63. Mefloquine Dispatches: Benjamin ‘BJ’ Sifrit, 26th May 2002
How did this United States Navy SEAL, who topped his Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training class and had earned a good-conduct medal become a cut-out and a murderer? Maybe ‘BJ’ wasn’t quite the ‘Natural Born Killer’ he thought of himself…
It is 2019. I have recently been released from hospital and am spending the weekend with the kids. My eldest and I watch a couple of episodes of Forensic Files each day and discuss old technology. In the digital world, cheque fraud seems somehow quaint.
One day we come to an episode titled ‘Dirty Little Seacret’. Something triggers me. I read up on the case immediately after the show. Memories start to pop. I get excited and agitated as they hit and recede. T*, who is still watching something else on TV turns to me and asks if I am alright?
“BJ got mefloquine somewhere”, I state.
“Why do you say that, Dad”?, T* replies.
“Because we have the same backstory”.
In 2021 I am formally diagnosed with amnesia.
Name: Benjamin Adam ‘BJ’ Sifrit.
Rank/Occupation: Hospital Corpsman Second Class, SEAL Team Two, United States Navy.
Date of Incident(s): 25-31 May 2002 (aged 24). Ocean City, Maryland, USA.
Incident(s): Double homicide (25-26 May), break and enter (31 May).
Victims: Joshua Ford (aged 32) and Martha ‘Geney’ Crutchley (aged 51).
Spouse: Erika Sifrit (aged 24).
Exposure to Anti-Quinolines: Not confirmed/potentially classified. I would be interested to see what BJ was doing in the first half of 1999, especially where he travelled too.
Conditions witnessed/documented that relate to Quinism: Prodromal symptoms including memory loss and peculiar behaviour. Lariam derangement on numerous occassions. Excessive risk taking behaviour. Psychosis (mefloquine madness) and criminality. M. William Phelps also details a number of further allegations. These include the potential that BJ was a serial killer (possibly in both the USA/Chile), a necrophile and even cannibalism was raised. The Ocean City murders may have been an act of ‘Blooding’. Other items that keep coming up in similar cases linked to mefloquine are acts of decapitation and trophy collecting.
Confounding Factors: Demolitions and diving. Excessive alcohol consumption.
Convictions: 2nd degree Murder, First degree Assault (USA).
OPINION: According to BJ, his military career started to spiral out of control immediately once he hooked up with Erika Grace. Although that might be technically true, what is missed is that they both met in Spring 1999 and swapped numbers but nothing eventuated. According to BJ he wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship, nor a wife. Another friend, a NAVY SEAL wife who lived with BJ for four months not only reported that he wasn’t violent, he was quite shy around women. Yet a few months later, in late July, BJ meets Erika at a SEAL party and they are in an almost immediate ‘steady relationship’? Barely, three weeks pass then BJ rings his mother from the Silver Bell Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. They are both just 21. As noted in Cruel Death:
BJ’s parents had never met Erika, nor had they even heard of her when BJ called shortly after the wedding to announce he was now married.
“August 21, ,” BJ told his mother over the phone. He sounded happy. “We met three weeks ago.” Recalling the incident later, Elizabeth Sifrit had tears in her eyes, her voice scratchy and weak from the pain of having to recall how her son’s life took such a nosedive into chaos.
Prodromal symptoms including memory loss, peculiar behaviour and even psychotic behaviour are early warning signs of Quinism.
As noted above, when BJ first called his Mum about getting married he stated that he met Erika three weeks prior when in fact they had met months earlier, even swapping numbers, possibly suggesting memory loss, even amnesia.
From being not that interested in a relationship to getting married in three weeks would definitely qualify as peculiar behaviour. In fact, just months after getting married he would start to get in trouble with the Navy and breaking absolute ‘no-no’ rules, like sneaking Erika into his Mountain and Arctic Warfare training, which is undertaken in Alaska.
