The story of the so-called “Craigslist Killer” is a strange one. Truth and fiction seem to be intertwined and inseparable, even to those closest to the case. What I’m presenting in this episode will reflect that inescapable blend of reality and fantasy. This is the story of Miranda Barbour.
Miranda Kamille Dean was born to Sonny and Elizabeth Dean in North Pole- a small city in the Fairbanks North Star borough of Alaska. She was the baby of the family. Her sister, Ashley was just three years older. As it should be for a child, there was nothing remarkable about her first few years of life. Then her Uncle, Richard Fernandez, moved into the neighborhood.
Fernandez lived just five houses away from the Deans with his wife, Melissa. Uncle Rick, as the children called him, loved spending time with his nieces. In fact, he even encouraged sleepovers on the weekends. At home, Miranda complained that her bottom was sore and that her peepee hurt. Despite a familial history of sexual abuse, Elizabeth either didn’t see the signs for what they were, or was willfully ignorant to what was happening. The visits to Uncle Rick’s house continued, and along with them, the same complaints of pain by Miranda.
It had been nearly a year. Seven year old Ashley broke down and told Elizabeth about the secret Uncle Rick made her promise to keep. Elizabeth couldn’t ignore it now. Richard Fernandez was arrested, but the damage he had already done was immeasurable.
Richard Fernandez was put on trial. Throughout the course of the proceedings, the heartbreaking details had come out. During their sleepovers, Ashley and Miranda were anally and vaginally raped and had been forced to perform oral sex on their uncle. The evidence presented made for one of the most physically extreme abuse cases the judge had ever seen.
While searching the Fernandez house, investigators discovered a book…a manual of sexual abuse, called “Fun With My Sister’s Kids”. According to the prosecutor’s description, the book encouraged uncles, fathers and grandfathers to engage in unclassified felony sex acts with their young nieces, daughters and granddaughters. It laid out exactly the scenarios Fernandez forced his innocent nieces to endure.
Fernandez was initially sentenced to 19 years in jail, but gave him a five year suspension off his sentence. The idea was to give the court leverage over Fernandez that would discourage him from committing further sexual abuse after his release. The intentions were good.
Miranda and her family made the move from North Pole to Wasilla, Alaska.
Miranda was 10 years old when she first had the dream. She held Henry in her hands. She loved Henry, but for some reason…a reason that even she didn’t understand…Miranda killed Henry. She kept having this same dream about Henry- her small yellow pet bird. The dreams turned into night terrors. More and more realistic each time. One morning, she woke up to find the dream had become a reality. She had killed her beloved pet bird. She realized then that something was broken inside of her. She later said “I had this dark rage that was pushing to be released out into the world.”
Miranda was just 12 years old when she became addicted to heroin. She ran away from home shortly after, and when she returned, she told her mother that she had been “out prostituting” and had met a man named Forrest who was “into satanic stuff and is now my ruler”. Forrest was 25 years old.
Elizabeth said “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. She said he branded her by carving a swastika on the back of her neck and his name on her thigh.”
Miranda claims she joined a Satanic cult the same year.. She later said “I kind of slid into it. But they weren’t just into Satan. They were into hating minorities too.” She saw the group and their beliefs as a positive influence in her life. It provided an outlet for her dark thoughts and for the inner rage she harbored. She said “I worship a dark entity, but just because it is dark, doesn’t mean that it is bad.” According to Miranda, the cult was led by Forrest.
Again, according to Miranda, Forest sought revenge on a man that owed him money. Forest had thirteen year-old Miranda lure the unnamed man into a dark alley with the promise of sex. After the two reached their destination, Forest emerged from the shadows and shot the man in the chest. The man was still clinging to life when Forest put the gun in Miranda’s hand. He put her finger on the trigger, with his hand over hers. He, and by extension, Miranda…squeezed the trigger. Miranda considered this her first murder.
Miranda became pregnant that same year. She claims that the cult forbade her to have the baby. The following is her account of what happened next. The cult members tied Miranda to a bed and gave her unspecified drugs to disorient her. She was then given a painful and poorly executed abortion by one of the cult members. The details of her story are disputed by many, including her own mother. Elizabeth said she took Miranda to a doctor, who said there were no signs of an ended pregnancy.
