Tatiana Badra and the True Crime Junkies Facebook
Illustration by Joe Gough

The True Crime Junkies and the Curious Case of a Missing Husband

A woman pleaded on Facebook for help finding her husband. A group of true-crime enthusiasts popped up to help. Then things took a dark turn.

“My husband (since last Sat)... is now a missing person,” read the Facebook post. “I can’t believe the love of my life, my soulmate isn’t here holding me.”

It was July 17, 2019, and Tatiana Badra was frantic. In a series of posts, she recounted that 30-year-old Ethan Rendlen, her partner of four years, had been driving them back after a few errands to their home in The Colony, a suburb in Dallas, Texas. Rendlen, she said, had pulled over, jumped out of the car, and abruptly vanished three days ago. 


Badra canvassed the businesses at the intersection. At each, patrons and staff told her that they had seen Rendlen, and that he was searching for her. After waiting by the car for hours, Badra eventually drove home alone. She had been pleading for help on Facebook ever since, posting on the pages of local Texas news affiliates and national missing persons groups. 

“Police think he ate the Adderall bottle,” Badra’s Facebook post continued. “But why?” Badra, who claimed to be four months pregnant, said that Rendlen had just been offered a lucrative job, and that the pair were closing on an 87-acre property with a house and lake. “I just wish people would help me find the...father of our child. He deserves his life back!!!” 

In the accompanying photos, Rendlen is tall and trim, with sandy hair and a gentle smile. In his eyes is a look of calm, of peace. Badra, a petite strawberry blonde, either cuddles lovingly beside him or mugs for the camera, working her angles and making liberal use of duck face.

Melania Boninsegna, a co-moderator of a true-crime Facebook group, found Badra’s post shortly after it went up. She had been searching the phrase “missing person” on the social-networking site. A 28-year-old stay-at-home mom, Boninsegna had started the True Crime Junkies in 2018, along with a co-administrator (who wished to remain anonymous in this story). It served as a private discussion group requiring permission to join, and now has 12,000 members. As new cases emerged, Boninsegna and her co-administrator created private subgroups, each linking back to the True Crime Junkies hub. 


After reading Badra’s post, Boninsegna sent Badra a message to see if she could help. Badra responded, both to thank Boninsegna and share her fears about Rendlen’s safety. “Girl, I won’t lie,” she wrote. “I’m about to lose it. I just can’t stop imagining awful shit and crying.” On July 23rd, 2019, Boninsegna started a Facebook subgroup dedicated to the case: True Crime Junkies-Ethan Rendlen-Case discussion

Back in the days of CourtTV and the OJ Simpson trial, this kind of civilian involvement in a potential criminal case—particularly the general public communicating with a victim’s family—would have required much more effort. But social media has turned viewers into users whose attention and help is often welcomed by friends and family of victims (especially when cases are solved via social media, as with the 2004 murder of Deborah Deans). The True Crime Junkies Facebook group is one of many places in a vast digital landscape—including the WebSleuths site, which launched in 1999, and Reddit’s r/TrueCrime—where thousands of like-minded crime enthusiasts can gather to dissect the finer points of, for example, blood evidence. The “ripped from the headlines” style of the Law & Order and CSI franchises have brought forensic crime scene analysis into our living rooms. Discussion groups picked up where the shows left off.  


“Something isn’t right with this lady. Too many things don’t add up.”

It isn’t uncommon for civilians to do legwork for lower-profile cases in advance of law enforcement, according to Boninsegna. Texas locals, some of them members of missing-persons Facebook groups, covered a wide swath of the Dallas suburbs with missing-person flyers. While “going real life”—pestering victims’ family members for updates or visiting their homes to gather “evidence”—was forbidden by the True Crime Junkies, posting flyers was a noninvasive way for members to get involved. “Every case that we have followed that had an adult male, they’re kind of just put on the back burner. Women are different, and if they’re a mom, then they get a lot of media attention,” Boninsegna said. “I believe that most police officers don’t take missing men particularly seriously.”

This certainly seemed to be the case with Rendlen, at least according to Badra. The Colony Police department wasn’t “doing shit,” she wrote in a July 18, 2019 post on Dallas’s NBC affiliate Facebook page; “they say bcs [sic] he has his wallet on his pants they’d call them [sic] if they found him.”

