A young couple who did everything together -- including murder. And the two may never have been caught if weren't for their strange obsession.
They exchanged vows to love, cherish -- and murder. Benjamin and Erika Sifrit were joined together in unholy matrimony. Police say the husband and wife were "thrill-killers" in the making, trolling the trendy bars in the vacation hamlet of Ocean City, Maryland to quench their thirst for blood.
By all accounts the 23-year-olds seemed to be a typical middle-class married couple set to succeed in anything they wanted to do in life. Benjamin was a former Navy SEAL who was number one in his class.
Erika graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in history and political science from Mary Washington College and was a high school basketball star.
They met in her senior year of college. Three weeks later the lovers eloped to Las Vegas.
The newlyweds appear to be the all-American couple. But dark secrets fueled their marriage. The seemingly upstanding former SEAL had actually been court-martialed for going AWOL and insubordination. His life was in a downward spiral after getting booted out of the military.
Erika's petite size dashes her hoop dreams of turning pro. She opens her own scrapbook store, indulges in prescription drugs and in another rather bizarre infatuation:
"Erika develops an obsession with Hooters memorabilia," said investigative journalist M. William Phelps. "They both begin to break into Hooters all over the place."
Phelps is the true-crime author of Cruel Death about the Sifrits. He says they were indeed a lethal cocktail.
"As drug buddies, they start doing some serious drugs, and mainly it's pills and cocaine, that's what their love is," said Phelps.
The Sifrits were always looking for another thrill to keep the party going. Now they are about to up the ante and get their kicks by killing.
"It was like another drug for them, because the cocaine, the pills, the drinking wasn't working anymore for them," said Phelps. "Even the sex wasn't working for them."
Erika would often show off her cross tattoo, which was inspired by the movie Natural Born Killers.
The Sifrits go on a week's oceanside vacation and soon lock in on their prey: Insurance executive Martha "Geney" Crutchley and her boyfriend Joshua Ford, a mortgage banker.
Geney and Joshua meet the Sifrits on the shuttle bus to the popular seaside bar Seacrets.
"Joshua Ford offered to pay for their bus fee because they didn't have the right change, and they said 'Well we'll buy you a drink at Seacrets' where they were all going," said former prosecutor Scott Collins. "I think they got together sort of as two couples that met and hit it off."
Geney and Joshua hadn't a clue that they were about to raise a glass and party with two homicidal maniacs.
"So here you have this train-wreck of a couple, Benjamin and Erika, and they run into Martha 'Geney' Crutchley and Joshua Ford. And they start to have a party at Seacrets. They say, 'You know what why don't you come up to the condo with us, we'll continue to party after the bar closes,'" said Phelps. "'We got a hot tub, we got some weed, have a couple of drinks, we'll get to know each other.'"
"What happens next is a horror show," said Phelps. "The music is playing and the drinks are flying and they're in the hot tub and having a ball and something happens. Erica gets out of the hot tub and goes upstairs and she screams, 'Where's my pocket book? Somebody took my pocketbook.' Right away Benjamin gets up out of the tub and he goes to get his .357 Magnum and proceeds to start waving it around, and he says, 'Where's my wife's pocketbook, which one of you two took it?'"
In a twisted move, Erika calls 911, claiming Geney and Joshua have stolen her purse. The phone call suddenly cuts out before police can get the address, and cops never respond.
"They want to mess with these people even more, and at this point I even think it's decided that they're going to kill these people because, look they never stole this pocketbook or anything, that was just all part of the ruse," said Phelps.
"Joshua runs into the bathroom with Geney and slams the door shut," said Phelps.
But Erika smells blood. She leans around from the balcony where she can see the couple cowering through the bathroom window.
"Really Erika and Ben have gone out of their minds at this point, they're locked in this game or this thrill ride that they want to go on, and the victims of this are locked in the bathroom right now," said Phelps.
"She looks into the bathroom to tell Ben when to fire the weapon," said Phelps. "Ben fires the weapon, it goes right through Joshua's head and drops him immediately."
Ben kicks in the door. Geney Crutchley is crouching under the vanity. Her pleas for mercy merely titillate -- the psycho killers cut her down.
Maryland Deputy State Attorney Scott Collins says the thrill-kill couple was now facing the task of getting rid of the evidence: Two bloody bodies in their penthouse with no place to hide them.
"It's Memorial Day weekend, you're in Ocean City, there are 100,000 other people in Ocean City, you're on the top floor on a 20-something condo and you have two dead bodies," said Collins. "You can't throw them over your shoulder and take the elevator down to the parking lot."
