Is Alleged "Craigslist Killer" Miranda Barbour a Serial Murderer?

April 28, 2014

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Phil sits down with the mother and sister of alleged “Craigslist Killer” Miranda Barbour, who claims she has killed more than 22 people across the country since age 13. Does her family believe she is a serial killer? And, what, if anything, in Miranda’s past could have predicted her troubled future?

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Miranda BarbourAshley, Miranda's sisterElizabeth, Miranda's motherAshley and MirandaFrancis Scarcella, The Daily Item reporter

A Serial Killer?

On November 11, 2013, 19-year-old Miranda Barbour and her husband, Elyette, 22, allegedly stabbed and strangled to death 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara, whom police say they lured through a Craigslist "companionship" ad. Miranda turned herself in to police on December 3, claiming she killed LaFerrara alone, in self-defense. She said they met up in a parking lot, after connecting on Craigslist, and claimed he began touching her inappropriately while driving in her car.

But days later, police arrested Elyette as well, alleging that the killing wasn't self-defense, but a young couple out for blood. According to investigators, Elyette gave a full confession, saying he hid in the backseat and waited for a signal, then strangled LaFerrara while Miranda stabbed him. The newlyweds, who are facing a variety of charges, became known as the "thrill kill" couple — but the story didn't end there. In February, Miranda dropped a bombshell in a jailhouse interview, telling local Sunbury, Pennsylvania, reporter Francis Scarcella, of The Daily Item, that she had killed more than 22 people across the country since age 13.

In a previously recorded interview, Miranda's mother, Elizabeth, says she was shocked when she learned her daughter had been arrested in LaFerrara's murder. "I thought was they were making a mistake," she recalls.

Miranda's sister, Ashley, says, "I believe that Elyette convinced my sister to do it, and because my sister loved this man so much, she would do anything to make him happy."

Elizabeth insists that she doesn't believe her daughter is a serial killer, even though she says Miranda told her that her confession is true — and not a ploy for attention. "Miranda told me she didn't want to be released from prison, because she was afraid she'll do this again," Elizabeth says. "It's just very hurtful, because her father and I didn't raise her to do that. We raised her to be a good person."

Ashley also says she doesn't think Miranda is capable of committing multiple murders. "If I could say anything to my sister right now, I would tell her that I love her, and I would tell her that her lies aren’t worth it," she says, tearfully. "Elyette isn't worth it. I just want her to tell the truth."

"Do you believe she killed this man? ... What do you say to yourself as a mother?"

Ashley reveals a source of pain: "When I was 6, my Uncle Rick molested my sister and me."

Elizabeth says she put her daughters in play therapy for a year to deal with the molestation, adding that they handled their emotions differently. "Miranda started acting out, throwing temper tantrums," she recalls. "She got angrier and angrier, and she had a hard time dealing with everything."

Francis recounts his two sit-downs with Miranda. "She said they won't find bodies, but what they will find are body parts."

Onstage, Dr. Phil asks Elizabeth, "Is Miranda mentally ill?"

"After reading her journal and talking with her while she's in prison, I think she is," Elizabeth replies.

"You're her mother," Dr. Phil says. "This never occurred to you until you read her journal and heard what she said in jail?"

Troubled Teen

Elizabeth says that when Miranda was 12, she lost her virginity to a man who was 27 and also started cutting herself and running away. She says she knew Miranda was troubled, but didn't realize just how serious it was until she read her journal a month ago. "The journal mentions that Miranda was in a gang or a cult when she was 12 to 15," Elizabeth says. "She talks about drugs, sex, rape, trading her body for drugs ... As she writes, she gets angrier and angrier. You can see it in her writing."

Ashley recalls, "One time, my sister showed up with swastikas on her neck, on her thighs and on the back of her thighs, too. She revealed to me that someone held her down and did it." She continues, "As her sister, I always saw [Miranda] heading down a bad road. She needed mental help. Something was off with her. I always told my parents that. My grandparents told my parents that. People would come over and tell my parents that."

Dr. Phil reviews some of Miranda's violent behavior, according to Elizabeth and Ashley. "Did she attack you with a knife at age 12?" he asks Ashley.

"Yes," she says.

Dr. Phil turns to Elizabeth and says, "When she was 13, were the police called and it took five officers to restrain her? When she was 14, did she throw you down the stairs? Did she kill your pets?"

"During this whole time, she was in therapy," Elizabeth replies. "She's seen several therapists. They kept telling me and my husband at the time to give her unconditional love, don’t judge her. It felt like we were being pulled in two different directions."

Poor Parenting?

In a previously recorded interview, Ashley says that she blames her mother for Miranda's problems. "She never paid attention to us growing up," she claims. "My mom was always in a different room watching TV, playing games on the computer, talking on the phone. She was doing everything but watching us. My mother would tell me that I needed to watch Miranda, and if I didn’t, I would get my ass whooped."

Ashley also claims that after her parents' divorce in 2011, Elizabeth turned to prescription pills and alcohol and would invite "random" men home that she met online. Ashley insists, "I think if my mom would have been a mother, if she would have loved my sister, this wouldn’t have happened."

"She says you ignored red flags Miranda was in a gang ... She says you were involved in other things." How does Elizabeth respond?

What does a letter Miranda wrote to Dr. Phil in 2012 reveal? And, Elizabeth reacts: "It's hurtful."

"I took pills for my medical disorder, and I was drinking," Elizabeth says. "I was very depressed." She denies that she brought men home around her daughters.

Dr. Phil asks, "What do you say to yourself about all of this? Did you miss warning signs? And, believe me, I’m not saying you’re responsible for your daughter’s choices. My question is: Could anything have been done? Was anything going on that would foretell this happening?"

"Now, yes," Elizabeth replies.

"What do you want from her?" Dr. Phil asks Ashley, indicating Elizabeth.

"All I want from her is to say, 'I made mistakes, and I'm sorry,'" Ashley says, through tears. "I want her to be a mother, and I want her to care, and I want her to get the help that she needs."

"I do care about you," Elizabeth says. "I love you very much."

"You two have a rough road ahead, and you have another daughter here who's at risk, in my opinion." How can the family begin to heal?