Is Miranda Barbour the most dangerous woman in US history – or just a good liar?

The 19-year-old has claimed more than two dozen murders, beginning when she was just 13

The attention-seeking fantasy of a self-confessed teenage murderer – or the unmasking of one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history?

That is the question that the Pennsylvania police and the FBI are now seeking to answer, as they attempt to establish the truth about the past of 19-year-old Miranda Barbour.

Prosecutors in Sunbury, Pennsylvania are currently seeking the death penalty against Ms Barbour and her husband Elytte for the murder last November of Troy LaFerrara, a 42-year-old man who answered her advert on the Craigslist website, offering sex for money.

At the time, the Barbours had been married barely three weeks, and had only just moved to Pennsylvania from North Carolina.

In what police describe as an apparent thrill killing, the couple told investigators that she stabbed their victim to death in the front seat of her SUV while her husband, hiding in the back, held a cord around his neck. Mr LaFerrara “said the wrong things, then things got out of control,” was Ms Barbour’ reported version of events.

That one killing alone would be cold-blooded and remarkable enough. But in the case of Ms Barbour, it might merely be just the tip of an iceberg. If the story that Ms Barbour told Sunbury’s local paper The Daily Item in a weekend interview is true, she had already killed two dozen or more people in several states, starting when she was just 13, after she joined a Satanic cult in a small Alaska town.

She gained her first taste of murder, she claimed, when the cult’s leader let her accompany him on a hit against someone who owed him money.

Elyette Barbour is taken into the courthouse in Sunbury, Pennsylvania Elyette Barbour is taken into the courthouse in Sunbury, Pennsylvania (AP) After shooting the man, the cult leader gave her the gun to finish the victim off. “I couldn’t do it, so he came behind me… put his hands on top of mine and we pulled the trigger.”

After that, murder seems to have held few qualms for her. “From there on, I just continued to kill,” she told The Daily Item. The bulk of the victims by her account were in Alaska, but others were in Texas, California and North Carolina.

They were “bad people, who didn’t deserve to be here any more,” she said. “When I hit 22 I stopped counting any more.”

She claimed to remember exactly where each victim was: “I can pinpoint on a map where you can find them.”

Ms Barbour further told the paper she wasn’t worried about spending decades in jail, since if she were to be released she would simply start killing again. “I feel it is time to get all of this out. I don’t care if people believe me. I just want to get it out,” she declared.

As Ms Barbour’s claims became known, the FBI, which traditionally handles multi-state crimes, became involved.

Few details of the earlier alleged killings have thus far emerged, but investigators say they are taking them seriously: “This could be the real deal,” one of them told CNN.

Ms Barbour is petite with long brown hair, and hardly looks even her 19 years. The reporter who conducted  the phone interview from  jail described her as “very meek, mild, soft-spoken and matter-of fact”.

What happens next is uncertain. Lawyers for both of the Barbours have sought psychiatric evaluations of their clients, while Pennsylvania police and the FBI are in contact with police in states where the earlier killings may have taken place. Ms Barbour’s lawyer has said that he had no prior inkling of the contents of her sensational interview with The Daily Item.

As a rule, women serial killers are rarer than their male counterparts, and usually older. In the US the deadliest ever is generally believed to have been Belle Gunness, a Norwegian-American woman who may have despatched between 25 and 40 people between 1884 and 1908. If Miranda Barbour is telling the truth, she would run Gunness very close.

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
i100Most young people can't
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Service and Support (Financial Services, ITIL, ORC, TT)

£75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of Service and Support (Financial Ser...

Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, JAXB, ...

Service Delivery Manager - ITIL / ServiceNow / Derivatives

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading Financial Services orga...

Senior Quantitative Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home