In the wake of 19-year-old "Craigslist killer" Miranda Barbour's shocking confession—that she murdered at least 22 people as a member of a satanic cult—authorities and her family are questioning the veracity of her claims. But a friend of Barbour's believes her, telling Jezebel, "She has maintained [the same] solid story for three years now."
"Alex" (who requested to remain anonymous) met Miranda three years ago in the adolescent ward of a behavioral health facility, where the teens were each seeking treatment for their issues.
"I would imagine that [Miranda] was admitted for self-harm, depression, and suicidal tendencies, as she suffered from all of those," said Alex.
Miranda's father, Sonny Dean, confirmed in an interview this week that his daughter had spent most of her life in and out of treatment facilities. "Growing up, she struggled with drugs and had behavioral issues," he said, adding that she's a longtime heroin addict.
He also said that his daughter—who is currently in jail on another crime and awaiting trial, along with her husband, Elytte Barbour, for the November 2013 slaying of 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara—is lying about being a serial killer.
Sonny is not the only one who doubts his daughter's story. While the idea of a satanist prostitute teen mom serial killer is certainly headline-grabbing, its plausibility is also questionable. If she really killed 22 to 99 people in the span of six years in four different states (Alaska, California, North Carolina and Texas), that means she was getting away with murder every few weeks to every few months since the age of 13. It would make her America's most prolific serial killer.
"Miranda lives in a fantasy world made up in her own mind," Sonny said. "She craves attention, is selfish, dishonest and manipulative."
But Alex can confirm at least some of what Miranda told a reporter at Sunbury, Pennsylvania's Daily Item. "She never referred to it as a 'satanic cult,'" Alex said. But while in treatment at the age of 16, Miranda said she was a member of a "gang" that was "comprised mostly of men."
"She mentioned having been raped by multiple men at once within the gang," Alex said, adding, "While I don't know whether her [murder] head count is the truth, I believe in what she [is] saying about her past. [It's] in line with what I learned from Miranda three years ago, before she left Alaska."
"She's good at manipulating people."
Miranda Kamille Dean Barbour was born in December 1994 in Alaska, and was raised in the city of North Pole—where she lived with her mom, dad and older sister—before moving to Anchorage. Her problems can perhaps be traced back to the age of 4, when she was molested by an uncle (the husband of her mother's sister) who was later convicted of sexual abuse of a minor and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Miranda became hooked on heroin at a very young age and first ran away from home when she was 12. Upon returning to her family, she told her mother, Elizabeth Dean, that she'd been "out prostituting" and had met a 25-year-old man named Forrest, who was "into satanic stuff" and was now her "ruler."
"I asked her what she was talking about, and she told me that this man owns her and she has to do whatever he says," Elizabeth said. "She said he branded her by carving a swastika on the back of her neck and his name on her thigh."
"While I don't recall what exactly the carvings were, I can confirm that she showed me very large cuts on her thighs [and] other parts of her body as well," said Alex. "They were not all straight lines. She told me they were related to the 'gang' she was a part of."
Miranda's father admits that the Deans ran a strict household. "Once all this stuff with drugs started happening, we locked our house down," he said.
Miranda—who attended high school with Willow Palin—was a repeated runaway by the time she was 14, and had spent time in several treatment facilities for her addiction.
"But she was able to talk the doctors into letting her out of treatment," her father said. "She is good at manipulating people. She is the most manipulative person I have ever known."
"She's definitely intelligent," Alex said. "She observes people. When I was in the treatment facility, she would intuitively understand aspects of my personality that a lot of others wouldn't notice."
In the midst of their daughter's turmoil, the Deans separated. Sonny eventually moved to Florida, while Elizabeth stayed behind in Alaska with their daughters. (He has since remarried.)
It was around this time, according to Miranda, that she became pregnant while in the satanic cult, but the cult members didn't want her to have the baby. She said they "tied her to a bed, gave her drugs and she had an 'in-house abortion.'"
Miranda's mother said that when she found out about the abortion she took her daughter "to a doctor, who said there were no signs of an ended pregnancy."
Alex never knew of Miranda being involved with any man named Forrest, but after leaving the treatment facility Miranda got back together with an ex-boyfriend, whose name she did not divulge. It was at this point, in 2010, that Miranda told Alex that her family had "given up on her" and that there "wasn't anything that helps her." She said that she was "pretending to be happy."
Miranda became pregnant again in 2011. In an interview with the Daily Item, Miranda said that Forrest—the "No. 2 leader" in their cult—was the baby's father, but that he was murdered.
"He's not dead," said Miranda's mother, who revealed that Forrest had recently contacted her to find out whether the baby was his. No father is listed on the child's birth certificate.
In March 2012, an Alaska court ordered Miranda to be placed into the custody of her uncle Arlin Fletcher (her mother's brother) in North Carolina. She left Alaska, she said, as a "high-ranking official in the satanic world," but tried to turn her life around. She gave birth to a baby girl, enrolled in college courses, got a job at a grocery store and fell in love with a new guy.
Less than two years later she had gotten married, returned to satanism and was in jail for stabbing a man to death.
"I just continued to kill."
According to Miranda, shortly after joining the cult she was involved in her first murder at the age of 13. She said she had gone with her cult leader, whom she declined to identify, to meet a man who owed him money.
