Erika and Benjamin Sifrit

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Erika Sifrit
Born Erika Elaine Grace
(1978-02-03) February 3, 1978 (age 39)
Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality American
Criminal charge First-degree murder, second-degree murder
Criminal penalty Life plus 20 years
Criminal status Incarcerated at Maryland Correctional Institute for Women
Spouse(s) Benjamin Sifrit (m. 1998; div. 2010)
Killings
Victims 2
Date May 25, 2002
Country United States
State(s) Maryland
Killed Joshua Ford
Martha "Geney" Crutchley
Date apprehended
May 31, 2002
Benjamin Sifrit
Born Benjamin Adam Sifrit
(1977-10-21) October 21, 1977 (age 39)
Estherville, Iowa, U.S.
Nationality American
Other names B.J. Sifrit
Criminal charge Second-degree murder, first-degree assault
Criminal penalty 38 years
Criminal status Incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution
Spouse(s) Erika Sifrit (m. 1998; div. 2010)
Killings
Victims 1
Date May 25, 2002
Country United States
State(s) Maryland
Killed Martha "Geney" Crutchley
Date apprehended
May 31, 2002

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 Sifrit is serving a life sentence plus 20 years at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, Maryland.[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 Grace and Benjamin Sifrit married in 1998, when they were both 20 years old. She was an honors student and basketball star at Mary Washington College, and he was a former Navy SEAL who had received a bad conduct discharge from the Navy for repeatedly being absent without leave, insubordination, and wearing unauthorized insignia. Shortly after marrying, the couple moved near Erika's hometown of Altoona, Pennsylvania. There, the couple 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 Margene "Geney" Crutchley, a mortgage banker and insurance executive (respectively) from Fairfax, Virginia, who were on vacation. After a night of partying together at the Seacrets nightclub in Ocean City, Maryland, the two couples went back to the Sifrits' condominium. 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 shot four times with Erika Sifrit's gun and killed. 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]

Erika and Benjamin Sifrit were arrested on May 31, 2002, but not for murder: the couple were caught robbing a Hooters store. When police searched Erika Sifrit's purse, they uncovered the driver licenses of Joshua Ford and Martha 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, Maryland, and Erika's was held in Frederick.[5]

Benjamin Sifrit was the first to go to trial in March 2003. At the trial, a 22-year-old woman named Melissa Seling testified that she had almost become the Sifrits' next victim. On the stand, she told jurors 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 Sifrit was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the death of Martha Crutchley, and was acquitted of all charges in the death of Joshua Ford.[5] He was later sentenced to 38 years in prison on July 7, 2003.[6][7]

Erika Sifrit's trial started on June 3, 2003.[8] On June 11, she was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Joshua Ford and second-degree murder in the death of Martha Crutchley, and was later sentenced to life plus 25 years on August 14, 2003.[6][7]

Aftermath[edit]

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

Both Sifrits have filed numerous appeals, all of which have failed. Benjamin Sifrit exhausted his last appeal in 2010.[9] He will be eligible for parole in 2021.

Erika Sifrit'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]

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.