Delightful Conversation

"Witches' Sabbath" by Francisco Goya (1798) (cropped)

“Witches’ Sabbath” by Francisco Goya (1798) (cropped)

In early December, Elytte and Miranda Barbour were arrested on a charge of murder in the first degree, three weeks after getting married and moving from North Carolina to Pennsylvania:

[The Barbours]…lured a man to his death with an ad on…Craigslist…because they wanted to kill someone together…Elytte Barbour told officers…that he and his wife, Miranda…[lured] Troy LaFerrara…[with an escort] posting…Elytte [said]…Miranda…regularly…made anywhere from $50 to $850 by meeting with men for such activities as having dinner together or walking around a mall.  The ads she placed…all said upfront that sex was not part of the deal…“She is not a prostitute…she…meets with them and has delightful conversation”…

Generally, when a couple commits murder together, the man is the leader and the woman the follower.  But from the moment I read this report, I strongly suspected that this time it was the wife who was the psychopath and the husband her weak-willed assistant.  Why?  Because she actually expected him to believe that the ridiculous “time and companionship only” disclaimer was literally true, and he actually did.  And a man who can “tenderly be led by th’ nose as asses are” in such a fashion is also the sort who can be convinced that killing somebody for fun is a reasonable idea.  After this story broke I waited for over two months for the other shoe to drop as I knew it inevitably must, and on February 16th came the awaited thud:

[Miranda Barbour claims]…she killed many more victims…the 19-year-old…[said] she participated in at least 22 killings in the past six years in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California.  “When I hit 22, I stopped counting…I can pinpoint on a map where you can find them”…Barbour [said] she had her first experience with killing when she [was] just 13, shortly after she…joined a satanic [sic] cult in Alaska…she [says that she] felt no remorse for her victims and…killed only “bad people”…

While this bizarre fantasy was believed by the reporter to whom she first spoke of it, the credulous cop who called it “the real deal”, and a friend she first met in one of the psychiatric hospitals where she has spent much of her young life, just about everyone else realized that the idea of a 13-year-old female serial killer who murdered dozens without even being suspected is patently absurd:

Miranda’s father, Sonny Dean…is not the only one who doubts his daughter’s story…If she really killed 22 to 99 people in the span of six years in four different states…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”…at…16, Miranda [had told a friend] she was a member of a “gang” that was “comprised mostly of men”…[and] “mentioned having been raped by multiple men at once”…[after returning from her first episode of running] away from home when she was 12…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 [sic] stuff” and was now her “ruler”…

Miranda claimed to have been “branded” with a swastika and Forrest’s name, but though her mother found large cuts on her they were not words or other recognizable symbols.  Several years later, after her parents divorced, Miranda claimed…

…that she [had become] pregnant…[and] the cult members…”tied her to a bed, gave her drugs and [gave her] an ‘in-house abortion.'”  Miranda’s mother…[immediately] took her daughter “to a doctor, who said there were no signs of an ended pregnancy”…

When she later really did become pregnant, she claimed that Forrest was the father, but that he had since been murdered; she also claimed to be a “high-ranking official in the satanic [sic] world” at the age of 17, when a judge decided it was better to send her to live with her uncle in North Carolina.  There she met Elytte, won him from his pregnant girlfriend, and talked him into eloping to Pennsylvania with her, where they committed the murder to “bring them closer together”.  And while it’s obvious that Miranda is capable of murder, it also seems very likely this was her first one.  She was never unsupervised in most of the places she claims to have killed, and…

…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 [and] are typically older…

According to Miranda’s mother, a person claiming to be Forrest called about Miranda’s baby after she moved to North Carolina (and after Forrest had supposedly been murdered).  But though her mother seems to believe in the existence of this “Satanic cult”, I do not; while it’s entirely possible Miranda belonged to a group of maladjusted teenagers playing at being a “cult”, her ideas about the behavior of such groups bear far more resemblance to pop-culture depictions than to anything real.  The notion of uncatchable serial killers preying on “bad people” seems borrowed from the television series Dexter, the “branding” motif should be familiar to anyone who’s been following the “sex trafficking” hysteria, and imaginary “forced abortions” appear over and over again in the “recovered memory” literature and latter-day descendants of the “Satanic Panic”.  As I’ve explained before, those suffering from such delusions and confabulations remember them just as clearly as you remember what you did yesterday, or even more clearly if your day wasn’t very interesting.  And over time, the false memories invariably become more detailed, more extreme and more lurid, and conform ever more closely to whatever narrative the deluded person has embraced (such as the belief-system of a political or religious group).  Miranda Barbour’s story already bears some resemblance to those of “sex trafficking survivors” (branding, gang rape, enslavement, exploitation of adolescent girls by older men, etc), though for now she is not only claiming her prostitution was voluntary, but also that it wasn’t even prostitution.  However, this affair is not yet over and Barbour’s tale is not done changing; I won’t be at all surprised if she soon “remembers” being the victim of “sex trafficking”, and her “Satanic ruler” turns into a “pimp”.

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