Debra Green was a beautiful, slender brunette. She had dark brown eyes, long dark hair and great legs. She was also brilliant: after earning a degree in chemical engineering, she went to medical school and passed with honours, becoming a physician. Her parents were proud and rightly so. Around that time she met handsome brown-haired Michael Farrar, who was also a medical student in her school. Mike took one look at the lovely Debra and he was finished. Right after they graduated medical school, the two were married in a modest ceremony. Debra chose to retain her own surname for professional purposes. It was almost a hint of the riff that would eventually emerge between the two. In fact it wasn’t long before the cracks began to show in Debra’s demeanor: when she flew into a rage, which she often did, she self-harmed, or she threw objects and broke them. Her tantrums took place in public and in private.
Mike would eventually become a successful cardiologist. Debra became an oncologist. The two were brilliant and rolling in the bucks. Not a bad beginning for two young people just out of school without a nickel to their names. Yet in spite of her beauty and intelligence, Debra suffered from a mental illness that hadn’t been diagnosed. Later Debra would be assessed as a “major manic depressive wtih suicidal impulses.” The symptoms were there but at first they were reasonably subtle. Mike and her parents simply considered her to be “moody” on occasion. Over time she lashed out at colleagues and patients. When the mood swings became too much even for Debra, she began drinking heavily. Debra just wasn’t meant to deal with patients. Her bedside manner was dreadful. Her tantrums shut her off from family and colleagues but her self-control was absent. She seemed unable to do anything about her behaviour which was also indicative of extreme emotional immaturity. She rose to great success early in life, but her personality was unable to develop with it. Slowly, her beauty faded and she turned into a stern-looking, angry woman.
In the early 1990s, life was good for the Farrar family, or at least it seemed that way. Life in Cinncinnati, Ohio, in the suburb of Prairie Village, gave Debra the opportunity to make her family appear perfect. She’d been held up to a tall yardstick by her own parents and she expected the same of her children. Fortunately for the children, Mike and Debra were able to afford a nanny, giving both Debra and the children breaks from one another. One day, Debra mentioned in an offhand way to the nanny,”I didn’t want kids; I never had. I’m just doing it for Mike.” She certainly demonstrated her loathing for Tim, the eldest. Debra frequently abused the boy, emotionally and physically, simply because she could. She probably looked at him and saw a younger version of Mike. The abuse was a way of exacting revenge against her husband, although only Debra knew for what. Even after Tim’s death, Debra abused his reputation, claiming he started the fire that killed Kelly and himself, and that it was Tim who tried to poison Mike.
Tim wasn’t the only child who suffered at her hands. All three of the children were afraid of her when she drank. Debra was a terrible alcoholic and when she wasn’t drinking, she was popping pills. Her life rapidly spiralled downward to the point where she couldn’t possibly work as a doctor anymore. As for Mike he avoided his wife by working as many hours as he could, leaving his children to bear the brunt of her rage. While he was gone Debra told the children repeatedly about Mike’s supposed shortcomings, assuring them he didn’t love any of them. Gradually they believed their mother and treated their father with disdain. Life with his family became unbearable and in January 1994, Mike moved out. At some point Mike asked Debra for a divorce which, naturally, threw her into a rage. Oddly, he and Debra volunteered to participate in a school trip to Peru in June 1995 with a group of friends. In fact Mike even moved back into the family home in an effort to repair the marriage. By the time the trip began however, he knew he would be again asking Debra for a divorce. During the trip, Mike became cosy with another woman, an attractive blonde named Margaret Hacker. Coincidentally she was a registered nurse married to an anesthesiologist. Hacker’s marriage was also on the rocks. The two became friends during the Peru trip but Debra didn’t seem to notice, or else she didn’t care. When they returned home they began an intimate affair. Debra didn’t discover the affair until late July 1995, when Mike asked Debra for a divorce a second time.
