Meadville Tribune

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December 29, 2013

Year in review continues with stories 6 to 4

(Continued)

MEADVILLE — 4. Guilty pleas

Two young Cochranton area women were sentenced this fall in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to life in prison without parole for the gruesome killing of an Ohio woman in rural Crawford County in 2012.

Ashley Barber, 20, and Jade Olmstead, 20, were given the sentences after each pleaded guilty in county court to first-degree murder for their roles in killing Brandy Stevens, 19, of Poland, Ohio, on May 17, 2012.

The homicide stemmed from a love triangle between Barber, Olmstead and Stevens.

Both Barber and Olmstead admitted to beating Stevens severely, waterboarding the woman and burying her alive. Olmstead pleaded guilty to the crime in county court Oct. 31, while Barber pleaded guilty Nov. 14.

Barber and Olmstead each admitted to luring Stevens from her home to the Wayne Township home Barber and Olmstead shared with Barber’s parents. Stevens was lured into the woods behind the home by Olmstead and then attacked by both Olmstead and Barber.

The two women admitted Stevens was bludgeoned in the head several times with a shovel with Stevens’ head then hit repeatedly against a stump. Stevens also was choked with a rope, hit in the head with a boulder and Stevens had water poured down her throat before Olmstead and Barber buried Stevens in a shallow grave while she was still alive.

Barber and Olmstead admitted Stevens’ shoes and some of Stevens’ personal possessions were burned and Stevens’ car was put in a garage at the Barber home in an effort to cover up the crime.

District Attorney Francis Schultz said he chose not to seek the death penalty after consideration of the law and the facts in the case, and consultations with Pennsylvania State Police and the Stevens family.

“Just because something is horrific doesn’t make it a death penalty case,” Schultz said following the conclusion of the case.

“We would have to prove it was the intent of the actors to inflict substantial and unnecessary pain on the victim,” Schultz said. “In this case, they were simply ineffective in attempting to kill her. ... That’s why it took longer (to cause Stevens’ death).”

The age of the two women and their gender were factors as well, according to Schultz.

“Based on my experience, I didn’t believe a jury would give them the death penalty — being female, being that young and the fact that I didn’t think I could prove they had the intent to torture,” Schultz said.

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