But in the days following Badra’s first post, things took a dark and strange turn. Her claims began to morph. She first characterized her last interaction with Rendlen in the car as a normal conversation, and later wrote that Rendlen had a “small psych fit” of nonsensical ramblings. Badra couldn’t remember where they had stopped just before Rendlen ran off, and the prior destinations she mentioned kept changing: Whole Foods, a Mexican restaurant, and a nature preserve more than 250 miles from The Colony. Drugs weren’t involved, then Badra claimed Rendlen had been on a “bender.” 


The shifting stories made many True Crime Junkies suspicious. They began to scrutinize every detail: Badra’s alleged accidental melatonin overdose (impossible, many said) after Rendlen disappeared; the pregnancy claim; her recent marriage to Rendlen, which Rendlen’s mother, Laura, told the True Crime Junkies had not happened. “Something isn’t right with this lady,” one member commented. “Too many things don’t add up.”

As activity in the Rendlen True Crime subgroup—which today has 5.3k members—gained steam, locals who had encountered the couple before Rendlen’s disappearance began to join, too. Xaviera Crockett, then a clothing-store manager in Plano, posted a photo her employees had taken of Rendlen and Badra just hours before his disappearance on July 14, 2019. Badra’s strange behavior had employees on alert, said Crockett. She’d entered the store barefoot, with “her nipple hanging out of her wedding dress,” and wandered in and out of the changing rooms, which she left a mess, in just her bra. One of the employees took the photo after Rendlen threw away a bottle of Clonidine, a blood-pressure medication, declaring, “I won’t need this anymore.”

Members of the subgroup started speculating about what had happened to Rendlen. Some thought he had fled and was hiding out, others blamed Badra. “She killed him” was a frequent comment. People flocked to the threads; choruses of “any update?” followed. Moderators cautioned the group to respect the Rendlens’ privacy and not to go “real life.” But word had spread. Badra’s Instagram posts were flooded with comments. “WHERE IS ETHAN?” “What did you do to him??”


Collage by Cathryn Virginia

Phil LaFayette, Rendlen’s best friend, was also wondering what had transpired between Rendlen and Badra before his disappearance. For years, he had watched as his smart and savvy friend fell further under Badra’s influence. Rendlen and LaFayette, both science-minded kids, grew up across the street from one another in Glen Ellyn, IL, and Rendlen went on to earn a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois in 2014. “He always wanted to be a chemist,” LaFayette said. “To him, it was the closest thing to doing magic, to being a wizard.”

Rendlen’s relationship with Badra had worried LaFayette from the start. At first, Rendlen was unusually cagey about his new girlfriend, and then what he did say about her was concerning. Badra was a successful molecular biologist from a wealthy Brazilian family, Rendlen first told LaFayette, but he later revealed that she sought drugs by moving from ER to ER to avoid detection, and bought research chemicals off of the dark web. LaFayette would later find out that the two had been introduced by a former friend who allegedly met Badra during a stay at an inpatient psychiatric facility. 

LaFayette was confounded by Badra’s ability to manipulate his intelligent best friend. While she professed to have a large inheritance, and would treat Rendlen to fancy meals and new electronics, Badra was often in financial crisis and relayed fantastical stories about familial strife involving political corruption that she said prevented her from accessing her funds. Rendlen’s father, Jeffrey, recalls that Badra said she would gain control of her funds when she turned 31, which was in September of 2017. “And then the line was, ‘oh, I’m not really 31, I’m really two years younger.’” Jeffrey Rendlen said he asked his son, “you’re buying this?”


The couple was evicted from an apartment in 2018, and eviction notices were filed for their Texas apartment at the time of Rendlen’s disappearance in 2019. Badra had also, according to LaFayette, allegedly borrowed $10,000 from Rendlen, who filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy shortly before his disappearance. 

Rendlen’s family found that Badra’s stories ranged from implausible to impossible. “Determining fact from fiction was legitimately difficult,” says Chelsea Rendlen, Ethan’s sister. “There was a kernel of truth in everything. It was so hard to make heads or tails of any of it.” But Rendlen seemed to believe everything. During a pause in their relationship, Badra alleged that she had been kidnapped by masked men who mutilated her and left her for dead. The story grew more outlandish from there. 

