(Updates with court hearing, adds PIX, moves dateline to Sunbury, Pa.)
By David DeKok
SUNBURY, Pa., April 1 (Reuters) - The woman dubbed the “Craigslist killer” suspect appeared on Tuesday in a Pennsylvania courtroom, where legal arguments focused largely on the online activities of the man she is accused of murdering.
The appearance in Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas was the first by Miranda Barbour, 19, since she began making controversial claims that she is a serial killer with at least 22 victims.
Barbour and her husband, Elytte Barbour, 22, have pleaded not guilty to the stabbing and strangling in November of Troy LaFerrara, 42, whose body was found dumped in an alley in Sunbury.
Prosecutors say the couple used the Craigslist classified ad website to lure him to a meeting, offering sex, in a shopping mall parking lot. If convicted, they face the possibility of the death penalty.
In court, Judge Charles Saylor granted a request by Barbour’s public defender attorney for the help of a computer expert in sorting through thousands of pages documenting telephone calls and web searches made by the murder victim on such sites as Craigslist and SugarDaddyForMe.com.
LaFerrara used as many as eight e-mail addresses and a telephone that would scramble his number when he made certain calls, said Barbour’s attorney Edward Greco.
Greco said he also wants the expert to examine the hard drives of laptops owned by LaFerrara and his mother, Harriett LaFerrara, which are in police custody.
“This crime was instituted through the Internet,” Greco said. “We need help to discern what is relevant and not relevant, what is helpful and not helpful.”
Barbour who wore an orange prison jumpsuit and her brown hair hanging below her shoulders, was expressionless throughout the proceedings. Her legs were shackled but her hands were free.
She has said in two jailhouse interviews published by Sunbury’s Daily Item newspaper that she was a member of a satanic cult and had killed at least 22 people around the country. She claimed that body parts of her victims could be found in Alaska, Florida and North Carolina.
Authorities have expressed skepticism about her statements that she is a serial killer, noting her petite size and a lack of corroborating evidence.
Parts of Barbour’s first interview were played aloud in the courtroom in an effort to confirm its validity.
Deborah Zaleskie, a guard who said she stood just a few feet away during one of Barbour’s conversations with the newspaper reporter, testified she had been revolted by what she heard.
“I was stick to my stomach,” she said on the witness stand. “I will never forget it.”
Barbour’s sister, Ashley Dean, was quoted in The Daily Item on Tuesday as saying she believes her sister is lying.
Dean, who lives in Alaska, said her sister and her sister’s husband were obsessed with the cable television series “Dexter” about a police analyst who becomes a serial killer and murders criminals who escape justice.
Dean said some things her sister has said sound just like “Dexter.”
“She is lying,” Dean was quoted as saying. “She is a master of lying.”
Barbour’s father also has been quoted as saying he believes his daughter is lying about her alleged crimes.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Eric Walsh and Andrew Hay