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Allegheny County prosecutors seek death penalty against suspect in Pitt student's murder

| Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, 3:00 p.m.
Matthew Darby
Matthew Darby

Allegheny County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Matthew Darby if he is convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his ex-girlfriend, Alina Sheykhet, officials announced Thursday.

Darby, 21, of Greensburg is accused of breaking into Sheykhet's Oakland apartment Oct. 8 and beating and stabbing her to death, then taking her cellphone as he fled. He was arrested in Myrtle Beach three days later.

On Thursday, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office filed the notice required by state law to say it would pursue the death penalty against Darby.

When seeking the death penalty, prosecutors have to cite “aggravating circumstances” that make the case eligible. In Darby's case, they wrote:

• The murder was carried out during the commission of other felonies — breaking into Sheykhet's apartment and stealing her cellphone.

• Sheykhet was a witness to a felony — the break-in — and was killed to prevent her from testifying about it.

• Darby has a history of other alleged felonies. In addition to the homicide, he was charged with raping two victims in Indiana County and Elizabeth .

• At the time of the killing, Sheykhet had a protection-from-abuse order against Darby stemming from an earlier break-in at her apartment.

Darby was held for trial on the homicide charges last month and is scheduled for a formal arraignment Friday in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

There are six other death-penalty cases active in Allegheny County, District Attorney's Office spokesman Mike Manko said, though Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015 put a moratorium on executions pending completion of a study of Pennsylvania's application of capital punishment.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, or on Twitter @msantoni.

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