Rendlen told LaFayette that the kidnappers had forcibly cut the unborn child from Badra’s body in a deserted cornfield. Chelsea and Laura Rendlen got a slightly different version of events from Badra. “She said she had lost the baby, but that it had cured her cancer,” Chelsea recalled. Laura added, “I was told that she was pregnant with Ethan’s child, and got taken out—slave-traded—to a farmhouse, that they stabbed her and so she lost the baby. But the stem cells cured her.” None of them believed these stories. “It just gets to the point where it’s not about reason or facts anymore,” said Chelsea of her brother’s relationship. Rendlen told LaFayette that he loved Badra and thought he could “save” her. 


It was a maddening situation for the family. Rendlen was unable to see what those who loved him found obvious: he was being conned. But, like any good scam, Badra’s had begun with developing a powerful psychological hold over Rendlen. Those mechanics of manipulation don’t “happen overnight,” said Alexandra Stein, a visiting research fellow at London South Bank University who specializes in the study of cults and dangerous social relationships. “This is a process. You get the initial come-on, which is very nice and flattering, and creates rapport and starts building trust.”

Badra’s seeming generosity with her inherited money, coupled with constant tales of distress, made for a persuasive lure: a “love-bomb,” in which the victim is showered with attention, affection, and sometimes gifts. Rendlen’s appointment as a knight in shining armor to her constant distress was the clincher. Badra also kept Rendlen isolated from his family, managing to convince him that he had been molested as a child by a relative. “Scammers work with fear,” Stein explained. “A corollary relatedness is urgency: ‘if you don’t help me now, I’m going to lose my child, my house, my life.’ And also the threat that you might lose a relationship that purports to be beneficial to you, but is actually causing you chronic stress. That creates a trauma bond. All of these things work to prevent you [from] using your systematic thinking.”


“This girl is telling him crazy things, and he’s just eating it up. Something’s gonna happen; something bad is gonna happen.”

Family and friends were hopeful when Rendlenwho had mostly held short-term positions as a quality technician and geotechnical engineer—landed his dream job as a chemical engineer after he and Badra moved to Texas in 2018. “He was like, ‘I finally made it, bro,’” LaFayette said. “He had his own cubicle, they gave him his own company credit card. His bosses were coming to him with projects to work on. They wanted his direct input and he was so excited about that.” 

Then Rendlen called LaFayette with the news that he and Badra were moving to Florida. The details of the plan didn’t seem to track. Badra, with no prior experience, was planning to set up a real-estate business, backed by a mysterious uncle who suddenly wired her inheritance payments. Rendlen’s burgeoning career would be left behind. “This is the part that really got me because it was so unlike Ethan,” LaFayette remembered. “He told me he was going to drop everything and he was going to try and be a crab fisherman. I said, ‘Ethan, that’s crazy…’ The fact that he would be willing to drop his childhood dream to be a crab fisherman? It was insane. This girl is telling him crazy things, and he’s just eating it up. Something’s gonna happen; something bad is gonna happen.”


That phone conversation was less than a week before Rendlen disappeared—one of several strange calls that had his family and LaFayette concerned and confused. A few days before he had gone missing, Rendlen called his father and told him that he had been robbed at knifepoint in his apartment and needed emergency money. After Rendlen had disappeared, Badra called Laura Rendlen in tears. Rendlen had wanted to call off the wedding, she said. This was news to the family, who had not heard about any plans to marry. (Though, according to Rendlen’s past relationship status updates on Facebook, the pair had already married in 2018).

Now, 900 miles away in Illinois, LaFayette’s mind was spinning. Something bad had happened. His best friend was missing, and nothing about the circumstances made any sense. The primary  source of information was Badra—until Rendlen’s family and Lafayette joined the True Crime Junkies group. Rendlen, LaFayette would learn, had not been Badra’s first mark.

In just 24 hours after its creation, the Rendlen True Crime Junkies group was buzzing with information. Most of it was about Badra.

