The Craigslist Killer A Case for the Corpus Delicti Rule

Posted by Perry de Marco, Sr. on 17 February 2014

By now most of you have read about the arrest of 19 year old Miranda Barbour, the so called Craigslist killer.  Barbour and her husband of three weeks, Elytte Barbour, are charged in the November 2013 Murder of 42 year old Troy LaFerrara of Sunbury Pennsylvania. Poor Troy was looking for love in all the wrong places when he responded to a bogus ad posted on Craigslist by Barbour offering sex for $100.00. When they met it is alleged that Elytte strangled Troy while Miranda stabbed him to death. In a jail house confession, Miranda not only confessed to the LaFerrara murder but also confessed to 22 other murders across the country. She claimed that all of this was done as part of her participation in a Satanic cult. Does this mean that 22 other charges of murder will follow in short order? Well why not, she confessed? The simple answer is no. Since time immemorial people have confessed to crimes that never occurred. The reasons for this are myriad, sometimes the confessions are coerced or sometimes kooks are just looking for notoriety. That may be the situation in this case. The law protects against such confessions with the corpus delicti rule.  Corpus delicti, for those of you flunked Latin, as I did, means the body of the crime. The rule places a burden on the prosecution to establish that a crime has actually occurred before a confession or admission of the accused connecting him or her to the crime can be admitted into evidence. The purpose is to prevent a conviction where no crime has actually occurred. There are technical ramifications to the this rule which need not be explained here.  Over the years we have relied upon the rule in the defense of our clients. Miranda claims that she can pinpoint the locations of the other murders and local police as well as the FBI are going to take her up on it. They will certainly have to verify her claims before she can be charged with any additional murders.  Who knows maybe Miranda knows all about the Corpus Delicti Rule? This will be an extremely interesting case to follow.