A young husband and wife were charged yesterday in the deaths of a Virginia couple missing since their Memorial Day weekend visit to Ocean City, police said.
Martha M. Crutchley, 51, and her boyfriend, Joshua E. Ford, 32, had left for Ocean City on May 17. They were reported missing Wednesday after Crutchley failed to show up for an important business meeting.
Yesterday, Benjamin and Erika Sifrit of Altoona, Pa., were charged in their deaths, after police searched the Sifrits' Ocean City condominium and found blood-splattered walls, two spent shell-casings and a key to a nearby oceanfront condo where Crutchley and Ford had been staying.
The killings are the first at the seaside resort in three years.
"People are concerned about it," said Richard W. Meehan, the council president in a city where crimes don't usually get more serious than speeding or drunken misbehavior. "We just don't have a lot of violent crime in Ocean City."
Crutchley, a supervisor at a Fairfax insurance firm, and Ford, an employee at a Rockville investment firm, had planned to return to their house in Fairfax, Va., by Tuesday, police said.
But the last time anyone heard from the couple was last Saturday, when Ford telephoned a relative and had what police described as a normal conversation.
After colleagues reported the couple missing Wednesday, police searched a unit at the high-rise Atlantis condo complex that the couple had rented for the weekend. Officers found credit cards, clothing and toiletries, but no signs of a struggle or break-in. Crutchley's car also was found, police said.
On Thursday, police issued a news release asking for the public's help in locating the couple. The first break came early yesterday, when a burglar alarm sounded at a Hooter's restaurant in town. The police arrived and found the Sifrits, both 24, walking out with souvenir T-shirts and other merchandise, police said.
A search of their Jeep turned up identification belonging to Crutchley and Ford.
The Sifrits were charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, handgun charges and theft, police said. They were being held at the Ocean City jail awaiting a bail hearing.
Erika Sifrit told the police that the couple had dumped the bodies in a trash bin, sending the police on a wide search that has proved fruitless so far.