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Nichole OLMSTEAD

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "Jade"
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Lesbian love triangle
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 17, 2012
Date of arrest: 7 days after
Date of birth: 1993
Victim profile: Brandy Stevens-Rosine, 20
Method of murder: Suffocation from dirt in her airway (buried alive)
Location: Wayne Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison without parole on October 31, 2013
 
 

 
 
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Cochranton woman sentenced to life in brutal killing

By Valerie Myers - Erie Times-News

November 1, 2013

MEADVILLE -- One of two women charged with killing a 20-year-old college student near Cochranton in 2012 pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Thursday.

Jade N. Olmstead, 20, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Brandy Stevens.

Olmstead told a Crawford County Court judge that she planned to kill the Youngstown University student, who she described as a former lover, and that she beat Stevens senseless and buried her in a shallow grave with the help of a new lover, Ashley M. Barber, in May 2012. Barber is also charged with criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide and evidence tampering in Stevens' death and is scheduled to stand trial on the charges this month.

In court Thursday, Olmstead told a chilling story of texting Stevens and inviting her to visit Barber's parents' home in Wayne Township on May 16, 2012. Stevens came the next day. Olmstead said she met Stevens in the driveway and invited her into the woods to see a fort that she had been building with Barber. Barber was waiting in the woods and helped kill Stevens there, Olmstead said.

Olmstead told the judge that she hit Stevens repeatedly in the head with the edge of a shovel while Barber held her down. The shovel had been left at the ready in the woods.

"The shovel was already down there from us digging out (Stevens') grave," Olmstead said.

Olmstead said she and Barber buried Stevens, washed off the shovel, and burned Stevens' shoes and belongings from Stevens' car, then moved the car into a garage. She said that Barber later faked bruises and disposed of the victim's cell phone.

"She faked a fall down the basement stairs and her parents took her to Meadville Medical Center," Olmstead said. Barber put the phone down a storm drain at a drugstore where they went to fill her prescriptions, Olmstead said.

In a sentencing hearing after Olmstead's guilty plea, Stevens' family and friends asked Judge Mark Stevens to give Olmstead the maximum sentence possible for taking a "light" out of the world.

"Brandy was a loving, caring and giving young woman with a heart as big as the world," her mother, Carrie Stevens Rosine, said. "She looked for good in everyone she met."

The victim's aunt, Brenda Barrett, said that her young sons still grieve their cousin, and that her 7-year-old didn't want to leave Brandy's casket during her funeral. "He didn't want to leave her there by herself," she said.

Olmstead's attorney, John Knorr, said his client wants to spare Stevens' family further pain.

"One of the reasons for her plea, in addition to the fact that she is guilty, is that she didn't want to make Brandy's family sit through the trial," Knorr said.

Olmstead expressed remorse during the hearing.

"I am truly and deeply sorry for what happened," she said. "Brandy didn't deserve any of that."

Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz cast doubt on the sincerity of Olmstead's remorse. He read an entry from Olmstead's journal in which she seemed to glory in the murder. The entry was dated the day after Brandy Stevens died.

Olmstead wrote that with "this beautiful memory" of the murder, "eventually we will want another kill," and that she doubted that she and Barber would be caught.

"Do I feel guilty? No. not an ounce," Olmstead wrote. "I'm proud."

Olmstead's father, Donald Olmstead, of Maryland, told the judge that his daughter is "not a monster," and has been emotionally troubled since she was assaulted by a neighbor as a child.

"I don't want Jade portrayed as a monster. She was caring, too," he said.

Life in prison without parole is the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder, Judge Mark Stevens said in handing down the sentence.

"Was this hardness of the heart, did this occur through coercion, was mental illness involved, or was this pure evil?" the judge asked. "I don't know. But this act, under these circumstances, with these facts, has only one option, and that option is life in prison."

The judged addressed the courtroom, including family and friends of the victim, Olmstead and her parents, before adjourning the hearing.

"My sympathy goes out to all of you," he said.


Guilty plea entered in beating and live burial murder; life sentence imposed

Jade Olmstead may be sentenced to as much as life in prison this afternoon

By Keith Gushard - The Meadville Tribune

October 31, 2013

MEADVILLE — Editor’s note: This story may be too graphic for some readers.

“We were going to kill her,” Jade Olmstead said when questioned in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas why she invited Brandy Stevens to the Cochranton area about 18 months ago.

“Yes,” Olmstead responded when asked Thursday by Judge Mark Stevens if she had killed Brandy Stevens. Judge Stevens is not related to the murder victim, Brandy Stevens, 19, of the Poland, Ohio, area.