Dr. Jane Quinn explained the literature already available on this subject during her 2018 testimony into the Use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force. Excerpt from Submission 73:
Just months of meeting Erika, BJ starts to get in serious trouble with the Navy after an impeccable 3-years of service and a good conduct medal. Within a year his acts of insubordination are so bad that he is court martialed and drummed out of the Navy on a bad conduct discharge. One Navy prosecutor said Sifrit seemed to have developed an “utter disregard for authority.” I actually believe these instances to be periods of Lariam derangement and excessive risk taking.
One possible case of Lariam derangement sticks out and I believe demonstrates the power dynamic between these two. . An excerpt via Murderpedia:
There’s even a disturbing account of a test Benjamin Sifrit gave his wife to see how far she would go for him. She recalled, after being married for a year, that he wanted her to become pregnant. Court documents indicate that she carried his baby for nearly four months.
Then, out of the blue, Erika Sifrit claimed her husband changed his mind and ordered her to “get an abortion or I’m going to dig it out of you,” Collins reported.
After she terminated the pregnancy, Benjamin Sifrit then told her: “I never wanted a kid, I just wanted to see how far you would go for me,” according to court documents.
Finally, we need to look at the psychotic behaviour, which some veterans have nicknamed mefloquine madness. No woman who weighs (at best) 45kg is kicking a door in, especially if she hasn’t trained at it. The first door I kicked in was at Bindoon and it took me three attempts and I almost broke my leg on the first attempt, much to the amusement of my mate who would go on to become an officer in one of the Commando regiments. Detective Bernal made the point that this particular bathroom door in Room 1101 was kicked in with such force that the doorknob hit the corner of the wall. BJ isn’t convincing anyone that he was asleep in the car on the night of the double homicide in Ocean City. Unfortunately, this fact was left out of both the trial and the subsequent Forensic Files episode and would have nailed BJ. He would have been where the action was. In fact, I even theorise that the killing of ‘Geney’ might have been BJ blooding Erika after he had shot and executed Josh. Then there are the ‘other’ allegations.
According to Erika’s own admissions during the pre-polygraph interview and the available forensic evidence which was re-enacted in part during the Dirty Little Seacret episode there are a number of events in the double homicide which would suggest mefloquine madness.
26th May 2002
2.26AM: Erika calls her ‘friend’ who we will refer to as ‘Snake-Guy’ twice. Both calls last less than five seconds. She has been drinking and snorting Xanax for approximately 20-hours.
Shortly after she returns to find her prized bag moved, and her drugs and jewels are missing. After a search cannot find the missing items and with Erika’s mood becoming more frantic accusations are made against the visiting couple, heightening BJ. He then produces a gun and tells the couple to strip. Naked, the couple take an opportunity to run and lock themselves in the adjoining hottub/bathroom. BJ goes to Erika and asks what she wanted him to do with Geney and Joshua. Erika thinks about it and tells BJ to just do it “Just fucking do it,”. Even after BJ finds out about the 911 call made before the call to Snake Guy he seems to have an epiphany. “I’m just going to fucking waste them, cool?”. He is smiling.
Observation: I theorise that BJ hid the drugs and jewels on purpose to heighten Erika who has anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I also believe that getting Erika into a murderous rage was a way for BJ to ramp himself. Ramping is a term that my co-parent and I used for my lariam derangement. Why would BJ want to ramp himself? Because it is better than cocaine.
BJ then fires one or two shots through the door, wounding Josh, most likely in the arm. Erika might have even directed fire. Then BJ kicks open the door and executes Josh with a bullet to his head. He then hands the gun to Erika who walks over to the cowering Geney and fires the pistol. She misses, either by design or by mistake as the bullet goes through the wall into the next room. Pulling out her knife she proceeds to stab Geney in the stomach. Before her arrest in five days she will get a tattoo of a cobra on the spot where she first cut Geney. A trophy for her husband who approved.
Observation: Only two people really know what happened in that room in those moments but I’d note that Detective Bernal, one of the lead investigators, made the observation during BJs trial that there was ‘no blood on the carpet’. Everything was contained to one kill-room. I suspect this was not BJs first kill although it might have been Erika’s. In fact, BJ might have been blooding Erika by letting her kill a ‘PUC’ otherwise known as a Person Under Control. In BJs time we called PUCs by an older term, a Prisoner of War (POW). In fact, I think he fired the shot into the wall.
