Remains that may be those of a Fairfax City couple who apparently were killed during a Memorial Day vacation to Ocean City were discovered during a search of a Sussex County, Del., landfill yesterday morning, Delaware State Police said.
Investigators would not speculate on whether the remains recovered from the landfill, about 40 miles north of Ocean City, were those of Martha Crutchley, 51, and Joshua Ford, 32, who disappeared during their trip to the beach resort.
The remains were taken to the medical examiner's office in Wilmington for identification, according to Cpl. Bruce Harris, a spokesman for the state police. He would not reveal any details about the remains.
"It's just too premature to say that they are connected," Harris said. He said positive identification could be made within two days.
The suspects in the killings, Benjamin and Erika Sifrit, both 24 and of Altoona, Pa., were ordered held without bond during a bail hearing in Worcester County District Court in Snow Hill yesterday. Preliminary hearings for the couple were scheduled for the middle of this month.
According to charging documents made public yesterday, Erika Sifrit told police that her husband shot Crutchley and Ford in the bathroom of an Ocean City penthouse condominium late May 25 or 26. She said her husband then dismembered the bodies and placed them in five or six black trash bags before driving to Rehoboth Beach and dumping them in a dumpster.
Erika Sifrit's attorney, Arcangelo Tuminelli, said yesterday that his client, an honors graduate of Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va., did not participate in the killings. "I am relatively comfortable in saying that I don't believe that Erika is directly responsible for killing any of these people," Tuminelli said. "Her statement puts herself there when this occurred, but it wasn't at her direction."
Police had no indication of the motive in the killings. A source with knowledge of the investigation said the couples did not know one another before meeting in an Ocean City bar. It is unclear whether Crutchley and Ford went voluntarily to the condominium where the Sifrits were staying.
The Sifrits were arrested early Friday after tripping a burglar alarm while entering a Hooters restaurant's merchandise store in Ocean City, police said. Officers arrived at the restaurant as the Sifrits were carrying $5,500 worth of T-shirts, hats and cigarettes to their Jeep Cherokee, according to the charging documents.
Police then searched the Sifrits and their Jeep and found three handguns, a knife and photo identification belonging to Crutchley and Ford, according to the documents. Also found in the Jeep were a parking pass to the Rainbow condominium where the Sifrits were staying and a set of plastic handcuffs.
When officers searched the condominium, they found a rolled-up $20 bill with white powder that appeared to be cocaine on a dining table, two fired bullets with blood on them and extensive blood spatters in the bathroom on the second level, the charging documents say. Police also found the key to the condominium where Crutchley and Ford were staying and photographs of the couple.
Erika Sifrit first said that her husband shot Crutchley and Ford on the beach in Ocean City, according to the documents. Later, she told authorities that Crutchley and Ford had locked themselves in the bathroom to escape from Benjamin Sifrit, but that he kicked open the door and shot and killed them. She said her husband then dismembered and disposed of the bodies.
The Delaware Solid Waste Authority identified an 800-square-foot area in the Hardscrabble landfill where the dumpster was emptied. Yesterday, 55 people from the authority, Ocean City police, Delaware and Maryland state police and the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation searched the site with backhoes and rakes. They found the remains within four hours of beginning the search but planned to continue their hunt today.