On Thursday, a tearful Olmstead pleaded guilty in county court before Judge Stevens to first-degree murder. She was given a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole following a more than three-hour plea and sentencing hearing.

Olmstead, 20, and Ashley Marie Barber, 20, were charged by Pennsylvania State Police with luring Stevens, 19, from her home to the Wayne Township home Olmstead and Barber shared with Barber’s parents. Barber is scheduled to go to trial in county court in January for her alleged role in the case.

Police claim that once Stevens arrived at the home on May 17, 2012, Olmstead and Barber then brutally beat Stevens and buried her in the nearby woods in a shallow grave while Stevens still was alive.

Police allege the crime stemmed from a love triangle between the three women.

Olmstead was set to go to trial later this month in county court on all three of the charges against her. However, with Olmstead’s guilty plea and sentencing to first degree murder on Thursday, the conspiracy to commit homicide and tampering with physical evidence charges against her were withdrawn by the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office.

In questioning by the judge before entering her guilty plea, Olmstead laid out the course of events that lead to Brandy Stevens’ death.

Olmstead said she and Barber talked about and agreed to lure Stevens to their home in order to kill the woman. When Stevens arrived, Olmstead walked her to the nearby woods where Barber was in hiding and the pair surprised Stevens, Olmstead testified.

Olmstead said she and Barber punched and kicked Stevens, knocking her to the ground. Olmstead then hit Stevens in the head with the blade edge of a shovel four times as Barber held Stevens face down on the ground, Olmstead testified. That testimony by Olmstead brought soft sobs from some of the 10 Stevens’ family members and friends in the courtroom gallery Thursday.

“Yes,” Olmstead responded when asked by the judge if she saw visible injuries to Stevens’ head. Olmstead also admitted to seeing a lot of blood.

Both she and Barber then placed Stevens in a shallow grave they had dug prior to the incident, Olmstead said. The two then covered Stevens with dirt, Olmstead testified. Olmstead said she and Barber burned Stevens’ shoes and some of Stevens’ personal possessions and put Stevens’ car in a garage at the home in an effort to cover their crime.

District Attorney Francis Schultz said an autopsy found Brandy Stevens “had 15 lacerations to her scalp, multiple scalp and facial contusions, a fractured skull, hemorrhage in her brain, multiple contusions and lacerations on her body, broken ribs, and dirt in her nasal passages and in her bronchial tubes that proves she was breathing when this defendant buried her in the ground.”

Schultz said that writings Olmstead made in a notebook following Stevens’ death and found by police showed the homicide was planned and thought out.

“That person didn’t deserve to have life,” Schultz read, quoting a passage in Olmstead’s notebook made after the killing. “Do I feel guilty? No, I feel proud.”

Four of Stevens’ family members and friends spoke prior to Olmstead’s sentencing — each embracing Stevens’ memory and chastising Olmstead.

Carrie Rosine, Stevens’ mother, said that her daughter looked for the good in everyone, was sensitive to others’ needs and was just starting her adult life when she was killed.

“She was cruelly and unjustly taken,” Rosine said.

“She was taken from us — it’s been very hard every day,” a sobbing Kathy Stevens, Stevens’ grandmother, said. “She never hurt anybody.”

Christy Horvat, one of Stevens’ friends, said there were no clear answers as to why the murder happened.

“We’re all different people since Brandy was taken away,” Horvat said.

“A cruel and sick-minded person” is how Brenda Barrett, the victim’s aunt, described Olmstead when given the opportunity to address the court. “You deserve much more than life in prison. You deserve every bit of torture you gave Brandy — and then some.”

However, Olmstead’s father, Donald Olmstead, and her defense attorney, John Knorr, said tried to paint a different picture of Olmstead.

“Me and my wife — our hearts go out to the family,” a tearful Donald Olmstead said. “When we moved to Maryland, we hoped to keep her away from people she had trouble with in the past.”

Mr. Olmstead told the court his daughter had been molested by a neighbor when she was 13, but the man was never prosecuted.

“I don’t want her portrayed as a monster,” he said. “I’m truly sorry for the family.”

Knorr said his client was a different person than who she was when the murder took place.

“What Jade Olmstead did 18 months ago was monstrous, but she’s not a monster,” Knorr said.

“She’s guilty and freely acknowledges that,” Knorr said of why Olmstead was entering a plea. “She does not want to make Brandy’s family sit through a trial. She knows how terrible the thing is she and Ashley have done to their daughter.”