Members and admins posted their finds in rapid fire succession. One was an archived GoFundMe from 2013 that Badra had allegedly launched to pay for various medical bills. She listed seizures, bone marrow issues, cancer, and a blood-clotting disorder as her diagnoses, and raised $1,100 of her $7,000 goal, according to an archived page. Users surfaced multiple social-media profiles with photos of Badra under a variety of names (many of them derivatives of her legal name), and several hints at pregnancy Badra had made on Instagram in 2017 and 2018, not to be mentioned again. “In all of the posts, not one, have I seen her actually pregnant,” one True Crime Junkies member commented. “What is happening to these babies (if she is actually pregnant)?” Several members also discovered that photos Badra had included in a Facebook post of the 87-acre house she and Rendlen were allegedly purchasing were of a $55 million dollar home in Florida’s affluent Gables Estates


Alice, who did not want their real name used, was watching as this unfolded. Alice had known Badra, not as Tatiana, but as “Anya,” a creator of online support groups for Brazillian survivors of sexual assault and eating disorders. Badra was also, Alice contends, a ruthless cyberbully. From 2007 through 2012, Badra formed secret groups in which she would routinely leak nude photos of friends and acquaintances, and instigate online fights. In all of these groups, Badra would solicit money for medical treatments that she seemed not to have undergone, according to Alice and multiple sources who knew her during this period.

“I went from thinking, ‘my friend Anya has big boyfriend problems’ to ‘all of Anya’s boyfriends have big Anya problems.”

On July 24th, 2019, Alice made a post in the True Crime Junkies and other Facebook groups alleging that Badra trashed the Chicago apartment they shared briefly in 2012, did not seem to work or attend school, and told elaborate lies. “I have received, over the years, messages of her boyfriends... and others that came after… telling me how they felt victimized bye [sic] her, how she scammed them of THOUSANDS of dollars, got them hooked on drugs, was hooked on drugs, faked pregnancies, faked suicide attempts, etc etc,” Alice posted to the Facebook group. “She’s not a cancer survivor... she's currently an American resident because of her fake story of being a survive [sic] of abuse, she’s dangerous, abusive and manipulative.”


After Alice spoke out, the dam broke. Screenshots from other social-media platforms surfaced, posted by the True Crime Junkies members, and more of Badra’s former acquaintances began commenting in post threads about their own alleged experiences. Many were from Badra’s ex-boyfriends, and followed a similar pattern of dubious pregnancies and medical conditions, chronic drug use, threats, manipulation, and stolen money. 

“I went from thinking, ‘my friend Anya has big boyfriend problems’ to ‘all of Anya’s boyfriends have big Anya problems,’” Edward Grabowski, a former friend of Badra’s, wrote in a comment thread. Grabowski had known Badra for about a year between 2012 and 2013, during which time he gave her money, bought her a phone, and helped her after chemotherapy treatments that he said turned out to be fabrications. Grabowski alleged that Badra had been heavily abusing Norco (a pain reliever) and Klonopin (a benzodiazepine), and routinely used hospitals as her sources for these drugs.  

While most most of her ex-associates had known Badra as Anya, she’d also gone by Tatiana Nikolaevna, Pippa Althofen, Tatiana Lyubov, Tatiana Lebedeva, Aniia Lilya, Lilja L., Stazia K., and Lavinia Badra.

In ten years, 34-year-old Badra may have been at least ten different people. As Anya, she was a chemotherapy patient. As Aniia, she engaged in discussions on DNA and racial “purity” on the white-supremacist website Stormfront. Tatiana Lebedeva was a radical feminist; Pippa Althofen a sugar baby.


Badra also appears to have been involved with identity fraud. Documents obtained by VICE indicate that she has been associated with at least six different Social Security numbers. Some belong to other people entirely, according to database records. “In my 30+ years of conducting tens of thousands of background investigations, I have rarely seen this many SSNs linked with a single subject,” wrote the private investigator who reviewed the documents for VICE, via email. “I can’t definitively say that she is committing fraud, but the fact that she is associated with so many... unexplained SSNs seems to lend credence to the fact that it could be for fraudulent purposes.”

