CRIME
08/28/2013 09:04 am ET

Brandy Stevens-Rosine Murder Trial: Did Couple Bury Woman Alive?

MEADVILLE, Pa. -- A state judge has declared one of two women mentally fit to stand trial in the brutal murder of Brandy Stevens-Rosine, an Ohio college student who was beaten and buried alive in a shallow grave.

An attorney representing 20-year-old Ashley Marie Barber had attempted to argue she is not mentally competent to face the charges against her.

Barber and Nichole "Jade" Olmstead, 19, are charged with one count each of criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, and tampering with physical evidence in the 2012 slaying of Stevens-Rosine.

The two female defendants were lovers. Stevens-Rosine had once dated Olmstead.

At a competency hearing held earlier this month, Dr. Christine Martone, a psychiatrist for the defense, testified she recently met with Barber, on two separate occasions, for a total of three and 1/2 hours.

Martone said she believes Barber suffers from depression, a sleep disorder and a borderline personality disorder. She also said it is her belief that Barber has a "passive death wish."

"She's not able to cooperate with her attorney. She needs more intensive treatment to restore competency," Martone testified, according to The Meadville Tribune.

However, during cross-examination by Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz, Martone acknowledged Barber is capable of understanding questions and is able to provide "logical" answers.

Judge Mark Stevens ultimately sided with the prosecution.

"Competency is whether a defendant is able to be an active participant in her defense case. She understands. I don't see competency is lacking. There's no reason this case isn't able to move forward," Stevens said.

According to Pennsylvania state police, Barber and Olmstead have both admitted to their role in killing Stevens-Rosine.

Graphic and shocking details of Stevens-Rosine's homicide first became public at a July 2012 preliminary hearing.

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, 2012.

Two days later, Stevens-Rosine's family reported her missing. On May 23, 2012, 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.

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.

Barber and Olmstead have been jailed without bond since their arrests.

PHOTOS FROM THE CASE: (Story Continues Below)

Photos From Brandy Stevens-Rosine Case

The trial was originally slated to begin in September, but the date was pushed back as a result of a competency hearing to determine whether one of the two defendants was mentally competent to stand trial.

The trial is now scheduled to begin sometime in November.

"Our trial term for November starts the 11th and runs through the 22nd. There's no actual date, the trial can happen anytime in those two weeks," a spokeswoman for Schultz told The Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, another pretrial hearing is scheduled for Aug. 29. At that hearing Stevens will determine whether Barber and Olmstead's alleged statements to police can be used against them at their trial.

If the women are convicted they both face a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

Schultz announced last year that he would not seek the death penalty for Barber and Olmstead. He 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."

The defense hasn't commented on the case and Stevens-Rosine's mother, Carrie Rosine, has not shared her opinion. She previously told HuffPost she has been advised not to talk to the press.

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