HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — A newlywed couple charged in the stabbing death of a stranger they lured through a Craigslist ad offering companionship pleaded guilty to murder on Tuesday and face mandatory sentences of life without parole.
Miranda Barbour, 19, and Elytte Barbour, 22, had previously pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges that carried a possible death penalty upon conviction. They changed their pleas to guilty of second-degree murder at what was to have been a routine status conference in Northumberland County Court in Sunbury.
The Barbours married in North Carolina and moved to central Pennsylvania about three weeks before they met up with the victim, Troy LaFerrara, when he accepted her offer of companionship in exchange for money.
Miranda Barbour picked up LaFerrara at a mall in Selinsgrove on Nov. 11 and drove in her car to Sunbury, a small city about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
After they parked, Elytte Barbour came out of his hiding place under a blanket in the back seat and held a cord tight against LaFerrara's neck while his petite wife stabbed the 6-foot-2, 278-pound man about 20 times. They dumped his body in an alley.
Elytte Barbour later told police the couple killed LaFerrara, who was 42, because they wanted to kill someone together.
The Barbours are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 18 in Northumberland County Court, said a law clerk for Judge Charles Saylor, who's handling the case.
Miranda Barbour's lawyer did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
She initially denied knowing LaFerrara, who was from Trevorton, but changed her story when police gathered records that showed the last call to his cellphone came from hers, authorities said.
Elytte Barbour admitted his involvement a few days later after police obtained video surveillance recordings that showed him getting out of her car on the night of the killing and buying supplies to clean it.
In April, Miranda Barbour gained fleeting national notoriety when she said in an interview with Sunbury's The Daily Item newspaper that she had killed at least 22 other people in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California over six years as part of her involvement in a satanic cult. But checks by police failed to substantiate her claims.
Northumberland County District Attorney Ann Targonski said Tuesday that the guilty pleas were the best possible outcome for the victim's family. Had the Barbours been sentenced to die, she said, "this matter would have dragged on for many, many years."
At the court hearing, LaFerrara's widow wept as the judge questioned Miranda Barbour about her plea. His sister, Holly LaFerrara, said the family was satisfied with the double plea deal.
"Our primary goal has been to ensure that the two killers never get out of prison," she told The Daily Item. "They will remain dangers to society as long as they live."
In an interview from Muncy State Prison last week, Miranda Barbour told the newspaper she believes she belongs behind bars.
"I don't want to hurt anyone else," she said.