Most of these identities shared a history of dramatic claims: tragic beginnings as an orphan in radiation-riddled Chernobyl, then her adoption by a wealthy Brazilian family into an elite, pampered childhood marred by various forms of abuse. Badra claimed to have genius abilities in science and music, which brought her to study first in London and then the United States. Then there was the inheritance, with a spiteful uncle presiding over her funds. Badra also said she had been a model, a cancer survivor, and the mother of a young daughter back in Brazil. At various points, she claimed she was working at high-paying jobs as a financial analyst, a senior sales engineer, and multilingual translator. She was about to become a doctor.


Very little of this would turn out to be true. Chernobyl, cancer, and her work history were all allegedly fictions, as several of her former friends had confirmed years ago after speaking with Badra’s adoptive mother. None of the schools she claimed to have degrees from—Northwestern University, University of São Paulo, and The University of Texas, Dallas—have records of Badra having attended. While Badra was adopted at birth, she, according to several sources who allegedly confirmed this with Badra’s mother years ago, was not born in Ukraine. Former close friends say Badra had no signs of the significant scarring and other physical trauma that would have resulted from the forced removal of a fetus via amateur C-section (just an appendectomy-like scar above her right hip of about two inches, according to one ex-boyfriend). And as the True Crime Junkies had suspected, Badra and Ethan Rendlen were never legally married.

Con artists give us a complex sort of villain, an antihero: even if a con artist is a wholly unsympathetic character, there’s titillation to be found in their gumption.

When con artists start out online, it begins “a grooming process to actually desensitize you to some of the things that come after that,” said Martina Dove, author of The Psychology of Fraud, Persuasion and Scam Techniques. “By the time you are asked for money, or asked to believe something that’s ludicrous, you're invested. You know something’s wrong, but you just can’t pull back.”


The internet was Badra’s home base for a reason: in an online relationship of any kind, intimacy is built quickly. She was able to be anyone on social media with little effort, forging connections online before transitioning them to in-person meetups. As soon as those around her became more than casually suspicious, Badra would be onto the next identity, and her next set of marks, leaving the shells of her former selves behind in abandoned accounts, purged blogs, and a handful of avatars. 

While the intricacies and intimacies of a scam are what hooks a victim, these are also the elements that simultaneously hook us: the readers, the viewers, the writers. Scams have all the markers of a good drama—mystery, suspense, plot twists, and bad guys.

Con artists give us a complex sort of villain, an antihero: even if a con artist is a wholly unsympathetic character, there’s titillation to be found in their gumption (and, in some cases, outright genius). Scammers, according to Alaleh Kamran, a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney with 30 years of experience, “are smart enough to have succeeded in any area,” but “one-upping the system—there’s a thrill to that.” Even more compelling is the razor-thin line between brazen and foolish, which works out better for some than others, particularly those preying on less-sympathetic victims. 

Anna Sorokin, better known as Anna Delvey, rose to notoriety, if not outright fame, after bilking socialites, celebrities, the Beekman Hotel, and other bastions of luxury out of $275,000 by pretending to be the heiress to a $70 million trust fund. Her story fascinated the public and news outlets dubbed 2018—the year multiple stories about Sorokin broke—“The Summer of Scam.” This bizarre twist on underdog popularity led to an Anna Delvey episode of HBO’s Generation Hustle, followed by a life rights deal with Shonda Rhimes for her upcoming film Inventing Anna starring Julia Garner. Even her victims did well; Rachel Deloach Williams, a former photo editor whom Sorokin stuck with a $62,000 hotel bill, wrote a tell-all that made TIME’s best 100 books list for 2019. Sorokin, who served just under four years in prison, doesn’t seem at all derailed by her life of crime. She was paid $320,000 for her story ($45,000 more than she stole) and seems to be enjoying life on the outside—at least it appears so on her Instagram. 


But as much as we love to watch someone like Delvey buck the system and—all things considered—win, focusing on the moment when a scheme absolutely fails can be even more of a thrill. This set-up is at the heart of shows like ABC’s The Con, which premiered in October of 2020 to 2.6 million viewers and is narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. The more spectacular the scam, the harder the fall; in Episode 5, we learn how 50-year-old Anthony Gignac, raised in Michigan, managed to convince the richest in Miami that he was a Saudi prince by affecting an accent and a flashy style. Gleefully, Goldberg details the undoing of this ruse: a replica diplomatic license plate Gignac affixed to his car, which he bought online for $79

There might be a hint of gleeful schadenfreude when scammers like Delvey or Gignac scam the ultra rich, using outrageous tactics to do so. But there are, of course, much more sobering cases of deception.


