Reporter Francis Scarcella walked into the Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, with plenty of questions for the woman accused along with her husband of luring a man with a Craigslist ad, then killing him.
He walked out with a bombshell of a story that's sent police and the press alike scrambling for answers.
Miranda Barbour told Scarcella, a reporter for the Daily Item newspaper in Sunbury, that she'd killed before. And not just once or twice.
"She said, she has, you know, done this before," Scarcella told CNN affiliate WNEP of his Friday interview with the 19-year-old murder suspect. "And I said, 'What's the actual number?'"
"And she said, 'Under a hundred,'" Scarcella told the station. Barbour said she had stopped counting at 22 killings, according to Scarcella's story in the Daily Item.
"She kind of floored me," Scarcella told CNN affiliate WBRE.
Barbour told the Daily Item that the killings occurred over the past six years in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California. That's sent investigators in those states back to their cold-case files, but it's also raising questions among people who study serial killers.
"Anything is possible, and of course it's conceivable that she's a serial killer," Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin told CNN. But he said few women are serial killers, and those few are typically older and don't use knives, as Barbour is accused of doing in the Pennsylvania case.
Authorities haven't yet corroborated any of Barbour's claims, including statements that she was involved in Satanism. Her alleged confession has raised questions among attorneys, missing persons experts and even a representative of the Church of Satan, the nation's largest satanic body.
"Thorough investigation will likely demonstrate that this cult story is fiction," said Peter Gilmore, the New York-based head of the Church of Satan.
In Alaska, state police are looking into the claims and will pursue "any leads that may present themselves," Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Peters told CNN. And Monica Caison, the founder of a missing persons center in North Carolina, said her phone started ringing Sunday night with questions from families whose loved ones haven't turned up in years.
"It sends everybody into a panic mode - a hopeful panic mode," Caison said. "They want to be one of those, but they don't want to be one of those. They want their nightmare to end."
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