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Miranda Barbour is a Sad Fantasist Not a Prolific Serial Killer, and She Has Played an All Too Eager Media

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Her story came out of the blue. A seemingly unnecessary, unprompted confession to a local newspaper reporter that she had committed anywhere between 22 and 100 murders.

In the general run of things such admissions are normally made to detectives, psychologists or prison pastors, and checked over before any such notion is taken to the press and the public.

But from the out self-confessed serial killer Miranda Barbour's story was front page news.

More than two months after her arrest Sunbury's unprepossessingly named newspaper The Daily Item obtained an interview with the 19-year-old after much shenanigans with local prison authorities.

By this time, while not known outside of East Coast America, Barbour was already big news in the small Pennsylvania town.

Nestled behind an imposing flood wall on the Susquehanna River near the point it empties into Lake Augusta, Sunbury has a population of less than 10,000 people, limited job opportunities and a burgeoning drugs problem.

For a small place it has its fair share of problems with residents more than twice as likely to be the victim of violent crime than the national average. But while having a disproportionate number of rapes and assaults the murder of Troy LaFerrara on 11 November last year was still out of the ordinary.

The 42-year-old married man was lured by an advertisement for sex on the Craigslist website and allegedly stabbed to death by Miranda Barbour as her husband of three-weeks, Elytte, strangled him with a cord from the backseat of their car.

The Daily Item seized on the tale, running some 36 stories in the paper and online between Barbour's arrest and her eventual 'confession' to reporter Francis Scarcella.

Because of the couple's supposed interest in Satanism the paper ran at least two stories reporting on and theorising about Satanic links to the murder.

Barbour having read the extensive coverage of her case in the Item wrote a letter to the paper requesting a meeting on 7 January. It was initially denied by the Northumberland County Prison authorities but after calls for staff to be stood down for breaching the prisoner's rights it went ahead on 14 February.

It may be fair to surmise that at this point Barbour had already made up her mind about 'revealing all' to the paper and had either held back from talking to the authorities or never intended to, despite another five weeks passing.

She told the Item she was a serial killer and had stopped counting after 22 murders, but added that she had killed less than 100 people.

Barbour also claimed to be able to pinpoint each of the murders and lead investigators to the bodies.

By going to the press first she ensured her outlandish claim would get prominent exposure even if it later fell apart under scrutiny.

Police had no choice but to take it seriously and investigate fully, especially as they already had one murder on their books she had been charged for.

Within hours The Daily Item's grisly scoop was making headlines around the world and Barbour was being billed as possibly the worst serial killer in America's rich history of psychopaths.

In the UK the Express asked 'Is this the world's worst serial killer?' (Harold Shipman.. Luis Garavito anyone?)

But despite the police having had no time to test the validity of her claims few media outlets cast doubt on the story.

Having played on fears of Satanism in the weeks following the 'thrill killing' of LaFerrara The Daily Item's prison interview revealed sensational claims of Barbour's induction into a Satanic cult at the age of 12 in North Alaska and her first murder committed the following year with the man who had recruited her.

Despite professing to be one of the devil's acolytes Barbour contradictorily told the paper she only killed 'bad people who do bad things' and so was justified.

For most law enforcement officers, however, the mere mention of Satanic cults is generally met with eye rolling. A popular unfounded fear in middle America the existence of such groups in any real sense is extremely rare. It is far more common that claims turn out to be the figment of the imagination of delusional, often mentally unstable individuals.

The killing of LaFerrara too did not sit easily with the tale of a young girl committing regular murders for several years without raising an eyebrow of suspicion or leaving a trail of bodies behind her, as she claimed to have done across Alaska, Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and California.

To get away with such a spree would require extreme care and cunning.

But the LaFerrara murder was anything but clever. The alleged killers, having placed a traceable ad on Craigslist, were in phone contact with the victim and left their 2001 Honda CRV dripping with blood. Not even the cleaning fluid and towels they were caught on CCTV buying shortly after the murder were enough to wipe away the evidence. And having killed LaFerrara they then dumped his body in an alleyway where it was quickly found.

This was the most telling indication that Miranda Barbour had made up her killing spree.

But the media attention did not abate and, instead, latching on to her claim to have only killed 'bad people' some media firms enthusiastically branded her 'The Dexter killer', after the fictional TV serial killer who murders only other baddies.

Nevermind insulting the dead and that her only known 'alleged' victim LaFerrara had done nothing worse than answer an online sex ad.

To this day Barbour has provided no credible evidence to detectives of any murder other than the one she has been charged with.

As scepticism grows around her story, the infamous murders of her home state serial killer Robert Hansen (the story of which was recently made into the movie The Frozen Ground with Nicholas Cage) might have inspired her to make up the story. Her incarceration also coincided with British serial killer Joanna Dennehy's boastful and unapologetic admissions of three brutal knife murders of men she felt slighted by.

While inquiries continue, the question remains could she have been involved in any previous killing?

Given her frenzied attack on LaFerrara, you would have to say it's possible.

But if she has, it cannot be on the industrial scale claimed and it's more likely the police have caught her at the start of a spree rather than the conclusion of one - her claims being nothing more than attention-seeking fantasy.

For the media, who too readily embraced a big story that defied all conventional logic, the question is will they be more scrupulous next time or have they, in the drive to sell more copies and generate more online page hits, forever sacrificed getting it right first time round in favour of enticing in readers?

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