The Sifrits come up with a plan to remove their victims piece by piece.
"He had no choice -- they had to dismember their bodies to get them out of there," said Collins.
Ocean City Police detectives Brett Case and Richard Moreck.
The body parts are put in garbage bags and carted down to their Jeep Cherokee. They drive from Maryland into Delaware and dispose of Geney's and Joshua's body parts in trash bins, winding up in a massive Delaware landfill.
"What did they do next? They go miniature golfing," said Phelps.
In one self-taken photograph taken shortly after the crime, hanging from a chain around Erika's neck is Joshua's ring, still caked in his own blood.
While the Sifrits are snapping selfies around town, friends of Geney and Joshua are starting to worry and wonder what happened to them.
They've vanished, and the cops are frantically trying to find them.
While cops are desperately searching, Erika and Benjamin are covering their tracks. Benjamin bought a new bathroom door at Home Depot to replace the one destroyed by a bullet hole.
They also grab cleaning supplies to scrub away an ocean of blood in the bathroom.
But police say the Sifrits weren't done: They were gearing up for another thrill kill.
"After the cleanup was complete, they had another couple that they brought up to the condominium and played the same type of scenario with that couple," said Det. Moreck.
Cops say Melissa Seling and Justin Todd Wright escaped by the skin of their teeth. One possible reason the Sifrits let them escape was simply they were out of time and had to get back home. Another theory is that the couple left before things got out of control.
And if that's not enough, Erika keeps a scrapbook of their evil handiwork, boasting they are the modern-day "Bonnie and Clyde" criminal couple, showing off souvenirs of their crimes.
"To scrapbook a murder is one thing. But she wants these victims of murder to be part of her," said Phelps. "She wears a necklace with one of the rings from the victims, it's still got blood on it. The knife she used to dismember these people is tucked in her pocket. It still has flesh and blood on it. It was one of the most horrific crimes I've ever seen and I've seen everything."
It's Erika's fetish for Hooters memorabilia that leads to their arrest. Just as they were high-tailing it out of town, the couple makes one last pit stop to break in to a closed Hooters. They trip the stores silent alarm. Police rush to the scene and believe they've just caught two burglars, not two thrill-killers.
Erika's defense attorney Arcangelo Tuminelli says after Erika was caught she flipped out at the crime scene.
"When they were arrested coming out of Hooters, she became very panicky and asked the police officer for some Xanax that she needed that was in her pocketbook," said Tuminelli.
And that moment broke the case wide open.
"Going into her purse they see five spent rounds of .38 ammunition next to that there are two identification cards for Virginia licenses -- our two missing people," said Ocean City Det. Case.
"In the car there are handcuffs, gloves and masks," said Case.
If it hadn't been for the missing-persons fliers and a police lookout alert sent out only hours earlier in the day, the Sifrits would have only faced burglary and theft charges.
"I believe that if they weren't stopped on this one that there were definitely more to come," said Moreck.
"Erika had told us of course that Benjamin did it, and that's where she came up as the innocent abused wife with this crazy monster that's killing and dismembering people," said Collins.
In a so-called audio confession to cops Erika plays the frightened witness to the killings.
"He has SEAL friends. I definitely would not want him to know that I was here talking to you. And if I go up and testify and for some reason you guys don't get him locked up, my family will end up like Joshua and Geney," Erika says on the tape.
Erika recounts how she says her husband Benjamin killed Joshua Ford in their penthouse bathroom.
"He made them strip at gunpoint, and I was like 'Oh my God,' I had no idea what was going on," she says on the recording. "He told me that Josh said 'I was in the Army and you were in the Navy, why are you doing this?' And he looked at him in the face and said 'See you later mother------,' and he shot him in the head."
Cops aren't buying her tangled tales one bit.
Then the bodies are dismembered and put into garbage bags.
Erika acts like she is appalled at all the gore.
Each pointed a finger at the other at their separate trials. The disgraced Navy SEAL claimed he was napping in their Jeep while the carnage unfolded. In the end, Erika was sentenced to life plus 20 years. Benjamin was handed just 38 years because he was never convicted in Joshua's death. The jury believed Erika killed him.
"I think she was the mastermind behind all this. I think he's the muscle, he did what she asked and he took care of business, if you will," said Det. Case. "But she was the cause of all the drama."
Seven years after their conviction Benjamin Sifirit divorced his wife Erika from behind bars. He is now eligible for parole in 2021. She is eligible for parole in 2024.
Photo credits: Murderpedia.org