PITTSBURGH (AP/WBTW) — A man who was arrested by Myrtle Beach police in 2017 and is serving a life sentence for the murder of a University of Pittsburgh student will get a hearing to try to persuade an appeals court that his attorney was ineffective.
Allegheny County prosecutors said now-25-year-old Matthew Darby used a claw hammer and two knives to kill 20-year-old Alina Sheykhet, his former girlfriend, in her off-campus apartment in October 2017. He fled and was captured in Myrtle Beach when a resident called police to report a man tampering with a house.
After investigating, police learned Darby, who was 21 at the time, was wanted by authorities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for murder.
Darby pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with prosecutors agreeing not to seek the death penalty. They had said earlier that capital punishment would be justified, citing among other things Darby’s history of felony convictions involving violence or violent threats and the victim’s protection-from-abuse order against him.
The Tribune-Review reports that a judge had ordered a hearing on Darby’s bid to have his former attorney deemed ineffective, but that judge went on medical leave and a new judge rejected such a hearing. The state Superior Court on Monday sided with Darby and said the hearing should be held.
Darby’s new attorney, Joseph Hudak, said a first-degree murder plea should never have been allowed and he didn’t believe his client would ever have been sentenced to death in any case. He said he believed Darby was guilty of at most third-degree murder “and a jury might find him guilty of voluntary manslaughter.”
Mike Manko, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, said prosecutors are “confident of our position” since the defendant “pleaded guilty to a brutal crime that he obviously committed.” An attorney for the victim’s family said they believe the guilty plea and life sentence will remain intact.
Less than three weeks before being killed, Shekyhet filed an application for a PFA against Darby for breaking into the second-floor window of her home, KDKA reports. Darby was arrested for the break-in and granted a $10,000 bond for the criminal trespass charge.