Benjamin Sifrit refused parole in 2002 killing of Fairfax couple in Ocean City

Convicted murderer Benjamin Sifrit has been refused parole in connection with the killing of a Virginia couple in Ocean City, Maryland, in 2002.

The Maryland Parole Commission denied parole to Sifrit, in his first parole hearing, since being sentenced to 38 years in prison, after he and his then-wife Erika killed and dismembered Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford, of Fairfax City, over Memorial Day weekend almost 20 years ago.

The couples met on a bus in Ocean City, before a night of drinking at the Seacrets nightclub. Later, the four returned to the Sifrits’ rented condominium.

Crutchley and Ford were forced into the bathroom. Shots were fired through the bathroom door. The couple was dismembered, and disposed of in a dumpster. Portions of their remains were discovered in a nearby landfill, nine days later.

Because of pre-trial publicity, Benjamin Sifrit’s trial was held in Montgomery County, while Erika Sifrit’s was in Frederick County.

After deliberating for 14 hours, a Montgomery County jury convicted Benjamin Sifrit of second-degree murder in Crutchley’s death, but cleared him in Ford’s.

During sentencing, Judge Paul Weinstein, who came out of retirement to pronounce sentence, told Benjamin Sifrit had it not been for masterful lawyering, the former Navy SEAL would likely be facing a life sentence.

Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford are seen. (File)

“It’s one of the few instances in 20 years I disagree with the jury’s verdict,” Weinstein said on July 7, 2003. “This was nothing more than a thrill-killing you and your wife committed. You’re a butcher. You cut these people up for no good reason.”

At the time, Weinstein told Benjamin Sifrit he was putting a note in the file asking to be notified, if he’s still alive, when Sifrit came up for parole, so he could oppose it. It’s not known if Weinstein communicated with the commission before the parole hearing.

erika and benjamin sifrit
Erika and Benjamin Sifrit are seen. (File)

In Maryland, Benjamin Sifrit became eligible for parole after serving half of a 38-year sentence. “Mr. Sifrit was eligible for a parole hearing in 2017, at which time he elected to postpone,” Chair of Parole Commission David Blumberg told WTOP in an email last week.

Benjamin Sifrit’s first parole hearing was in Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, where he’s confined. In Maryland, for convictions in which someone lost his or her life, two parole commissioners hear the case, according to Mark Vernarelli, spokesman with Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The hearing lasted one hour and 40 minutes. In-person were Benjamin Sifrit, the two commissioners, and a correctional case manager. Attending by a virtual teleconference were four people representing the victims of his crime, said Vernarelli, in an email.

The commissioners gave an introduction, and summarized the crime. One representative of the victims spoke for 8 minutes. Benjamin Sifrit spoke briefly, and answered some questions from the commissioners, before the commissioners took questions from the victims’ supporters.

Ultimately, the commissioners refused parole for Benjamin Sifrit. Contacted by WTOP, Benjamin Sifrit’s attorney Bill Brennan declined to comment.

Benjamin Sifrit’s mandatory release date is 2030, but that can change based on credits earned while incarcerated, Vernarelli said.

If Benjamin Sifrit chooses to ask for another hearing, he has to wait two years before writing to the commission to say he has new information that he believes necessitates a new hearing.

Erika Sifrit was convicted of first-degree murder in Ford’s death, and second-degree in Crutchley’s. She was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years. She’s eligible for parole in 2024.

The couple divorced in 2010.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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