Last one. Erika then goes out to get cleaning supplies. In the Forensic Files version she returns to find BJ in the hot-tub with the decapitated heads of Josh and Geney floating and throws the coup de grace bullet to Erika as a trophy. In another version she enters the bathroom to find BJ completing an act of necrophilia. By his own admission BJ then cut the bodies into six separate pieces and removed them from the premises without leaving evidence. What ever post mortem atrocities happened in that room there was not one trace outside of that room.
Last Observation: Random victims (disorganised). A contained kill-room (organised). Alleged necrophilia (disorganised). An almost seamless disposal of two bodies, literally the hardest thing to do (organised). BJ was a mixed serial killer or working on becoming one. Thankfully, a combination of too much alcohol and Xanax by the perpetrators, good police work in Ocean City and a lot of good fortune got in the way of a deadly murder spree.
Medical/MH Note: My opinion is not based on a medical nor mental health background. Just a lived experience former Digger trying to raise awareness on Quinism. Remember, PTSD wasn’t a thing until it was.
Final Note: Even before the murders BJ was acting out of character, certainly criminally and even psychotically, when the occasion demanded. Yet BJs actions on that Memorial Day weekend points to a much darker diagnosis. One that doesn’t exist anymore.
I actually believe that BJ might be a paranoid schizophrenic.
You might already know of a famous cartoon character that suffers from that affliction. The Joker. Erika was his muse. In fact, I think a combination of horniness and laziness saved Karen Wilson and her drunken friend a few days later when they found themselves in an identical situation to Josh and Geney in Room 1101. After luring the pair into the Condo and with Erika’s items missing again, BJ starts to ramp and even pulls out his gun again. This time however, the items are found and BJ and Erika are getting amorous on the couch. Also, cleaning up a room after murder is hard work and expensive.
Although some may scoff at such a suggestion the Department of Veteran Affairs (Australia) considers both Bi-Polar Disorder and Schizophrenia as accepted conditions of mefloquine toxicity. Not that much of a jump to paranoid schizophrenia, surely?
Final, Final Note: M. William Phelps was reached for comment prior to the blog.
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Australian Senate. Use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force. Submission 73. Dr Jane Quinn. Published 2018.
Forensic Files. (2009). Dirty Little Seacret. Season 13, Episode 47. https://www.forensicfiles.com/dirty-little-seacret/#
Marriot, A. (2022). If you wake at Midnight: The Lariam wonder drug scandal. Austin Macauley Publishers, London, UK.
Murderpedia. Erika Elaine Sifrit. Accessed 25.05.23. https://murderpedia.org/female.S/s/sifrit-erika.htm
Natural Born Killers. (1994). Warner Brothers, Burbank, CA, United States.
Ohwovoriole, T. Very Well Mind. What Is the Prodromal Phase in Schizophrenia? Updated 13.02.2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-prodromal-phase-in-schizophrenia-5203945
Phelps, M. William. (2009). Cruel Death. Kensington Publishing, New York City, USA.
Repatriation Medical Authority, Australian Government. SOPs matching factor Mefloquine. Last modified 2023. http://www.rma.gov.au/sops/search?Number=&Year=&Condition=&Factor=Mefloquine
Wikipedia. Erika and Benjamin Sifrit. Accessed 25.05.23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erika_and_Benjamin_Sifrit
Wikipedia. Quinism. Accessed 25.05.23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinism
Wikipedia. Serial Killer. Accessed 25.05.23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_killer
US Navy SEALs travel to far off locations, even malarial zones, to dive and blow shit up. Here is me with CDT One (the Australian version) blowing shit up in a far off location, although in this case, not a malarial zone. I didn’t recover this memory via a photo, I literally carry a knife wound from that trip. It gives me a giggle everytime I see it.
Bea Coldwell discovers that her husband is most likely suffering from periods of Lariam derangement after being posted to Sierra Leone and prescribed mefloquine in 2007.