Speaking on her own behalf, a crying Olmstead said she was “truly and deeply sorry for what happened. Brandy did not deserve what happened to her.”

In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Stevens said he couldn’t imagine what the victim’s family was going through. He continued to say he hoped some good would come from the imposition of the life sentence.

“Not that it will bring Brandy back, but I’m hoping it will bring some sense of closure to the family,” he said.

Following the sentencing, Knorr told the Tribune the case “was a tragedy all the way around.”

Schultz said he was happy to have a guilty plea to first degree murder resulting in a life sentence without parole in connection with the case.

Schultz also commended the work of Pennsylvania State Police in investigating the case and Trooper Eric Mallory, the lead investigator, in doing “an outstanding job in bringing this defendant to justice.”


Brandy Stevens-Rosine Murder Trial: Accused Women's Statements Can Be Used In Evidence, Judge Rules

HuffingtonPost.com

October 8, 2013

MEADVILLE, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that statements made by two reported lovers accused of torturing and murdering an Ohio college student can be admitted into evidence in their murder trial.

The defense counsel for Ashley Marie Barber and Nichole "Jade" Olmstead had challenged the admissibility of the statements the teens made during their initial detention and their subsequent interrogation. Law enforcement says the teens confessed to the murder of Brandy Stevens-Rosine.

On Thursday, Crawford County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Stevens ruled that the statements are admissible in evidence. In the court ruling, the judge wrote that Barber and Olmstead were not coerced and spoke with police "voluntarily and of their own free will."

Barber, 20, and Olmstead, 19, have been charged with one count each of criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, and tampering with physical evidence in the 2012 death of Stevens-Rosine.

The two female defendants were lovers and Stevens-Rosine had once dated Olmstead, according to a friend of Stevens-Rosine who spoke with The Huffington Post.

Prosecution in the case has charged that Stevens-Rosine, a 20-year-old sociology student at Youngstown State University, was 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. He told The Meadville Tribune that Stevens-Rosine had multiple injuries, from multiple objects, to a large percentage of her body.

State Trooper Eric Mallory alleged in testimony at a July 2012 preliminary hearing that Olmstead and Barber had lured Stevens-Rosine into the woods behind their home and savagely attacked her.

Mallory said that the two women admitted to punching and kicking Stevens-Rosine. He said the women said that Barber put a rope around Stevens-Rosine's neck and strangled her, while Olmstead hit Stevens-Rosine in the head with a shovel.

Mallory alleged 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. According to Mallory, Barber hurt herself head-butting Stevens-Rosine, and then repeatedly pounded the victim's head against a stump.

According to Mallory, the women said they rolled the victim into a shallow grave they dug prior to the assault. When they found Stevens-Rosine still breathing, the trooper said, they allegedly smashed her face with a large rock and poured water into her nose and mouth to drown her.

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, Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz said Stevens-Rosine had been buried alive.

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

The trial is scheduled to begin in November. If the women are convicted, they both face a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole.


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

By David Lohr - HuffingtonPost.com

August 28, 2013

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.

"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.


Cochranton victim loved one of women accused of killing her

By Valerie Myers - Erie Times-News

August 16, 2012

COCHRANTON — Brandy Stevens loved Jade Olmstead, one of the two women who confessed to savagely beating her and burying her in the woods near Cochranton this spring.

Stevens met Olmstead on a social media site in 2009 and in time became her lover. Friends said Stevens, a 20-year-old from Mahoning County, Ohio, still loved Olmstead even after Olmstead left her in the summer of 2011.

“I think she tried to date other people (after that), but after a couple dates, she was over them, and I think it was because she compared everything to Jade,” said Stevens' friend, Tera Haines, 28, of Boardman, Ohio.

Olmstead, 18, and her new lover, Ashley Barber, 20, confessed to beating and strangling Stevens on May 17 and hitting her so hard with a shovel that the second blow exposed her brain, state police Trooper Eric Mallory testified during a preliminary hearing for the two women on July 25.

They also confessed to throwing a rock at Stevens' face and pouring water down her nose and mouth when they realized that she was still breathing as they prepared to bury her, Mallory said. Stevens suffocated on dirt, according to results of an autopsy by Erie County forensic pathologist Eric Vey.

It was a death that no one deserved, and especially no one as caring as Stevens, said Haines, who heard details of the killing during the July preliminary hearing before Vernon Township District Judge Michael Rossi.

“Brandy was just there for people, for everyone, and it was always positive,” Haines said.