So determined was Debra to kill Mike that she made several attempts to poison her husband with castor beans, a very lethal type of bean. People keep castor plants as ornaments because of their beauty, in spite of their deadly quality. Professional assassins, such as those hired by the KGB, have used the chemical ricin, a derivative of the castor bean, to murder their targets. Debra succeeded in poisoning her husband and then some. When he wasn’t at home vomiting and writhing in agony, he was hospitalized getting several brain and heart operations. Meanwhile, Debra snickered at her own cleverness, although she wasn’t clever enough. Somehow, Mike toughed it out and managed to survive. Debra wasn’t snickering anymore. Bah, foiled again. After Mike recovered from one of his surgeries, he decided he wasn’t taking anymore chances on his erratic wife and her treatment of the children. He forcibly confined her to a mental institution. Debra’s chilling comment was “you’ll get the children over our dead bodies.” Perhaps Mike should have given that comment more thought. Instead, he went ahead and began an aggressive campaign to take the children away from Debra. Debra didn’t remain long in the hospital; she wasn’t considered to be a danger to herself or her children. Incredibly, Mike didn’t inform the hospital about Tim’s abuse. Perhaps he was used to seeing his son covered in bruises. Mike was a bit of a weirdo himself, you might say. Unable to tolerate Debra any longer, Mike moved out of the family home but he continued his attempts to gain full custody of the children. He had no idea he’d saved his own life by leaving. Furious, Debra decided it was time to die, at least for the children. She wasn’t part of the plan naturally. Debra needed to tell Mike the kids were dead, then gloat at the look on his face.
Debra continued her theatrics, keeping her family on eggshells. She drank daily and by the evening was often unconscious. One evening, Mike was called home by his children who had found Debra unconscious and unresponsive. Mike rushed to the home but by the time he arrived, Debra was nowhere to be seen. She had hidden in the basement, although she lied and claimed to have been out wandering around town, hoping a car would hit and kill her. Her antics had no effect on changing Mike’s mind about the divorce and so Debra got busy. She went to the library and took out books about children’s deaths and arson. Not very suspicious, of course.
On October 24, 1995, a fire blazed out of control in the Farrar household and soon engulfed the entire house. Debra managed to escape just as it was beginning and she claimed she ran to a neighbour’s house and asked him to call 9-1-1. Later the neighbour stated Debra was not alarmed (pun) when she approached him and that oddly, Debra’s hair was very wet. When she returned to her house, Debra discovered Kate had managed to climb out of her bedroom window and had made it onto the roof. Debra called out to her frightened daughter, telling her to “jump and I’ll catch you!” as she held her arms out to her. Nervous, Kate moved to the edge of the roof and jumped off. Suddenly Debra stepped back, putting her arms down by her sides. Kate fell hard onto the ground. She was stunned to realize her mother had deliberately lied to her and hadn’t tried to save her little girl. As bad as that was, Debra did something truly evil to Tim. When she stood outside the side of the house where Tim’s bedroom was located, he made it onto the roof, also calling out to his mother for help. He asked if he should go and find Kelly. Debra told him no and to “go back inside.” Again she made no effort to help her son survive. If anything, she knowingly sent Tim to his certain death, exactly as planned.
Finally police and firefighters arrived. The house was a massive, burning inferno. Neighbours gathered outside on the street, horrified to learn the children were inside the house. When police questioned Debra as to who was still inside the house, they noticed she was deadpan, emotionless. Kate on the other hand was in hysterics. She was led to the ambulance to be treated for shock and checked for injuries from her fall. Suddenly, Mike pulled up in his car. He’d just heard the news and raced to the scene. Police blocked his path, telling him Kate was in an ambulance and it was fruitless for him to enter the house. Instead two firefighters entered the inferno, searching for the remaining children. The could see nothing and so loud was the fire, they couldn’t even yell to one another. Instead they crawled on the floor beneath the smoke, one fireman holding onto the other. Somehow the men managed to locate Kelly Farrar. The child lay undisturbed as though she was sleeping. Instead, Kelly was dead, killed by smoke inhalation and toxicity from the fumes. The men were unable to find Tim Farrar. The next day, after the smoke had literally cleared, firefighters would find Tim’s badly burned body in the basement of the house. One of the floors had collapsed and his body had fallen with it.
