Deliverance by the Sea
(“Dirty Little Secret,” Forensic Files)
Before going into this week’s recap, I’d like to share some exciting news — Bizarrepedia included True Crime Truant on its “Best True Crime Blogs and Websites” list.
Thanks much to the editors at the popular site for taking the time to check out my blog.
And speaking of all things bizarre, this week’s featured Forensic Files episode involves two people who put the “tan” in “satanic.”
“Dirty Little Secret” tells the story of a double homicide that happened after two middle-class couples met by chance at a bar in seaside getaway Ocean City, Maryland, on May 25, 2002.
Friendly fiends. The four hit it off so well that they went to a club together and then headed back to one couple’s penthouse condo to have more drinks and enjoy the hot tub.
Martha “Genie” Crutchley and her boyfriend, Joshua Ford, had no idea that Erika and Benjamin Sifrit were ghouls.
The friendly, respectable-seeming Sifrits had no criminal records and owned the Memory Laine scrapbooking store in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Erika, who grew up in Pennsyvlania, had been a good student and basketball player. Benjamin Sifrit, known as B.J., was a former Navy Seal who graduated first in his class.
Unsuspecting victims. But the sun-loving pair were so horrible I almost don’t want to write about them — except to let the public know which prison they call home and whether or not they have any chance of getting out.
So I’ll make the recap quick (last time I said that, the post ended up 1,228 words long, but this time I really mean it).
Shortly after Genie, a 51-year-old insurance executive, and Joshua, a 32-year-old mortgage broker, got back to the Sifrit’s place in the Rainbow condo complex, their new friends set in motion a thrill kill game so awful that they make Leopold and Loeb seem like humanitarians.
Breastaurant heist. The Sifrits, both 24, terrorized, humiliated, and shot and stabbed to death the innocent couple from Fairfax, Virginia. Then they disposed of their bodies in a macabre fashion.
After coworkers of Genie and Joshua reported them missing, detectives found witnesses who recalled seeing the foursome on a shuttle bus to the night spot Seacrets.
(During his Forensic Files interview, Detective Scott Bernal described Seacrets as “one of the hottest night clubs in Ocean City.” I didn’t realize there were any hot clubs in Maryland.)
The case broke wide open when a silent alarm summoned local police to a Hooters gift shop (yeah, I know). They found Erika and B.J. loading stolen Hooters merchandise into their Jeep.
Mementos. Detectives discovered Erika had the missing couple’s drivers licenses in her purse and found a photo of her wearing Josh’s ring on a chain around her neck — trophies from the kills.
Erika ended up making a deal with prosecutors after investigators built a solid case against the Sifrits, including ballistic (hollow point bullets) and blood evidence in their rented condo.
But the agreement fell apartment when it became apparent that Erika participated in the killings to a greater degree than she originally claimed.
She ended up getting the longer sentence, life plus 20 years; the jury convicted her of one count of first-degree and one count of second-degree murder.
B.J. received 38 years after a jury found him guilty of one count of second-degree murder.
By the way, the Sifrits turned against each other at the trial.
So, do these two eastern seaboard versions of Deliverance hillbillies have any chance of tasting salt water and freedom again?
For Erika, probably not.
Drab accommodations. In 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett denied her appeal — the last of many she filed over the years — in which she claimed she was mentally ill at the time of the murders, her husband dominated her, and her lawyer, Arch Tuminelli, made errors during the trial.
The judge noted that her “claims are exhausted,” indicating legal avenues for exoneration have closed, according to a Maryland Coastal Dispatch story. (Warning: The article contains some gruesome details I could have lived without knowing.)
Erika, now 39, resides at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in the town of Jessup.
Her husband, who occupies a cell at Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland, has a much better chance of exiting prison on his two feet.
Stay gone. A judge gave him the 38-year sentence after lead prosecutor Joel Todd said that B.J. Sifrit “needs to be warehoused because he cannot be rehabilitated,” but the former military man is eligible for parole in 2021, when he’ll be in his mid-40s.
Let’s hope that’s enough time for friends and family members of the victims to plan a letter-writing campaign to keep B.J. Sifrit and his swastika tattoo behind razor wire for as long as possible — which in this case means 2040.
That’s all for this week’s post. Until next week, cheers. — RR