DA to seek death penalty in Pitt student’s homicide


The Allegheny County District Attorney will seek the death penalty for Matthew Darby. (Photo via Pittsburgh Police)

By Janine Faust / Assistant News Editor

The Allegheny County district attorney’s office will seek the death penalty for Matthew Darby, a 21-year-old man accused of killing Pitt student Alina Sheykhet.

Sheykhet was found dead in her home in Oakland Oct. 8, 2017. Darby — her ex-boyfriend — has been charged with homicide, flight, burglary, theft, trespassing and possessing an instrument of crime.

The District Attorney’s Notice of Intention, filed Thursday, cites four “aggravating circumstances” that the prosecution intends to submit that could justify capital punishment.

These circumstances include that Sheykhet was a prosecution witness in a case involving Darby and was then murdered to prevent her testifying, that Darby committed the killing during the perpetration of a felony, that at the time of the killing Sheykhet had a court order meant to protect her from Darby and that he has a history of violence.

Capital punishment in Pennsylvania can only be applied to someone found guilty of first-degree murder. Then, in a separate hearing, the prosecution must prove to a jury that any aggravating circumstances outweigh any mitigating circumstances provided by the defense.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015 as he awaited a report from a capital punishment task force. The state has not executed an inmate since 1999, though 154 inmates are on death row as of Feb. 1.

Darby was previously arrested Sept. 26, 2017, for breaking into Sheykhet’s home on Cable Place. He was charged with criminal trespass but released on bond. Sheykhet filed a protection-from-abuse order against Darby as a result. He was served with the PFA Oct. 5, 2017, a few days before her death.

Darby is also facing trial for charges of rape and sexual assault in an unrelated case in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

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