Crossed paths

Krysti Horvat, 26, of Boardman, was a childhood friend of Stevens and gave the eulogy at her funeral. Horvat said Stevens first met Olmstead three years ago, and that Olmstead later moved in with Stevens at Stevens' grandparents' home near Boardman, though her grandparents didn't approve.

“Brandy was hiding her. She'd wait for her grandma to go to work, and then Jade would come over. She'd not be around when her grandma got home,” Horvat said.

“Jade was one of those girls that found someone who'd give her attention and take care of her,” she said. “Brandy did that.”

The relationship ended one night last summer. Stevens told friends that she was working a late-night shift at Target when Olmstead took her iPod and cash and sneaked out through a window, Haines said.

“Brandy was angry, but she forgave Jade. She loved her,” Haines said.

Olmstead moved in with Barber at 29558 Drake Hill Road this spring, about three weeks before Stevens was murdered on May 17. Olmstead and Barber previously had been a couple, during high school in East Liverpool, Ohio, Barber's mother, Marie Barber, said.

“Jade this spring had tried to get Ashley to move to Baltimore, where her parents are,” Marie Barber said. “We didn't want Ashley to go that far from home, so we made the big mistake of asking if Jade wanted to come up here.”

Ashley Barber's previous relationship with Olmstead and her family was troubled. Barber had once confronted Olmstead's parents and was removed from their home by police.

“Jade had lied to my daughter and convinced her that she was being abused at home, and Ashley felt like she had to do something,” Marie Barber said.

Olmstead more recently told the Barbers that Stevens abused her, Marie Barber said. Ashley Barber told police that she and Olmstead had invited Stevens to Cochranton to “scare her” in retaliation, Trooper Mallory testified.

Olmstead kept in touch with both Barber and Stevens after the breakups, family and friends of the women said.

“Brandy and Jade would be in contact off and on. Brandy would go see her sometimes, and Jade would be nice to her. Then a couple days later, Jade and Ashley would be sending her mean messages,” Haines said.

Stevens at one point decided to take Olmstead's number out of her cell phone and gave it to Haines in case she would one day want it again, Haines said.

Stevens did want the number again, in February, when she texted to ask for it, Haines said.

“I pretended like I didn't even get her messages. I didn't want her to contact Jade. I knew it was bad news,” Haines said.

But Stevens somehow got the number and was in contact with Olmstead again, and in March went to bring her home from Baltimore when Olmstead asked for a ride, Horvat said.

“Brandy loved her, so she did it. But Brandy would have done that for anybody,” Horvat said.

The killing

In May, according to police, Olmstead and Barber invited Stevens to visit with the intention of killing her rather than scaring her.

Olmstead met Stevens when she arrived at the Barber house on May 17 and took her to the woods behind the house to show her a fort that she and Barber were making, Trooper Mallory said. Barber was hiding nearby.

Together, the two women punched and kicked Stevens, stuffed a knit cap in her mouth to stop her from pleading for her life and screaming, and then ratcheted up the beating, hitting her with a shovel, choking her with a rope, and slamming her head against a stump, Mallory said.

They ultimately buried Stevens in a shallow grave they had ready at the fort and covered it up with branches and leaves, Mallory said.

Stevens' grandparents reported her missing to Beaver Township police, near Boardman, on May 19. The search for Stevens shifted to Crawford County after police determined that her cell phone had “pinged” a tower in Meadville.

Horvat first heard that Stevens was missing from a mutual friend on May 19. Stevens had texted the woman on the day that she left home to tell her that she was going to the Barbers' address on Drake Hill Road near Cochranton and had a “bad feeling” about it, Horvat said. Horvat went to Drake Hill Road on May 20, but wound up turning around at a nearby church.

“It was nighttime. It was dark. And I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. It was a dirt road, and I was looking for tire tracks, anything. I had lost my signal on my GPS and thought maybe she had, too. I didn't see any tire tracks. I turned around at the church, ... and I went home,” Horvat said.

Horvat had texted Olmstead to tell her that she was coming.

“Jade's response was, 'Be careful. It's no man's land out here. And it's bear hunting season.' I Googled it, and it wasn't bear hunting season,” Horvat said. “Then she texted me and asked, 'Are the police doing anything?', which was also strange.”

Horvat went back to Drake Hill Road two days later with Stevens' mother, Carrie Stevens-Rosine, Stevens' grandparents and Horvat's mother and sister. They'd gone to Meadville to show Stevens' picture around when they learned that her cell phone had been used near Linden Avenue.

