Miranda Barbour's jailhouse account claiming to be a prolific serial killer has garnered international attention for the transient teenager thus far implicated in a single murder in Northumberland County.

Should Barbour find suitors seeking to pay for the exclusive rights to her story - there's no word yet that she's been approached or intends to do so - there is existing state law designed to prevent her from making a profit.

As history has shown, though, some infamous people have successfully skirted or fought against similar "Son of Sam" laws in other states and earned money on the stories of their alleged crimes.

By Barbour's telling, she's killed more victims than she cared to count, and investigators are working to substantiate the claims.

Her controversial interview with Francis Scarcella of The Daily Item has elicited many opinions. Some are terming Barbour's remarks as a confession, while others are calling it a lie or taking a wait-and-see approach.

Regardless, her story has all the makings of a novel or television movie.

She says she was a victim herself of child abuse, that she was lured into satanism and was entrenched with a cult.

She's also a mother of a young child whose father is now dead, a link investigators are reportedly exploring to see if Barbour herself is responsible in any way.

And, of course, she was a newlywed, married just three weeks to Elytte Barbour, when the two allegedly lured Troy LaFerrara, of Port Trevorton, through a Craigslist personal ad, strangled and stabbed him, and dumped his body in a Sunbury alley.

Even if her claims of leaving dozens of victims dead in four other states are proven false, and regardless of how the criminal case in Northumberland County turns out, it's not unlikely that her story would draw interest from publishers or filmmakers.

State law

"Son of Sam" laws get their name from notorious 1970s serial killer David Berkowitz, and are designed to prevent convicted criminals from profiting from their crimes.

Berkowitz himself wasn't subject to the law. He was found incompetent to stand trial but voluntarily agreed to donate 25 percent of the earnings from selling his rights to New York's Crime Victims Board.

Pennsylvania's law was amended in the 1990s in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that found New York's was unconstitutional.

In Pennsylvania, anyone contracted to do business with a convicted criminal based on that person's crime, perhaps for film rights or a book deal, must turn over the contract or provide written notice and report payment to the state's crime victims board.

The board is responsible to make contact with anyone eligible for a claim, which could include a victim or a family member, and a three-year statute of limitations exists. Guilty parties and accomplices are ineligible, and financial awards can't exceed profits from the crime. If claims are paid in full and funds remain, the board itself can petition to recover the rest.

Substantial civil awards were set by judges against convicted killer Ira Einhorn and O.J. Simpson to prevent them from making money from their stories. Although Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife, he was found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.

This law would likely be used to prevent convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky from turning a profit should he pen a tell-all book as he had planned after being arrested in 2011.

A spokesman for the state attorney general's office wouldn't comment on Pennsylvania's law, its application or direct The News-Item to any cases in which it's been tried or appealed.

Attorney's takes

Defense attorney Bill Costopoulos, of Lemoyne, worked to have the murder conviction of Dr. Jay C. Smith overturned on appeal in 1992. Ten years later he successfully defended former York Mayor Charles Robertson, who was acquitted of murder charges stemming from the 1969 York race riots.

He pointed out that Pennsylvania's law allows for at least one loophole: a conviction or guilty plea is necessary. Anyone standing trial could strike a deal before a verdict is rendered, even if it's not in their favor.

"As we speak, of course, Miranda Barbour hasn't been convicted of anything. It looks awfully bleak for her in the future," Costopoulos said. "I think whoever would contract with her for the story at this hour, if they put it on the fast track, has the green light to go with it."

Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois, struck a book deal before his conviction on making false statements to the feds and before the state adopted legislation preventing an elected official from cashing in on a crime, according to an article in the online publication of the District of Columbia Bar Association.

Matt Mangino, a former Lawrence County prosecutor, is a defense attorney with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly and George, P.C., in western Pennsylvania and actively blogs about criminal justice.

He, too, said the law is open to interpretation in the event a deal is struck ahead of a plea or conviction. But if there is a guilty verdict or plea in the Miranda Barbour case, and if she were to sell the rights to her story afterward, he doesn't think she could profit.

"Looking at this statute, if she's convicted, then I think if she attempts to make a deal with a publisher or with a production company, that money will not go to her directly. It will go to the fund and she should not be able to profit from her criminal activity," Mangino said.


"Son of Sam" laws have been challenged across the country.

The late mobster Henry Hill was the inspiration behind the best-selling novel "Wiseguy," and he was portrayed by Ray Liotta in Martin Scorsese's classic film "Goodfellas."

New York's Crime Victims Board sought to recover Hill's earnings from Simon & Schuster, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that the state's "Son of Sam" law was unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment. The ruling caused New York, Pennsylvania and others to seek amendments.

Jordan Belfort, depicted by Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street," is under court order to direct half, not all, of his gross income, including book and film royalties, to victims of an investment scheme owed $110.4 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Mary Kay Letourneau, the former schoolteacher infamously convicted of having a sexual affair with a student whom she would later marry, successfully appealed Washington law to keep money from movie and book deals, according to the D.C. bar association. When "Entertainment Tonight" paid the couple to exclusively cover their 2005 wedding, that was also cleared since it was unrelated to her rape conviction.