Police brought Debra and Mike to the police station for questioning. Mike was devastating. Police were satisfied he knew nothing about the fire. Debra, on the other hand, was eerily calm. When she spoke to detectives she referred to the children as “my three-year-old” and “my ten-year-old” rather than by their names. She made the morbid comment about Tim stating that, “he used to be my thirteen-year-old.” She continually asked if Mike was present at the station. She didn’t ask about her children and whether they’d survived. Finally one of the policemen told her the truth, that two of her children were dead. Debra barely reacted. However, when she stated she wanted to tell Mike about their deaths, one of the policemen told her he’d already been informed. Debra became furious. She had wanted to tell her husband that the children were dead. How dare they break the news to him? Where previously she had been cooperative and friendly with the detectives interviewing her, now she attacked them verbally, calling investigators and their methods “pathetic”. She demanded to be allowed to see Mike and the remains of the house. Police looked at one another. No one had ever reacted to the news of their children’s deaths like that before.
Soon after the house fire, firefighters determined the fire was an arson. Investigators sought to find the source of the fire. It was neither electrical panels or the furnace. “Pour patterns” were found on the ground and second floors, meaning a flammable liquid had been poured in these areas. It covered many areas of the ground floor and stopped at the door of the house’s master bedroom. It also soaked into the carpeting leading to the children’s bedrooms. Investigators were unable to determine the exact liquid that was used though they proved that a can of gasoline the family kept in a shed had not been used. The amount of accelerant used was identified as “less than ten gallons and more than three gallons”. Since Mike hadn ‘t been in the family home for a number of days and the children had no reason to start the fire, suspicion rested heavily on Debra Green. In response, she refused to speak further to police. Investigators suspected that because of the use of accelerant, the fire may have singed or burned the setter. They tested clothing worn by Mike and Debra that night and took hair samples. Neither Debra’s nor Mike’s clothing seemed to have come into contact with accelerant however, Farrar’s hair showed no singeing, but Green’s showed “significant singeing”. She had even had her hair cut very short in an effort to remove singed ends before the testing, but to no av
Detectives investigated Mike Farrar’s poisoning before the fire. They contacted a store named Earl May to ask if any employees recalled selling packets of castor beans. A clerk at reported having spoken to a woman in September who requested that the store order ten packets of the out-of-season seeds. The clerk provided a description of the buyer that corresponded to Green, and tentatively identified her in a photo line-up. Prior to one of Mike’s surgeries that fall, he had submitted to tests for ricin in his blood which
was found to be positive and in substantial amounts.
Several months after the arson that had claimed Timothy and Kelly Farrar’s lives, Debra was arrested and charged with a plethora of crimes: aggravated arson; homicide of Timothy Farrar; homicide of Kelly Farrar; attempted first-degree murder of Mike Farrar and attempted first-degree murder of Kate Farrar. She was also charged with aggravated arson. The Greens arrived to support Debra during her trial. They were shocked by her appearance; they hadn’t seen Debra in years. Where was the beautiful, slender daughter they remembered? They could hardly believe this obese, hard-looking woman with the close-shaven haircut was their Debra. She was a completely different person and not for the better.
On April 13, Debra’s defense team notified District Attorney Paul Morrison that
Green wished to agree to a plea bargain, and on April 17 1996 Debra Green pled no contest to five charges – two counts of capital murder, one of arson, and two of attempted first-degree murder. To avoid the death penalty, the no contest Green accepted a prison sentence of a minimum of forty years without the possibility of parole. Green denied being under the influence of any drug which would affect her judgment in making her plea. Green read a statement to the court in which she said she had been “not in control of myself” at the time of the children’s deaths. Mike and Kelly Farrar were left to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives. Kelly had a difficult time adjusting to life with her father: Debra’s lies had deeply impressed the child and added to this she was emotionally scarred by the fire and her siblings’ deaths. It would be a long road for Mike and Kelly to repair their relationship as father and daughter. For the young and impressionable Kelly, it will probably take a lifetime to forgive her mother and come to terms with the tragedy.
**Update** – Years after her imprisonment Debra began to correspond with a writer who wished to publish a book about the fire in Prairie Village. Now protesting her innocence, Debra wrote: “I find the concept of long-term plans pretty overwhelming still. Right now my hopes and plans are fairly simple — to see justice done. If justice is done, I’ll be out of here. Then I would hope only to be able to spend a fair amount of time with my surviving daughter, Kate. I would like the opportunity to get a job and support myself decently — I certainly will never again see the lifestyle I once had, and that honestly doesn’t matter to me. Being here certainly teaches you how little ‘things’ matter.” Little things, such as castor beans perhaps?