“Finally Brandy's mom called Jade and said, 'I'm coming to talk to you,'” Horvat said. “When we got (to the Barber home), we stood in the front yard and Jade and Ashley came around the house. Jade was nervous and Ashley was defensive. They said they'd never seen Brandy,” Horvat said.

Police found Stevens' car at the Barber house that evening.

“Brandy's car was in the garage the whole time we were standing in the drive. We were close. We were so close,” Horvat said.

Barber and Olmstead's story changed after police found the car. They admitted that Stevens had come to the house and said she'd gotten a phone call soon afterward and had gone to meet a friend, leaving her car behind.

Barber next told police that her father had killed Stevens. She and Olmstead confessed to the killing after police told them that they had found Stevens' body, Trooper Mallory testified at their preliminary hearing.

Stevens' body was found by a state trooper during a search of the Barber property and nearby woods.

Not forgotten

Stevens' friends want her to be remembered as “the kind of best friend that everyone would have loved to have,” Horvat said.

Horvat has a slideshow of Stevens on her laptop: in cap and gown with her mom and little sister at graduation from Boardman High School in 2010; kissing a young cousin; and mugging for the camera with friends.

“Through the pictures, you see how people loved her. And it's never the same person. She had so many friends from so many different groups,” Horvat said.

Stevens still had friends from Boardman High School, where she had been on staff with the student newspaper and a self-proclaimed “orch dork.” She played upright bass in the school orchestra.

She also had friends from Youngstown State University, where she was studying sociology — for what purpose, her friends aren't sure.

“Brandy wasn't the kind of person to plan. Brandy just kind of went with it. She knew the focus, I think, but she didn't know exactly where she was going to end up,” Haines said.

Between studies and work, Stevens would go on “adventures” with friends. “That's what they called them, adventures. They would just jump in her car and drive wherever, just go,” Horvat said.

Other times, Stevens rode her four-wheeler — “fast,” Haines said — or sat Indian-style on the sofa for hours playing “Mario Party” and visiting with friends on Facebook, Tumblr and Myspace.

“She was so smart, too. She had bits of knowledge about everything in the world,” Haines said.

Stevens was easy to talk to because she listened and didn't take sides, Horvat said.

“No matter what you told her, it wasn't going to offend her; she wasn't going to get mad at you. She was just a super-understanding person. She was able to put herself in anyone's shoes,” Horvat said.

“She had this incredible energy,” Haines said. “Just being around her made you feel good.”

Horvat is leading a fund drive to raise money for a memorial to Stevens, probably a marble bench that she hopes to place at Boardman Park or at Boardman High School. Donations are being accepted at Youngstown area branches of Huntington Bank and online at www.brandyrosin​e​stevens.blogspot.com.

“I think the worst thing, the thing that bothers me most, is that she'll be forgotten,” Horvat said.

Seeking justice

Horvat and Haines last week visited the woods where their friend died, to remember her and make peace with her death. They parked at the church where Horvat had stopped in May and, with the permission of Barber's parents, visited the fort in the woods where Stevens was killed.

“It rattled the two of us,” Horvat said afterward, in an e-mail.

Both women said they hope the prosecution seeks the death penalty for Olmstead and Barber. Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz will make that decision before the accused killers are formally arraigned in Crawford County Court on Aug. 24 on homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide, and evidence tampering charges. Police said the two women burned belongings from Stevens' car, and some of their bloody clothes.

“Normally, I'm not a big fan of the death penalty. I think people should have to sit in jail and think of what they've done,” Haines said. “But I don't feel that (Olmstead and Barber) are sitting there feeling bad, so I do want the death penalty in this case.”

Stevens probably would not, Haines said.

“Brandy had a huge heart. The people who took her life, she still wouldn't want to see them hurt,” Haines said.

Horvat, considering what should become of Olmstead and Barber in the meantime, recalled an episode of television's “Law and Order: SVU” in which a detective has himself put in jail for a day, in solitary confinement. There is no one to talk to, no window in the tiny cell and no way to tell if it's day or night. Very soon, the detective can't bear it.

“He starts banging on the cell door, saying, 'I told you 24 hours, not a week,'” Horvat said. “That's what I want for them.”

James and Marie Barber don't believe that justice will be served until their daughter is freed. They don't believe that she killed Stevens.

“We didn't believe most anything they said about her at the hearing,” Marie Barber said. “The things they accused her of, it's just not feasible.”

Ashley Barber studied film production at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and planned to apply for the Peace Corps, Marie Barber said. “My daughter is a good person. She is a humanitarian. She has helped people all her life.”

