Convicted killer Benjamin A. Sifrit, the Duncansville man who joined his wife, Erika, in the murder and dismembering of another couple in Ocean City, Md., nearly eight years ago, has lost a bid for a new trial.
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett not only refused to grant an evidentiary hearing but also dismissed the appeal with prejudice, meaning it can't be refiled.
Sifrit on Friday asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review Bennett's ruling.
A former Navy SEAL, Benjamin Sifrit was sentenced to 38 years behind bars for second-degree murder in the deaths of Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford, a Virginia couple who, like the Sifrits, were spending Memorial Day weekend 2002 in the popular Maryland resort town.
Erika Sifrit was convicted of first-degree murder of Ford and second-degree murder of Crutchley and is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in a Maryland prison.
The Sifrits were tried separately for the killings, which led Benjamin Sifrit to charge that the prosecution presented two different theories of the case, depending on who was on trial.
The "inconsistent" theories were a violation of his due process rights, Benjamin Sifrit claimed. He contended that, during his trial, the prosecution accused him of killing both victims, while during Erika Sifrit's trial, it accused her of killing both victims.
Bennett quoted liberally from a decision from the Maryland Court of Appeals, which earlier ruled against Benjamin Sifrit.
"No such inconsistency exists in the present case," the ruling stated. "From the beginning of both [Benjamin] and Erika Sifrit's prosecutions, the government consistently asserted one theory of the case - that both defendants acted in concert to murder Joshua Ford and Martha Crutchley - and that no one would ever know, aside from [Benjamin] and his wife, what precisely transpired that night."
The ability of the prosecution to prove exactly what occurred when Crutchley and Ford went to the Sifrits' condominium on the night of May 25, 2002, was limited.
Parts of the victims' bodies were found in a Rehoboth Beach landfill. The prosecution showed Ford was shot to death, but no determination could be made about Crutchley's cause of death. Both defendants also were shown to carry the murder weapon.
The prosecution contended that when the murders occurred, the Sifrits were playing a game in which they invited visitors to their condo and then blamed the victims for stealing Erika's purse. During one such missing purse game a few nights after the killings, Benjamin Sifrit confessed to the next potential victim that Crutchley and Ford were murdered by the couple.
Benjamin Sifrit is lodged in the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md. Erika Sifrit is housed in the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup.
The Sifrits divorced this summer.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.