Trio strangled friend, then drove around with body disguised in hat and sunglasses, police say

Joshua Rose needed a doctor, but the hospital is not where his young friends took him.

Instead, the trio — two men and a woman — loaded the 21-year-old into a black Ford truck and drove past the emergency room, authorities said, despite the possibility that Rose may have been experiencing a drug overdose. Then they headed out of town.

Between there and the woods where police found Rose’s body, authorities say, the trio placed a plastic bag over their friend’s head and strangled him with jumper cables while driving down the interstate.

When they stopped to get gasoline at a Sunoco station, Rose’s body, still in the front seat of the truck, was disguised in a hat and sunglasses. Security cameras captured them on film.

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And once they reached that wooded spot in Susquehanna County, right beside the railroad tracks, they pushed his body over an embankment, documents say, turned around and drove away.

Rose was missing for five days before authorities found him. This week, the 21-year-old’s trio of friends were arrested in connection to his death.

Preston Layfield, 19, Tyler Mirabelli, 22, and Amanda Wayda, 20, face charges of aggravated assault and conspiracy, and investigators with the Pennsylvania State Police told CBS affiliate WYOU that additional, more serious charges are pending the results of an autopsy to determine cause of death.

In local media reports, authorities did not give a motive for the trio’s behavior, but alluded to the possibility that Rose was having a health emergency that triggered his friends’ actions.

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“The individual was probably having some sort of significant medical problem,” State Police Cpl. Mark Prushinski told WYOU, “and for whatever their thought process was, it appears as though he was strangled.”

As to why they avoided the hospital and instead drove north on I-81 into a new county, Prushinski only offered this: “At this time, we are not sure why they did that.”

What details authorities do have come from a timeline Wayda presented to the state police, documented in an arrest affidavit obtained by The Washington Post.

It begins like this: On the morning of Aug. 28 — three days after Rose died — Wayda called police to report she’d witnessed a murder.

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Wayda told authorities she had been hanging out at the Scranton home of her boyfriend, who is not named in the report, on Aug. 25 when Rose, a friend of hers, and his buddy, Layfield, came over. Soon after his arrival, Rose laid down for a nap. When Wayda went to check on him, according to the affidavit, she “noticed he didn’t look good and thought he was overdosing.”

She then called another friend, Mirabelli, and asked him for a ride to the hospital. They piled in — Mirabelli behind the wheel, Rose in the front passenger seat and Wayda wedged between them. Layfield sat alone in the back, directly behind Rose, Wayda told police.

The truck bypassed the hospital and continued north on I-81. That’s when the trio’s stories start to diverge.

According to Wayda, Layfield, sitting in the back, grabbed a pair of jumper cables, looped them around Rose’s neck and pulled until the man was dead. “Wayda said that she knew Rose was alive prior to the strangling,” reads the affidavit, “because she saw him breathing.”

Layfield’s story is different.

He admitted to police in an interview on Aug. 29 that he was the one who strangled Rose with the jumper cables, but said Wayda first placed a plastic bag over the victim’s head, according to the affidavit. Then, Layfield said, Wayda climbed into the backseat and handed him the jumper cables.

She “told him he needed to do this,” the affidavit reads.

So he did, Layfield told police, holding tight for about four minutes — while Mirabelli allegedly told him to pull harder.

Layfield was even able to provide the precise location the alleged strangling began: Lackawanna County, Scott Township, mile marker 199. He also told police where they had dumped Rose’s body, according to the affidavit.

State police said they discovered the missing man at 9:18 a.m. on Aug. 29, in the Hop Bottom area of Susquehanna County.

It was Wayda who told authorities about their pit stop at the gas station and the incognito disguise they’d given their dead friend. Surveillance footage there captured Mirabelli walking into the store the night Rose died, wearing a green T-shirt and white plaid shorts.

When state troopers spoke with Mirabelli days later at a Giant supermarket, he was wearing an outfit that resembled the one from that night. Green shirt. White plaid shorts. On both, troopers saw a small amount of red. It “appeared to be blood,” according to the affidavit. Inside his truck, authorities found jumper cables in the back seat and a multi-colored bucket hat.

They also seized as evidence his suspect outfit and a pair of sunglasses, the report states.

The three friends were subsequently arrested and charged.

Wayda did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press. Court documents indicate Mirabelli has requested a public defender, the AP said, but it’s unclear if he has yet been assigned one. There is no attorney listed for Layfield, reported the AP.

Police said Rose was from Luzerne, Pa., a small town outside Wilkes Barre, about 20 miles south of Scranton. According to his Facebook profile, Rose was a student at Luzerne County Community College.

According to the affidavit, Rose was entered into the missing person’s database on Aug. 29. His mother, it says, had not seen him since Aug. 20 and last spoke with her son on the phone Aug. 24, the day before he died.