Haines wonders if Olmstead and Barber understand what Stevens' killing did to others.

“I wonder if they even realize, not only what they've done to so many lives, but what they've done to their own lives. Because they don't have lives now; they essentially took their own lives, too,” she said.


Police: Lesbian Couple Confessed to Beating, Burying Ex Alive

By Nastacia Leshchinskaya - TruTV.com

July 30, 2012

Pennsylvania State Police say lovers Jade Olmstead, 18, and Ashley Barber, 20, confessed to the May murder of Brandy Stevens, 20. Stevens’ remains were discovered in a shallow grave near a house in Wayne Township.

During a preliminary hearing Wednesday, State Trooper Eric Mallory told the court that the two women admitted to luring Stevens, who was previously romantically involved with Olmstead, to the home where Olmstead lived with Barber and Barber’s parents. There, Mallory said, they beat and strangled Stevens before rolling her, still alive, into a makeshift grave they had dug earlier. According to Mallory, the duo confessed to hitting Stevens with a shovel and stuffing a hat into her mouth to muffle her screaming. Once she was in the grave, they allegedly poured water on her face and bashed her head with a rock. They then allegedly buried the hat and the rock with her, and later burned some of her belongings along with their own bloody clothing. An autopsy revealed Stevens had died from suffocating on dirt.

After they were arrested, Barber and Olmstead allegedly told police that Stevens’ father had killed her because he disagreed with her sexual orientation, but confessed when police told them they’d found the body. They are charged with homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide and will be arraigned in Crawford County Court on August 24.


Brandy Stevens-Rosine Case: Ashley Marie Barger, Nicole 'Jade' Olmstead Face Trial In Love Triangle Murder

By David Lohr - HuffingtonPost.com

July 27, 2012

COCHRANTON, Pa. -- Authorities say two lesbian lovers tortured and murdered 20-year-old Brandy Stevens-Rosine, an Ohio college student who was beaten and buried alive in a shallow grave behind the women's secluded home.

Details of the May killing were revealed for the first time at a preliminary hearing this week for Ashley Marie Barber, 20, and Nichole "Jade" Olmstead, 18, who a judge ordered to stand trial on charges of homicide and conspiracy.

Krysti Horvat, a close friend of Stevens-Rosine, was in court to hear police and prosecutors present the gruesome evidence. "The night before the detectives told us some of the details so we would not be so terribly surprised, but even after that it was still shocking to hear what Brandy went through," Horvat told The Huffington Post. "She was like the little sister that everyone would want to have, and for her to be brutally murdered is unfathomable."

Stevens-Rosine, a popular sociology student at Youngstown State University, left her home in Beaver Township, Ohio, on the morning of May 17 for an impromptu meeting with Olmstead, whom she had once dated. Despite the breakup, the two remained in regular contact.

"Brandy had been in love with Jade, and they were together about a year before they broke up," Horvat said. "Jade then started going with Ashley, but anytime Jade needed anything Brandy was there. She had even recently driven to Baltimore to give Jade a ride to where she wanted to go."

The reason for Stevens-Rosine's get-together with her old flame remains unclear. Stevens-Rosine drove 75 miles northeast, across the state line and into Pennsylvania. Her destination was a home on Drake Hill Road in Wayne Township, Crawford County, east of Cochranton, owned by Barber's parents. Barber and Olmstead had been living together at the address.

After winding her way through a maze of roads that led her deep into the woods of Crawford County, Stevens-Rosine began the final leg of her journey. It took her through acres of isolated back hills, indiscriminately sliced into rudimentary sections by dusty dirt roads. Thick canopies of trees envelop portions of the road, and it’s not uncommon for the piercing sun to cast spooky shadows onto the landscape. As she neared her Drake Hill Road destination, Stevens-Rosine sent a text message to a friend, saying she had a "funny feeling."

Two days later, Stevens-Rosine's family reported her missing to the Beaver Township police. Authorities said they were concerned because the young woman was diabetic and did not have her medication, but they did not immediately suspect foul play.

"These are always tough cases because obviously a 20-year-old girl has the ability to leave and not have people hound her, looking for her," Beaver Township Police Chief Carl Frost later told Youngstown's WYTV.

Before she'd left home, Stevens-Rosine told her grandmother she was going to visit a friend, but did not say where. Horvat had never been to Barber's home before and didn't know where Stevens-Rosine went. But she had the address Stevens-Rosine had texted the day she went missing. On May 20, she travelled to Pennsylvania to search for her friend.

