- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

SNOW HILL, Md. The bodies of a missing Fairfax County couple were dismembered, placed in black plastic bags and dumped in a Delaware trash bin after the pair was shot in a condominium bathroom, a Pennsylvania woman charged with the killings told police.
Erika Sifrit, 24, and her husband, Benjamin, 24, were ordered held without bail yesterday in the killings of Martha Crutchley, 51, and her boyfriend Joshua Ford, 32, who were reported missing after a Memorial Day weekend trip to Ocean City.
Mrs. Sifrit first told police her husband shot the pair on the beach. Later, she said the couple had locked themselves in the condominium's bathroom to hide from her husband, who kicked open the door and shot them, according to charging documents.
Mrs. Sifrit also told police that her husband dismembered the bodies, and that they dumped the remains in a garbage bin in nearby Rehoboth Beach, Del., according to charging documents.
Delaware State Police said body parts were found at a Hardscrabble, Del., landfill yesterday morning.
About 55 persons searched an 800-square foot area on a 40-acre, 150-foot tall mound of garbage, where trash from Sussex County, Del., for the past week is believed to have been deposited. Heavy machinery and hand rakes were used to pick through the 3,500 tons of trash, attracting flocks of seagulls.
Lights were brought in to continue the search last night for body parts, which were found in plastic bags. The bodies will be identified by the Delaware Medical Examiner's Office, Ocean City police spokesman Jay Hancock said.
Investigators still do not have a motive for the killings, and evidence has not been found to indicate the couples knew each other. Police believe the two couples met at a bar, Mr. Hancock said.
Receipts indicating the victims made a purchase at the Greene Turtle bar and restaurant on the night of the killing have also been found, the police spokesman said.
The Sifrits, of Altoona, Pa., were caught Friday morning breaking into the merchandise store of a Hooters restaurant in Ocean City, police said. When officers searched their Jeep Cherokee, they found identification belonging to the slain victims.
Attorney Arcangelo Tuminelli, who is representing Mrs. Sifrit, said his client, whose maiden name was Erika Grace, was a straight-A student and basketball player at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va., and a high school basketball standout.
She also was a congressional intern to Rep. Herbert Bateman, Virginia Republican.
"The only thing I would say is, this event is completely out of character for Erika," Mr. Tuminelli said. "She was a good student, a good athlete and had no criminal record until this point."
When asked if she would enter a plea for Mrs. Sifrit before trial, Mr. Tuminelli said, "We will explore whatever options are available to her. There's no determination now that she will."
A handgun, two spent shell casings and a serrated knife with blood and flesh in its teeth were found on Mrs. Sifrit when she was arrested. Deformed bullets with blood and flesh on them, plastic handcuffs, a white powder that appeared to be cocaine and blood spatterings were also found in the car and condominium, according to charging documents.
After her arrest, Mrs. Sifrit asked one of the officers to get medication from her purse. The officer went into her purse and discovered identification cards belonging to the missing Virginia couple, as well as several spent bullet casings.
Plastic handcuffs were found under the driver's seat and a parking permit for the Rainbow condominium was found in the vehicle, according to the charging documents.
At the Rainbow condominium unit, police found a key with a tag from the Atlantis condominium units the complex where the missing couple had been staying.
A white, powdery substance was found on a glass dining table, and a rolled-up bill of U.S. currency and two spent, deformed bullets were also found in the condo, according to the charging documents.
Two boa constrictors, 5 to 6 feet long, were also found in the condominium, Mr. Hancock said.
Photographs of the victims and suspects, blood and the lint screen of a washing machine were also found, as well as a large number of black plastic garbage bags in the living room area and blood spatters in the master bathroom, the charging documents say.
The handgun found on Mrs. Sifrit matched the caliber and type of the spent bullets found in the Rainbow condominium, the charging documents say.
Worcester County District Judge Richard Bloxom scheduled a June 17 preliminary hearing for Mrs. Sifrit and a June 11 hearing for her husband, both in Ocean City District Court.
The Sifrits, who each face two counts of first-degree murder, are being held at the Worcester County Detention Center.


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