After committing ongoing and untold sexual abuse that would forever affect the lives of Ashley and Miranda Dean, Richard Fernandez was let out of prison after serving just nine years and four months.
Meanwhile, fourteen year-old Miranda allegedly continued her murder spree. Details are murky, but she later claimed she committed several murders in California and Texas between 2007 and 2010.
Miranda attended middle school in Wasilla with then-Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin’s daughter, Willow. Miranda later said “Willow was standing at my locker. I always hated her. She wouldn’t move, so I punched her in the face and got suspended. I thought about killing her, but it just didn’t seem like a good idea.” Miranda saw herself as a vigilante, killing only those who deserved it. She decided that being stuck up wasn’t a crime punishable by death. She seemed to revel in the power of holding others’ lives in her hands, however. She said “I was like, you have no idea who I am or what I’m capable of.” Of her capability to murder others, Miranda said “There is something inside me. It goes off like a switch. I call it Super Miranda. It’s dark. It’s violent. It’s like another person.”
It was around this time that Miranda claims to have helped in the torture and murder of a woman in Alaska. Miranda’s victims were usually men, but sexual predation isn’t exclusive to a specific gender. This particular woman was said to have been prostituting her own children. Miranda said “We drugged her and took her out into the forest. We tortured her. We cut her. We burned her a little bit. She denied it all at first. You know, people will say anything when you torture them. But…she finally admitted it and promised she wouldn’t do it again. I knew she was lying. These people always lie. We cut her and threw her in a hold in the ice.”
Sometime between 2009 and 2010, she moved from Alaska. But before leaving, Miranda said she was subjected to a brutal gang rape as the exit fee for leaving the cult. Speaking of the incident, she said “There were only two ways out- by death, or gang rape. I was pretty beat up”.
Miranda moved to California, then to Texas. She later admitted to committing a string of murders in both states. She even said she was willing to draw police a map of where the bodies are. Despite this, investigators didn’t believe her and haven’t seriously looked into any of her claims at the time of this recording.
Richard Fernandez had been in and out of jail after his release for various parole violations. This time, parole officers found hundreds of images of child pornography on his computer. The computer was seized and turned over to Alaska State Troopers. Fernandez was charged and sentenced to a 40 year prison term.
Meanwhile, 18 year-old Miranda was pregnant again…or for the first time, depending on who you believe. She said the father was Forrest, and that he had been murdered after the baby’s birth. Her mother Elizabeth disputed the claim that Forrest had died, but was in fact in contact with the family in an attempt to determine the paternity of the child.
Miranda moved to Coats, North Carolina, where she lived with her uncle, Arlin Fletcher. There, she worked as a cashier at a grocery store and met Aimee Vaneyll. The two bonded over the fact that they were both pregnant. Miranda was introduced to the father of Aimee’s baby -her boyfriend, 21 year-old Ellyte Barbour. The three became fast friends.
Both women gave birth later that year, but Aimee and Elytte’s relationship became strained.
Aimee and Elytte broke up. Miranda and Elytte became a couple a few months later.
October 22 2013
Miranda and Elytte eloped. Three days later, Elytte quit his dishwashing job and Miranda quit her job at the grocery store. They made the move to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania where they lived with friends. Miranda became a “hired companion” as a source of income. She put ads on Craigslist and supposedly earned anywhere from $50 to $850 per… encounter. Despite the seemingly obvious nature of these sessions, Elytte insisted that his wife wasn’t a sex worker, but only ever met with the men for “delightful conversation”.
After Miranda shared with Elytte the feeling of power she experienced when killing people, Elytte wanted to experience it too. They decided that taking a human life together would help them grow closer as a couple. There were a few false starts to this plan. Usually one of them lost their nerve. Other times, external circumstances prevented them from accomplishing their goal.
An ad was placed on Craigslist by Miranda. The ad promised female companionship for “men who hated their wives” in exchange for $100. The bait had been set. Within days, 42 year-old Troy LaFerrara responded to the ad. Troy was an electrical engineer from Port Trevorton Pennsylvania and had been married just two years earlier. Troy and Miranda began exchanging e-mails and text messages.