"I drove to Drake Hill Road, but it was at nighttime and it looked like a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't see her car and I couldn't see tire tracks, so I left," Horvat said.

The following day, Stevens-Rosine's cellphone pinged a tower in Meadville, Pa., right outside of Cochranton. On May 22, Horvat returned to the area with Stevens-Rosine's mother and grandparents to go door-to-door on Drake Hill Road. As it turned out, one of the homes they visited belonged to the Barber family.

"We spoke to Ashley and Jade in the front yard and they claimed they hadn't seen her, so we went home with more questions than answers," Horvat said.

Later that day, Pennsylvania state troopers went to the Barber residence and located Stevens-Rosine's 2002 Kia Rio in the driveway. According to Horvat, the vehicle had not been parked in the driveway earlier that day. Troopers sized the car, but found no sign of Stevens-Rosine.

The next day, Stevens-Rosine's mother, Carrie Rosine, posted a message about her daughter's disappearance to the Facebook page of radio station Majic 99.3 and 104.5. It read, in part:

"The PA State police have found her car last night ... [Barber and Olmstead] had been questioned the night before and told the police that Brandy never made it there ... Then last night they stated that Brandy came there and got a ride from another friend. They [said they] never saw the car, they never saw the person that picked her up; that she walked down the dirt road to get picked up."

Rosine said her daughter's vehicle had been "completely cleaned out." She also said Ashley Barber had been taken to the hospital for an injury.

"Barber coincidentally went to the emergency room from falling down the basement stairs right around the time Brandy went missing," she posted on the Facebook page.

Rosine did not elaborate and told HuffPost on Thursday, "They advised us not to talk to the press."

Not long after Rosine's May 23 Facebook post, police notified her that they had found a shallow grave a few hundred yards from the Barber residence. An examination of the makeshift plot revealed the partially decomposed body of Brandy Stevens-Rosine.

Crawford County Coroner Scott Schell pronounced Stevens-Rosine dead. Investigators took three hours to exhume the remains.

Following an autopsy, Schell told The Meadville Tribune that Stevens-Rosine had "multiple injuries from multiple different objects ... to a large percentage of her body."

On May 24, state police sent out a press release that said, "Barber and Olmstead both admitted to their role in killing [Stevens-Rosine] and the burying of her body."

Barber and Olmstead were arraigned on charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy and tampering with physical evidence.

Horvat attended the funeral for Stevens-Rosine and read from a eulogy she penned.

"All Brandy wanted was to be herself in a world without prejudice, and I believe Brandy achieved that goal the best she could. Brandy was an inspiration to others. She taught others not to fear who you are, but to embrace his or her self. ... She shared 20 years with us, and now it is time to cherish those years."

The two defendants were jailed without bond and appeared in court for their preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

State Trooper Eric Mallory told Magisterial District Judge Michael Rossi that Olmstead and Barber had invited Stevens-Rosine to their home on May 17. They lured her into the woods behind the home, under the pretense of seeing a fort the couple was building, and savagely attacked her.

Mallory said the two women admitted punching and kicking Stevens-Rosine and placed a "Saw" hat in her mouth to quiet her screams. "Saw" is a horror movie series about a fictional diabolical psychotic called "Jigsaw" who psychologically tortures.

"She was screaming for her life," Mallory testified.

They knocked Stevens-Rosine to the ground, the trooper said. Barber put a rope around her 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 brains protrude from the gaping wounds. Mallory said Barber hurt herself head-butting Stevens-Rosine, then repeatedly pounded the victim's head against a stump.

"She was on the victim's back with her knee in her spine, pulling her head back with the rope ... and letting it hit the stump," Mallory said.

When the fight was drained from Stevens-Rosine, 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.

Barber "said that her worst fear was being buried alive," Mallory said. "She was trying to kill her."

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. Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz said Stevens-Rosine had been buried alive.

Mallory explained the evidence-tampering charge during the hearing, saying the defendants buried the "Saw" hat, a blood-soaked sweatshirt and the bloody rock used to smash Stevens-Rosine in the face. The hat, Mallory said, had been used, "to pick up what [Barber] referred to as meat or brains."

Barber initially told police her father had committed the murder because he was not tolerant of homosexuals, Mallory said. The women later admitted to killing Stevens-Rosine, police said.

The defense hasn't commented on the case. Schultz, the D.A., declined to comment on a possible motive. Horvat said she thinks her friend was killed out of jealousy.

The accused killers are being held without bail at the Crawford County Correctional Facility and are scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 24. Schultz said he will decide whether his office will pursue the death penalty prior to that hearing.

