OCEAN CITY — The male half of the most notorious couple’s in resort history was denied parole last week nearly 20 years after a grisly double homicide.
Benjamin Sifrit, now 44, and his wife Erika killed and dismembered a Virginia couple in a north-end condo in Ocean City on Memorial Day weekend in 2002. Benjamin Sifrit had a parole hearing last Thursday before the Maryland Patrol Commission at the Roxbury Correctional Facility in Hagerstown where he has been incarcerated since being convicted of second-degree murder for his role in the death of Martha Crutchley.
Benjamin Sifrit was sentenced to 38 years in prison, and was first eligible for parole in 2017, but chose to postpone that initial hearing. Last Thursday, a two-member panel of the parole commission heard the case with Sifrit present along with a correctional case manager. Representatives of the victims also participated virtually.
After the hearing, which lasted an hour and 40 minutes, the board members denied the request for parole, keeping Benjamin Sifrit behind bars at Roxbury. He is next eligible for a parole hearing in two years. His mandatory release date is in 2030, although he was eligible for a parole hearing after serving half of his 38-year sentence.
Benjamin Sifrit and his wife Erika were convicted in the deaths of Joshua Ford and Crutchley in a north-end penthouse condo in Ocean City on Memorial Day weekend in 2002. The Sifrits lured the couple to their penthouse condo where they were shot and killed after a ruse about a missing purse. The Sifrits then dismembered the deceased Ford and Crutchley and distributed remains in dumpsters in southern Delaware, portions of which were later found in a landfill.
Because of pre-trial publicity, Benjamin Sifrit was tried in Montgomery County, where he was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Crutchley. Erika Sifrit was tried in Frederick County and was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Ford and second-degree murder in the death of Crutchley. Erika Sifrit was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.
The Sifrits first met Ford and Crutchley when they boarded a resort bus at 143rd Street in Ocean City hours before the horrific crime. The Sifrits did not have exact change when they boarded the bus and Ford agreed to cover their fare. The two couples struck up a conversation during the bus ride south and later went to a resort nightclub together where they shared drinks, danced and became fast friends. Another couple had joined the pair at some point, but parted ways when the Sifrits unnerved them with their forwardness.
The Sifrits and Ford and Crutchley later went back to the latter’s condo at the Atlantis for a nightcap and when the Sifrits invited them to come over to the Rainbow to see the posh penthouse they were staying in, the couple obliged. They would never be seen again. The Sifrits later engaged Ford and Crutchley in a game of sorts that led to the brutal murders. Erika Sifrit claimed her purse was missing and suspected Ford and Crutchley had taken it. When Benjamin Sifrit, a former Navy SEAL became enraged by the phony theft and brandished a gun, Ford and Crutchley retreated to the bathroom in the master bedroom and barricaded the door.
Exactly what happened next is known only to Benjamin and Erika Sifrit, but what is known is that Ford was shot first through the bathroom door and shot several more times after Benjamin presumably kicked down the door. It remains uncertain if Crutchley was also shot to death. One of Crutchley’s legs was discovered later in the Delaware landfill.
Early on, Erika Sifrit claimed her husband had killed both Ford and Crutchley, but Benjamin Sifrit claimed during his trial he had passed out in the couple’s Jeep while Erika killed Ford and Crutchley upstairs in the penthouse.
Benjamin Sifrit did admit to dismembering the bodies in an effort to cover for his wife, and the pair packed the victim’s body parts in plastic trash bags and dispersed them in dumpsters across Sussex County.
After weeks of compelling and gruesome testimony in both trials, the juries in the separate cases returned with guilty verdicts, ensuring both Sifrits would spend a long time behind bars, and in Erika’s case her life.
A botched robbery at a north-end restaurant a week after the murders connected the Sifrits to the missing couple. Erika Sifrit had a penchant for Hooter’s merchandize and when the couple was arrested for attempting to burglarize the Hooter’s restaurant on 123rd Street in Ocean City nearly a week after the murders, resort police began to unravel the evidence that connected Benjamin and Erika Sifrit to the missing couple from Virginia.
While being taken into custody, Erika Sifrit asked the arresting officers to get her medication out of her purse. While searching for the pills, the officers found the missing couple’s identification cards, spent bullet casings, handcuffs, and weapons, including the .357 Magnum later discovered to be the murder weapon. Erika Sifrit was later found wearing a ring belonging to Ford on a chain around her neck.