The two finally met for the first time in the parking lot of the Susquehanna Valley Mall. Troy pulled his truck into the space next to a car that Miranda was driving. He got out of his truck and into the car, unaware that these would be the last moments of his life.
Miranda drove away, and after a brief conversation, pulled over onto a secluded side street. Troy began to touch her when Miranda lied, and told him she was only sixteen years old. Troy supposedly said he didn’t care, and continued his advances.
Miranda asked “did you see the stars tonight?” Troy must have thought it an odd question. Even moreso when she repeated it. Did you see the stars tonight? For a third time, she asked the question, but this time she said it louder and with the cadence of a command. Did you see the stars tonight! After a beat, Miranda reached into the side pocket of her driver’s side door and pulled out a knife. She began stabbing Troy in the chest. He fought her, but suddenly felt himself being strangled from behind. It was Elytte.
He had been in the back seat the entire time, hidden beneath a blanket, waiting for the code phrase-did you see the stars tonight–to attack. But when he couldn’t work up the nerve to go through with it, Miranda took matters into her own hands. Elytte then joined her, realizing they had reached the point of no return. He used a black electrical cable to strangle Troy. The older man fought for his life, but Miranda plunged the knife into him again. And again… Troy suffered 20 stab wounds in total. Even after all this, he was still alive, albeit barely, when the newlyweds dumped him into an alley and fled the area.
The morning of November 12
Police were called to the scene by a homeowner that spotted Troy’s body from her kitchen window. They found him in a pool of blood. Next to his body was a cell phone, and a the black cable that had been used to strangle him. Police were trying to unlock the phone when it lit up with an incoming call. It was Troy’s wife, Colleen. She had been frantically trying to get a hold of him since 3AM. She knew he was apt to stay out late with his friends, but he was never home later than 1 or 2 in the morning. Police broke the news to Colleen, and with her help, unlocked Troy’s phone.
They discovered several e-mail addresses registered to Laferrera. He had used them to communicate with a number of other women he met online. Police began researching the e-mail addresses and phone numbers in the e-mails. When they called the Barbour’s number, they got the voicemail, which had an outgoing message recorded by Miranda. Police reversed the number and got the Barbour’s address.
The house was owned by the mother of Miranda’s roommate, who had let Miranda and her two year-old daughter stay in a room rent free. The owner and Miranda were taken to the police station for questioning, but both women had alibis. Elytte’s birthday was the same day Troy was murdered. Miranda sad she was out celebrating with her husband while Valerie babysat her daughter.
Over the next few weeks, Miranda’s story fell apart. She initially denied even knowing who Troy Laferrara was. But when Police told her that they knew her phone number had been used to text Troy’s phone and that they were going to look at her phone, her demeanor changed. She became defensive and refused to hand her phone over. Miranda admitted she did exchange text messages with Troy but never met him. According to Miranda, she had arranged to meet Troy to make some quick cash, but became nervous and called it off at the last moment.
In the meantime, police found Troy’s truck at the mall parking lot. They viewed the mall’s surveillance footage that showed the meetup with Miranda. But the video was grainy. The make of the other vehicle couldn’t be determined, let alone the licence plate number or driver’s face.
They then found additional security footage from the nearby Walmart that also captured the same scene. The images were clear enough for police to identify the vehicle and trace it back to Ellyte Barbour. Moreover, security cameras from inside the Walmart captured Ellyte buying cleaning agents and the black electrical cable found next to Troy’s body.
Despite all of this, everything the police had was considered circumstantial evidence. They needed concrete proof.
Investigators convinced a judge that the vehicle was used in the commission of a murder and were granted a warrant to search the car. They found that the interior had indeed been cleaned thoroughly, but when they took the seats out, discovered blood under the passenger seat. It was DNA tested against a sample from Troy LaFerrara. It was a match.
