Erika Sifrit Cites Mental Issues In New Trial Bid

OCEAN CITY — With the 10th anniversary of the heinous crime rapidly approaching, convicted killer Erika Sifrit, who, along with her husband Benjamin, brutally murdered and dismembered a Virginia couple vacationing in Ocean City on Memorial Day 2002, this week filed her latest bid for a new trial.

Erika Sifrit, now 34, this week filed a petition seeking an overturn of her prior convictions and sentences and a bid for a new trial, citing her defense counsel at her original trial in 2003 failed to highlight her mental instability and the dominance of her husband at the time of the crimes. In 2003, Erika Sifrit was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Joshua Ford and second-degree murder in the death of Martha Crutchley and was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.

Unlike prior attempts, Erika Sifrit’s latest appeal does not dispute the material facts in the case, but calls into question a lack of effort by her counsel at the Circuit Court level to investigate her mental condition at the time of the double murder.

“Despite the weight of the circumstantial evidence that she was involved in the murders with her husband, including but not limited to her ownership of the murder weapon and possession of victim ID’s and a ring at the time of her arrest, the record shows Ms. Sifrit’s trial counsel did next to nothing to investigate and develop a defense regarding her state of mind- the reason she was involved in the crime,” the appeal reads. “Due to constitutionally inadequate investigation of Ms. Sifrit’s state of mind and mental health, trial counsel failed to respond to the state’s aiding and abetting case.”

The Sifrits lured Crutchley and Ford back to their Ocean City condo on Memorial Day weekend in 2002 after spending the evening with them at a resort nightclub before brutally murdering them and dismembering their bodies, parts of which were found in a Delaware landfill nine days later. The couple was caught during a botched burglary attempt at a north end restaurant nearly a week later and a trail of evidence led investigators to the scene of the murders.

The latest appeal attempt points to the failings of Erika Sifrit’s defense counsel to explore the depths of her mental illness or the possible effects of the drugs she was using at the time, including Paxil and Xanax, which were found on her at the time of the arrest following the burglary attempt.

“Counsel offered no evidence to explain how and why Ms. Sifrit came to be in the presence of her husband on that fateful evening,” the appeal reads. “Counsel offered no evidence in an attempt to explain why she remained with him, and kept her mouth shut, in the days that followed.”