Erika and Benjamin Sifrit

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Erika Sifrit
Born
Erika Elaine Grace

(1978-02-03) February 3, 1978 (age 40)
NationalityAmerican
Criminal statusIncarcerated at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women
Spouse(s)
Benjamin Sifrit
(m. 1998; div. 2010)
Criminal chargeFirst-degree murder, second-degree murder
PenaltyLife plus 20 years
Details
Victims2
DateMay 25, 2002
CountryUnited States
State(s)Maryland
KilledJoshua Ford
Martha "Geney" Crutchley
Date apprehended
May 31, 2002; 16 years ago (2002-05-31)
Benjamin Sifrit
Born
Benjamin Adam Sifrit

(1977-10-21) October 21, 1977 (age 41)
NationalityAmerican
Other namesB.J. Sifrit
Criminal statusIncarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution
Spouse(s)
Erika Sifrit
(m. 1998; div. 2010)
Criminal chargeSecond-degree murder, first-degree assault
Penalty38 years
Details
Victims1
DateMay 25, 2002
CountryUnited States
State(s)Maryland
KilledMartha "Geney" Crutchley
Date apprehended
May 31, 2002; 16 years ago (2002-05-31)

Erika Elaine Sifrit (née Grace; born February 3, 1978) and Benjamin Adam "BJ" Sifrit (born October 21, 1977) were an American couple convicted of murdering two tourists, Joshua Edward Ford and Martha Margene "Geney" Crutchley, in Ocean City, Maryland in 2002. The case drew substantial media attention. In 2003, both Sifrits were convicted in the murders.

Benjamin Sifrit is currently serving 38 years at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland, while Erika is serving a life sentence plus 20 years at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup.[1][2] The Sifrits divorced in 2010.[3]

Early lives[edit]

Erika Elaine Grace was born in Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania to Charlotte Gail "Cookie" (née Klotz) and Gerald Mitchell Grace. Benjamin Adam "BJ" Sifrit was born in Estherville, Iowa to Elizabeth Ann "Buffie" (née Graves) and Craig Arthur Sifrit. Erika and Benjamin married in 1998, when they were both 20 years old. She was an honors student and basketball star at Mary Washington College, and he graduated BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School) but never received a SEAL Trident or qualified as a Navy SEAL before he received a bad conduct discharge for repeatedly being absent without leave, insubordination, and wearing unauthorized insignia. Shortly after marrying, the Sifrits moved near Erika's hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. There, they opened and operated a scrapbook store.[4]

Murders[edit]

On May 25, 2002, the Sifrits, both 24 at the time, met another couple, Joshua Ford and Martha Crutchley, a vacationing couple from Fairfax, Virginia. After a night of partying together at the Seacrets nightclub in Ocean City, Maryland, the two couples went back to the Sifrits' condominium located in The Rainbow on 112th Street. According to records, the Sifrits claimed that Ford and Crutchley stole Erika's purse, and Benjamin pulled a gun on the couple. After retreating to the bathroom, Ford was fatally shot four times with Erika's gun. Crutchley was also killed; investigators believe that she was stabbed, but the official cause of death could not be determined from her remains. The bodies were then dismembered and disposed of in a grocery store dumpster in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The remains were transferred to a nearby landfill, where they were recovered by searchers nine days later.[4]

Arrests and trials[edit]

The Sifrits were arrested on May 31, 2002, but not for the murders: they were caught burglarizing a Hooters restaurant. When police searched Erika's purse, they uncovered the drivers licenses of Ford and Crutchley, who at that point had been reported missing for days. Erika confessed to murdering the couple shortly after her apprehension, but claimed the idea was her husband's.[4]

Because of the heavy publicity of the case, the Sifrits' trials were moved out of Worcester County, Maryland. Benjamin's trial was held in Rockville, and Erika's was held in Frederick.[5] At Benjamin's 2003 trial, a 22-year-old woman named Melissa Seling testified that she was subjected to the same ritual that Joshua and Martha endured, although she was able to avoid being killed.[4] On April 9, 2003, Benjamin was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the death of Crutchley, and was acquitted of all charges in the death of Joshua Ford.[5] He was later sentenced to thirty-eight years in prison.[6][7] Erika's trial started shortly afterwards, on June 3, 2003.[8] On June 11, she was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Ford and second-degree murder in the death of Crutchley, and was later sentenced to life imprisonment plus twenty years.[6][7]

Aftermath[edit]

In March 2010, Benjamin filed for divorce, which was later granted in August 2010.[3]

Both Sifrits have filed numerous appeals, all of which have failed. Benjamin exhausted his last appeal in 2010.[9] He will be eligible for parole in 2021. Erika's appeal, citing ineffectiveness of counsel,[10] was denied in 2014.[11] She will be eligible for parole in 2024.

In popular culture[edit]

The Sifrit case has been profiled on American Justice, Deadly Women, Forensic Files, Sins and Secrets, Deadly Sins, and Snapped.

In July 2009, a book entitled Cruel Death, written by M. William Phelps, was released about the case.[12]

Andy Stumpf, former Navy SEAL, on his podcast “Cleared Hot,” has repeatedly mentioned that Sifrit was the honor graduate from their BUDS class.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Maryland DOC Inmate Locator". dpscs.state.md.us.
  2. ^ "Maryland DOC Inmate Locator". dpscs.state.md.us.
  3. ^ a b Neil Augenstein (August 12, 2010). "Court officer changes mind, OKs Sifrit divorce". Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d Bill Hewitt (June 9, 2003). "Thrill Killers?". Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Jury Reaches Verdict in Sifrit Case". April 10, 2003. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Jeff Barker (June 11, 2003). "Erika Sifrit is found guilty in Ocean City double-killing". Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Erika Sifrit Describes O.C. Tourist Murders". September 2, 2004. Retrieved June 1, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Double Murder Trial Begins for Erika Sifrit". June 3, 2003. Retrieved June 1, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Steve Lash (2010). "B. Sifrit shifts attack on murder conviction from state court in Md". The Daily Record. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
  10. ^ Neal Augenstein (April 1, 2012). "Erika Sifrit cites lawyer failure, seeks new trial". Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  11. ^ DispatchAdmin (October 16, 2014). "Fed Judge Denies Erika Sifrit Appeal; Decision Likely Exhausts Challenges". The Dispatch. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  12. ^ Nancy Powell (July 10, 2009). "Story of infamous '02 resort murder now told in book". Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-01.