"Brandy didn't deserve this at all," Horvat said. "She was a great person and I think about her every day, because she was that kind of friend."


Police: Cochranton homicide victim buried alive

By Valerie Myers - Erie Times-News

July 26, 2012

MEADVILLE -- Brandy M. Stevens, 20, was still alive but probably beyond feeling pain when a woman she had loved helped to bury her.

Jade N. Olmstead, 18, and her new lover, Ashley M. Barber, told police that they invited Stevens to their Cochranton-area home on May 17 and then savagely beat and choked her and buried her in a grave they had waiting, state police Trooper Eric Mallory testified during a preliminary hearing for the two women Wednesday.

Both will stand trial on charges of homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide, Vernon Township District Judge Michael Rossi ruled. Mallory testified that Barber and Olmstead admitted to the killing and described their relationship and their relationship to the victim in separate interviews with police.

Olmstead greeted Stevens and lured her into the woods near the home that she shared with Barber and Barber's parents in Wayne Township, to see a crude fort that she and Ashley Barber were building. Barber was hiding there. At the fort, the two women began punching and kicking Stevens and stuffed a "Saw" cap into her mouth to stop her pleading for her life and screaming.

"They said they were freaking out from her screams," Mallory said.

Stevens was knocked to the ground by the two women. Barber put a rope around her neck and strangled her while Olmstead alternately hit her in the head with a shovel and helped to choke her, Mallory said.

Barber also repeatedly pounded Stevens' head against a stump and told police that a bruise on her own forehead came from head-butting Stevens' besides.

"She was on the victim's back with her knee in her spine, pulling her head back with the rope ... and letting it hit the stump," Mallory said.

The two women rolled Stevens into a shallow grave that they had prepared for her at the fort. When they saw that she was still breathing, they threw a large rock onto her face and poured water into her mouth and nose.

"She said that her worst fear was being buried alive," Mallory said of Barber. "She was trying to kill her."

The results of an autopsy by Erie County forensic pathologist Eric Vey showed that Stevens suffocated on dirt, police Trooper Phillip Shaffer testified.

Barber and Olmstead originally told police that Stevens had come to visit, then left her car there and walked up the road with her belongings to meet a friend, Mallory said. Barber said that she'd gotten the bruise on her head in a fall down the cellar stairs.

She later told police that her father had killed Stevens because Stevens "looked like a boy" and her father wasn't very tolerant of homosexuality, Mallory said. The women admitted killing Stevens after police told them that they'd found her grave.

Barber and Olmstead will also stand trial on an evidence tampering charge. The women burned some of the victim's belongings as well as some of their own clothes that they bloodied during the killing, Mallory said.

They buried the bloody rock, one of the women's blood-soaked Ohio State University hoodie and the "Saw" cap with Stevens.

"The black hat was used to pick up what she (Ashley Barber) referred to as meat or brains," Mallory said.

Stevens' grandmother, Kathy Stevens, sobbed during the graphic descriptions of the killing. She earlier sobbed on the makeshift witness stand in the Vernon Township Building meeting room. The hearing was moved there, from Rossi's smaller courtroom, to accommodate families and friends of the victim and the accused.

Kathy Stevens described seeing her granddaughter for the last time when she left home on May 17. She reported her missing to Beaver Township police on May 19 after her granddaughter didn't answer or return any of her phone calls.

Cell phone records and a relative's tip shifted the search for the young woman to the Cochranton area, and to Olmstead and Barber. Police found Brandy Stevens' car in a driveway at the Barber home and an unexplained stain nearby on Drake Hill Road and called for a cadaver dog.

"You could smell a certain odor of decay at certain times, depending on which way the wind was blowing," police Trooper John Michalak said.

Stevens, also known as Brandy Stevens-Rosine, was a student at Youngstown State University, where she was studying sociology, according to her obituary in the Youngstown Vindicator.

"She was a wonderful person," Tera Haines, of Boardman, Ohio, said. "She was nine years younger than me but was like a mother to me. She was very, very nice."

Haines was at Wednesday's preliminary hearing for Barber and Olmstead.

"I'm here for justice for my friend," Haines said.

Barber and Olmstead are being held at the Crawford County Correctional Facility in Saegertown. Rossi on Wednesday denied a defense attorney's request for bail for Barber.

Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz will decide whether to seek the death penalty for the two women.

"That's something that I will decide before the arraignment," Schultz said.

The women will be arraigned in Crawford County Court on Aug. 24.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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