Court To Hear Sifrit Appeal
BERLIN - Convicted killer Erika Sifrit, who along with her husband Benjamin, brutally murdered and dismembered a Virginia couple vacationing in Ocean City on Memorial Day weekend in 2002, will get another day in court after the Frederick County Circuit Court where she was tried and convicted agreed this week to schedule hearings on her appeal.
The Sifrits, both originally from Hollidaysburg, Pa., were convicted in separate trials around the state in 2003 after the highly sensational cases were moved from Worcester County. Erika Sifrit received a life sentence plus 20 years for her role in the killings of Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford, whose dismembered bodies were found in a Delaware landfill in the weeks after the murders in Ocean City on Memorial Day weekend in 2002.
Five years after her conviction and sentence, Erika Sifrit's new attorney, Robert Biddle, last month filed a petition for post conviction relief and a request for a hearing in Frederick County Circuit Court citing the failings of her defense team in accurately portraying her as a manipulated victim of sorts in the crime. The Frederick Circuit Court has agreed to at least review the allegations spelled out in Biddle's 15-page petition with a status review set for next month and post conviction hearings scheduled for next year.
When Sifrit's post conviction hearing is held, there will be a different face at the prosecution table. Two weeks ago, Deputy State's Attorney for Worcester County Mike Farlow entered his appearance on behalf of the prosecution. Just this week, Worcester County State's Attorney Joel Todd and former Deputy State's Attorney E. Scott Collins officially removed their appearances in future post-conviction proceedings for Erika Sifrit.
The essence of Biddle's request for post-conviction relief for Erika Sifrit hinges on the belief defense attorneys at her original trial did not fully explore her history of mental illness. In his petition for relief, Biddle outlines how Erika Sifrit was not mentally responsible for her part in the murders and points out the discovery of certain medications on her person at the time of her capture illustrate she was not fully capable of understanding what had occurred.
'By failing to obtain the necessary records, and by failing to provide those records to qualified experts, the defense missed the opportunity to show that Mr. Sifrit manipulated and controlled his wife, abused her psychologically to the point she lacked the capacity of a rational adult and became so extremely dependent on him that she would do anything he requested, regardless of the harm it caused,' the appeal reads.