Adventure honeymoons are growing in popularity among newlyweds these days. They want a memorable thrill to begin their lives together. Some want to climb exotic mountains. Some want to go hang gliding. Some want to swim with dolphins.
Elytte and Miranda Barbour, married October 22 and recently moved from North Carolina to Sunbury, Pennsylvania, wanted to kill someone.
And they did. As a wedding gift to each other.
They had no particular grudge. They had no one specific in mind. They just wanted to thrill of taking a life. Miranda, 18, was skilled in making money by offering her companionship to “unhappy men” through Internet platforms, for which she charged anywhere between $50 and $850. She and Elytte (pronounced “Elliot”) stressed that this was simply companionship and conversation; she was not a prostitute.
Troy LaFerrara, 42, responded to an ad Miranda placed on Craigslist. On November 11, they met at a mall in the town of Susquehanna, where Miranda picked him up in her red Honda CR-V. Unbeknownst to La Ferrara, Elytte was hiding in the back seat. Following a prearranged signal from Miranda, Elytte looped a cable cord around LaFerrara’s neck and Miranda grabbed a knife hidden between the front seats and stabbed him around 20 times.
He was still alive and gasping for air when they dumped him in the backyard of a home in Sunbury. The owner of the house discovered the body the next morning.
In the meantime, the Barbours had gone out to a strip club to celebrate Elytte’s 22nd birthday.
Since the Barbours haven’t yet been tried, we have to add “alleged” to everything we say. But after police confronted them with the evidence, they both confessed. Notwithstanding what we have written about false confessions, there is no reason to believe theirs fit that description.
Now, students of the history of criminal justice will be reminded immediately of the 1924 thrill killing in Chicago of 14-year-old Bobby Franks by the notorious rich kid lovers Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb. The famed attorney Clarence Darrow pled them guilty but argued for prison over execution. Though he said he found Darrow’s arguments interesting, the judge ultimately handed down life sentences due to their ages. Loeb got his just deserts twelve years later in a prison shower. Leopold lived long enough to regret his actions and ultimately was paroled. Despite the good work Leopold did near the end of his life, in my view they both should have been executed.
It is distressing but not surprising to realize that the same evil motivations still live in certain hearts more than three quarters of a century later. And we know that sexually motivated killings happen regularly. But the perpetrators are almost always lone males who are getting off on the assault and extended suffering of the victim, whose satisfaction derives – in John Douglas’s noted phrase – from the “manipulation, domination and control.”
And so there is something particularly disgusting in considering a young married couple – not a dominant male pervert and a compliant, victimized female partner – who decide that the best and most thrilling gift they can give to each other is to kill a stranger, just for the hell of it. They’re not interested in rape, they’re not interested in mutilation, just the thrill of the hunt and the power to end another’s person’s life.
As we have said on numerous occasions about other monsters, these two – assuming guilt is proven – cannot be rehabilitated, and it would be both morally repugnant and a gross waste of resources to even try. As far as I am concerned, anyone who would kill like this has forfeited his or her right to remain on earth. Pennsylvania is a death penalty state, but though the current death row population approaches 200, only three convicts have been executed since the end of the moratorium in 1976. These two strike me as being perfect candidates. At least, once they are convicted, they should never again enjoy the freedom they so cavalierly took from Mr. LaFerrara.
But I really would hope for their execution. Since life is clearly so cheap to them, they should have no trouble with this concept. What they won’t understand is that the reason I believe in capital punishment is that life is so cherished for the rest of us.