MEADVILLE, Pa. -- Prosecutors here will not seek the death penalty for two lesbian lovers accused in the murder of Brandy Stevens-Rosine, an Ohio college student who was beaten and buried alive in a shallow grave.
Crawford County District Attorney Francis J. Schultz said he made the decision "after careful consideration of the law and the facts that have been uncovered in the investigation of this case."
Ashley Marie Barber, 20, and Nichole "Jade" Olmstead, 18, are charged with one count each of criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide and tampering with physical evidence. According to Pennsylvania state police, Barber and Olmstead have both admitted to their role in killing Stevens-Rosine.
Schultz described Stevens-Rosine's murder as "brutal," but said the allegations alone are "not sufficient to warrant the seeking of the death penalty under Pennsylvania law."
Stevens-Rosine's close friend, Krysti Horvat, told The Huffington Post she is confused by Schultz decision.
"It seems like he is taking it easy on them," Horvat said. "Does this mean I can plan out a murder, dig a grave, kill a person, then live off of tax payer's money in jail for the rest of my life?"
"No sort of punishment will bring Brandy back, so I have reluctantly accepted the DA's decision," Horvat added.
At a preliminary hearing in July, shocking and graphic details of Stevens-Rosine's homicide became public.
The 20-year-old sociology student at Youngstown State University was, according to state police, lured by Barber and Olmstead to their residence in Crawford County, Pa., on May 17. Stevens-Rosine had once dated Olmstead.
Two days later, Stevens-Rosine's family reported her missing. On May 23, authorities found Stevens-Rosine's partially decomposed remains in a shallow grave a few hundred yards from the residence where Barber and Olmstead were staying.
Crawford County Coroner Scott Schell performed the autopsy and found Stevens-Rosine had multiple injuries, from multiple objects, to a large percentage of her body.
State Trooper Eric Mallory testified at the preliminary hearing that Olmstead and Barber had invited Stevens-Rosine to their home, lured her into the woods, and savagely attacked her.
Mallory said the two women admitted punching and kicking Stevens-Rosine. After the beating, Barber put a rope around the girl's neck and strangled her while Olmstead hit Stevens-Rosine in the head with a shovel, Mallory said.
According to the trooper, Olmstead said she hit Stevens-Rosine four or five times in the head and could see Stevens-Rosine's brain protruding from the gaping wounds. Mallory said Barber hurt herself head-butting Stevens-Rosine, then repeatedly pounded the victim's head against a stump.
The two girls rolled her into a shallow grave they had dug prior to the assault, Mallory said. When the women found Stevens-Rosine still breathing, they smashed her face with a large rock and poured water into her nose and mouth to drown her, the trooper said.
PHOTOS FROM THE CASE: (Story Continues Below)
According to the autopsy report, Stevens-Rosine suffered blunt force trauma, a skull fracture and 15 lacerations to the scalp. Her death, according to Erie County forensic pathologist Eric Vey, was caused by suffocation from dirt in her airway. In court, Schultz said Stevens-Rosine had been buried alive.
Pursuant to the law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a prosecutor may only seek the death penalty in a case of an alleged first-degree murder if at least one of eighteen aggravating circumstances is present.
"In this case there is no evidence to prove any of the death penalty's qualifying aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt," Schultz said without elaborating.
According to Pennsylvania law, criminal homicide constitutes murder of the first-degree when it is "committed by an intentional killing." Aggravating circumstances, such as those that could warrant the death penalty, include instances where the "offense was committed by means of torture."
The defense hasn't commented on the case and Stevens-Rosine's mother, Carrie Rosine, has not shared her opinion on the DA's decision. The distraught mother told HuffPost she has been advised not to talk to the press.
If convicted, Barber and Olmstead face a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
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