December 3, 2013
Miranda saw the inevitability of her arrest, so went to police with another story. She told them she did kill Troy, but in self defense. In this version of the story, Troy had told her to pull over and grabbed her aggressively before putting his hand between her legs. She tried stopping him and even told him she had just turned sixteen years old, but the appeal to his morality failed, and he continued his sexual assault. It was only then that Miranda grabbed the knife and stabbed him. She said when she blacked out and when she came to, he was dead. She panicked and dumped his body in an alley before returning home.
She was promptly arrested.
Police had suspicions about her confession. She had never mentioned the strangulation, nor her husband’s presence. They surmised that the petite Miranda Barbour could not have killed the 6’2”, 280 pound Troy LaFerrara by herself.
Police brought Elytte in for questioning. He not only admitted to his role in the murder, but offered that it was premeditated. He said that Miranda had told him how powerful she felt when she took another human life. He wanted to feel that power, and the two believed the mutually shared experience would serve to bond them as a couple.
After Elytte’s arrest, police searched his home, where they found a knife in attic believed to be the murder weapon, as well as a Satanic bible in his nightstand.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Miranda. Her father, Sonny said “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.”
Both Miranda and Elytte Barbour pled guilty to second degree murder in order to avoid the death penalty.
September 11, 2014
Both were sentenced to life in prison.
Troy’s widow, Colleen LaFerrara said “They showed him no mercy. They left him to die in an alley. He was a sweet and gentle man who would never have hurt anyone. No matter what anyone says or no matter what bad decisions Troy may have made, he loved me. He loved me and no one can take that away. And no one will.”
Troy’s sister, Holly LaFerrara said “Even if they each serve 50 years, they still will not feel any guilt or sympathy. They completely lack empathy. They have no conscience, no remorse, and no moral compass. They lack the most basic element of humanity. These are two fundamentally flawed people who are rotten to the core.”
Miranda’s daughter was immediately taken by social service workers in Pennsylvania. At last reporting, she was living with Miranda’s father, Sonny. The whereabouts of the child’s father are unknown.
In a jailhouse interview, Miranda claimed that she is still haunted by her experiences with her uncle Rick. The fact that he is a predator that has been freed multiple times after molesting her and Ashley is the thing that torments her the most. She said “It’s something I’ve struggled with all of my life. He will never change. None of them ever do. The legal system is supposed to protect people. It doesn’t. It didn’t protect me.”
Asked about the murder of Troy LaFerrara and the 22 other people she claimed to have killed, she said “I felt no regret. None. I didn’t hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it. People think I’m a monster, but I’ve done a lot of good. The justice system doesn’t work, so I did what I did.” She claims that her actions have spared hundreds of young girls from abuse.
Even her own family doesn’t believe her. Her father said “Miranda lives in a fantasy world made up in her own mind. She craves attention, is selfish, dishonest and manipulative.”
Her sister, Ashley and mother, Elizabeth appeared on the Dr. Phil show, where both said they didn’t believe Miranda killed anyone other than Troy LaFerrara. Ashley did have a theory as to why Miranda behaves the way she does. She said “I just want to make it clear that it’s not my sister’s fault. She’s not this monster on her own. It’s come from someone else.”
But she didn’t blame their abusive uncle or even the supposed satanic cult leader that fathered Miranda’s baby. Instead, she said “My mom made Miranda the way she is. My mom has been a bad mom.”
Miranda said “It hurts to know that all these people and my family don’t believe me, but in another part of me, it makes me laugh that people think I’m lying, because this is the most I’ve ever been honest in my whole life.”
Richard Fernandez, the uncle that forever scarred his nieces, is still serving his 40 year prison term. However, after a 20 year suspension, he is due to be released in 2035.
As for the Satanic cult in Alaska? North Pole Lieutenant Chad Rathbun admitted that rumors of their existence persisted in the area, but claimed he never saw any evidence to support it. He said: ‘I started here in 1994 and have worked all over the state of Alaska. There are always small rumors, but have we come across a practicing satanic cult? No.”
Some believe Miranda is lying wholecloth about killing anyone but Troy LaFerrara, while others believe she might be the prolific serial killer she claims to be. Still others think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps time will tell. Perhaps we’ll never know.