lured a stranger with a Craigslist ad, stabbed him to death after he got into their car and dumped his body in an alley.
Miranda Barbour, 18, and 22-year-old Elytte Barbour of Selinsgrove pleaded not guilty at separate hearings Friday in the central Pennsylvania city of Sunbury.
They are being held without bail in the Nov. 11 death of Troy LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton.
The couple, who were married in North Carolina and moved to Pennsylvania about three weeks before the crime, told police Miranda Barbour stabbed LaFerrara in the front seat of her car while her husband held a cord around his neck.
Police allege in court papers that Elytte Barbour told investigators they committed the crime because they wanted to kill someone together. But defense attorney James Best said he didn't know his client's alleged motive.
"That's going to come out in the wash at trial," Best said outside court Friday. "There's a lot of salacious stuff in the (court) papers, but I didn't hear it today."
Miranda Barbour admitted she stabbed LaFerrara after meeting him in the parking lot of a mall, but claimed it was in self-defense, saying the victim had groped her and put his hand on her throat, state police Trooper Brent Bobb testified at her preliminary hearing.
Authorities said Miranda Barbour, a petite woman with long brown hair, told investigators she met the 6-foot-2, 278-pound victim after he responded to her Craigslist ad offering companionship for money, and that they traveled in her car from Selinsgrove to Sunbury, a small city about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
Trooper Bobb, who interviewed Miranda Barbour, testified she told him that after LaFerrara attacked her in the car, she grabbed a knife and stabbed him two to four times, but he "didn't have a reaction." She said she then "blacked out and couldn't remember" what happened next, the trooper testified.
Interviewed separately, Elytte Barbour told investigators he was hiding under a blanket in the back seat when his wife picked up LaFerrara and drove to Sunbury, where they parked, Sunbury police officer Travis Bremigen testified.
At a prearranged signal — a tap on his leg — the husband said he "popped up" and saw his wife stabbing LaFerrara, Bremigen said. He then pulled a black cable around the victim's neck, "holding Mr. LaFerrara tightly against the front passenger seat" while his wife continued plunging the knife, the officer said.
The couple allegedly dumped the body in an alley, where it was discovered — along with the black cable — the following morning.
Northumberland County Coroner James Kelley testified that LaFerrara died of multiple sharp-force injuries, with strangulation possibly contributing.
Surveillance video played Friday showed the couple driving to a Walmart shortly after the crime, where Elytte Barbour purchased cleaning supplies they allegedly used to mop up the blood-soaked car.
Elytte Barbour, in an interview with The Daily Item newspaper in Sunbury, defended his wife, calling her an entrepreneur who hired herself out through website ads to provide "delightful conversation" — never sex, he insisted — with lonely men who paid her as much as $850. He also maintained that she stabbed LaFerrara in self-defense.
The short, slender defendant did not comment as he was led out of the courthouse in shackles Friday. LaFerrara's family declined comment.
Bobb testified Miranda Barbour was informed of her right to an attorney and told she could leave her interview with police at any time.
"She stated several times that she did not want to leave. She knew we were coming to get her eventually and she just wanted to get it over with," the trooper said.