It was in an alley and [the cult leader] shot him. Then he said to me that it was my turn to shoot him. I hate guns. I don't use guns. I couldn't do it, so he came behind me and he took his hands and put them on top of mine and we pulled the trigger. And then from there I just continued to kill.
Miranda's father thinks that the shooting in Alaska she described is "possible" since it would have occurred during one of the extended periods during which she had run away from home. But he says that the murders she claims to have committed in other states are an invention. "I can promise you that she has only been to California once and Texas a few times and both times she wasn't out of my sight."
Miranda insisted she can "pinpoint on a map where you can find" the bodies. Most of the murders, she said, occurred in Alaska — Palmer, Anchorage, Nome and Wasilla. She said she would lure people "who did bad things and didn't deserve to be here anymore."
However, while local authorities and the FBI are taking her confession seriously enough to investigate her claims, Alaska State Troopers issued a statement that there is "no evidence" that Miranda committed any murders in the state. Members of Seeking Alaska's Missing, a statewide support group, are also skeptical. Authorities where Miranda lived in North Carolina said that their only unsolved homicide cases date back to Miranda's infancy, and thus would've been impossible for her to have committed them. Experts have said she doesn't fit the profile of a serial killer, who are rarely women, are typically older, and don't use knives.
What no one is disputing is that Miranda, together with her husband, Elytte, murdered a man she met via an ad she placed on Craigslist.
"Did you see the stars tonight?"
Miranda met 22-year-old Elytte "Elf" Barbour through his pregnant girlfriend Aimee Vaneyll. Miranda, who had just moved to Coats, NC, was also pregnant, and the three became fast friends.
Aimee has described Miranda as "obsessed with sex and deeply disdainful of obesity," saying she hated overweight people "with a fiery passion."
"I know Miranda loved sex and sexual things," she said. "We were all together one time and she was touching hot wax and began to moan like she was having an orgasm."
Like Miranda, Elytte was into satanism. "Satanism isn't about being scary," Aimee said. "It's about believing in yourself and not oppress the instincts you were born with."
Miranda's mom said that Forrest was still a presence in Miranda's life. "She told me [Elytte] liked [satanism], but she said, 'Mom, I can't put him on the panel because Forrest won't let me.'" (Elizabeth Dean said she did not know what her daughter meant by "the panel.")
By March 2013, Aimee and Elytte had broken up. "There were rumors he was cheating on me with [Miranda]," she said. "But as far as I know, those two didn't get together until June of 2013."
By October 22, Miranda and Elytte had eloped. Three days later they abruptly quit their jobs—he worked as a dishwasher at a restaurant, she as a checkout girl at a grocery store—and moved in with friends in central Pennsylvania. (However, in court documents Miranda's uncle Arlin alleged that she was fired after getting caught stealing from her employer.)
According to Elytte, the couple made ends meet through Miranda hiring herself out as a "companion" to men she met on Craigslist, earning $50 to $850 per encounter. He insisted she was not a prostitute and that sex was never part of the deal. "[S]he meets with them and has delightful conversation."
Both Elytte and Miranda told police that they had been actively looking for a man to kill as a team, thinking it would bring them closer together. They had made a few attempts to kill men before, they said, but it hadn't worked out until they met 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara.
On November 1, Miranda posted an ad on Craigslist offering companionship for men who "hated their wives." Troy answered the ad and she met up with him in the parking lot of a local mall on November 11, which also happened to be Elytte's 22nd birthday.
Elytte hid beneath a blanket in the backseat of the couple's red Honda CR-V. They had worked out a signal that Miranda would say—"Did you see the stars tonight?"—that would indicate if or when Elytte should pounce.
According to Miranda, when Troy got in the car she told him she had just turned 16. "When he said he didn't care, I knew."
She gave the signal—twice—but Elytte didn't act until she finally hit him on the leg. He began strangling Troy with a cord, but things "got out of control." Miranda took out a knife and stabbed him 20 times.
Once he was dead, the newlyweds swiped his wallet, indiscriminately dumped his body in an alley, cleaned out their car with supplies they'd purchased at Wal-mart, and then went to a strip club to celebrate Elytte's birthday.
"God has brought me peace."
The Barbours resumed their lives as though nothing had happened. Miranda posted cheery status updates on Facebook. One, on November 19, featured a picture of her new wedding ring, which was purchased from Zales. Another, on November 26, read:
Oh wow!!!! It's finally here!!! SNOW!!!! Happy Holidays to me Happy Holidays to me!!! YAY!!
A few days later she joked about her first attempt at cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her roommates.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! So many first time things this year!! Hopefully everything works out if not guess it's Chinese night! Haha
Meanwhile, Sunbury police had followed a trail of sloppy evidence—including text messages on Troy's phone—that led them directly to Miranda. She was arrested on December 3. Elytte was picked up a few days later.
Her baby was immediately taken by social-service workers in Pennsylvania, but is now residing with Miranda's father. However, he is currently engaged in a custody battle for the little girl with Miranda's uncle Arlin and his wife. Authorities are investigating the whereabouts of the child's father.
As for Miranda, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in her case—a decision that Miranda's father, Sonny, supports.
"I believe God has brought me peace with the fact that capital punishment, if chosen by the jury, is an appropriate end in this situation," he said.
"I think she has been through a lot of extremely painful things," said Alex. "And while I would never say that justifies taking lives, it's important to understand what might be motivating her."
Image by Sam Woolley.