Collage by Cathryn Virginia

On July 23, 2019, Phil LaFayette and Laura Rendlen arrived in Texas, determined to find something that would lead them to Ethan Rendlen. Nearly two weeks had gone by since his disappearance, and there had still been no communication from him. They spent most of their time driving from location to location, trying to find a match based on Badra’s versions of events. Five days later, the two left Texas to return to their jobs, without a conclusive answer.


It took four Dallas locals—all civilians, who had connected via a now-defunct Facebook group on Rendlen’s case—to put it together. One of them was Amber (who did not want her last name used), then a substitute teacher and off for the summer. Amber was able to spend several days in her car, driving to any location on her GPS that matched Badra’s limited descriptions. On July 26th, she was able to locate the car wash, the gas station, and the bar where Rendlen had last been seen and verify, with others, that Badra had been there. Another civilian helping with the search—who did not wish to be identified—spoke to several people who had seen the couple. “The car wash guy said, ‘yeah, there was this couple here, they were fighting, [and] he ran off that way towards the woods,” Amber said. “They were both high as a kite. She runs around looking for him, trying to find him, basically all night. And they can’t find each other.’”

The group located the embankment, behind a gas station, that Badra had mentioned, and notified the Dallas police. Responding officers did not see any direct evidence linking Rendlen to the area, but passed the information on to The Colony Police Department. The officers urged the search team not to return to the area, which they said was an extremely dangerous hotspot for drug activity.

On July 29th, 12 days after Rendlen had disappeared, The Colony police located his body in the embankment. The case was then turned over to the Dallas police department. “The girlfriend stated that her [sic] and the comp [Rendlen] were in the area of Rosemeade Pwky [sic] and Marsh Lane using drugs on 7/14/19,” reads page 10 of the Dallas Police incident data sheet Report for Rendlen’s case, obtained by VICE. “The girlfriend states that her [sic] and the comp had gotten into a verbal dispute and he got out of the vehicle and left walking in an unk [sic] direction.” In the report, Badra seemed to have a better recollection of their last known location than she had previously admitted. 


The last Chelsea and Laura Rendlen saw of Badra was on August 3rd, 2019, when they went to gather Rendlen’s personal items from his and Badra’s apartment. That day, Badra, wearing a red wig, biked up to the apartment complex, and the building manager, who denied Badra access to the apartment due to the eviction notice, notified the Rendlens. “The manager said she’d been going around burying Ethan’s stuff all weekend,” Laura recalled. They called the police, and watched from the street as Badra was arrested on four open warrants for traffic violations (no other charges seem to have been filed against her).

This was Badra’s only arrest during this time period, and, according to police records, she spent less than an hour in police custody. “We have heard from one of the detectives we are working with that she was released into the custody of a police officer,” said Chelsea. “And that’s kind of where that part of the information ended.” 

Sergeant Jay Goodson of The Colony Police Department and Detective Guy Curtis of the Dallas Police Department, both of whom were assigned to the case in their respective departments, did not respond to repeated interview requests. There was no indication from the police report provided to VICE whether or not Badra was ever under investigation by law enforcement. 

Rendlen’s death was ultimately ruled as accidental/unknown by the medical examiner, whose final sign-off on the autopsy was dated October 30th, 2019. “Part of the problem is because of decomposition, and the length of time, even the medical examiner said that drowning can’t be ruled out,” said Anita Zannin, a forensic scientist, who reviewed documents pertaining to Rendlen’s case for VICE. “Once the organs start autolysing—turning to mush, essentially—it’s harder to make those determinations. Their hands are kind of tied when the medical examiner comes up with ‘accident’ as manner of death.”

“Yes, I did rebuild my life away from her. I try my very best to forget that ever happened to me.”

After Rendlen’s body was found, Boninsegna and her True Crime Junkies admin team received private messages from more victims, many of whom wished to remain anonymous. Some alleged they had been coerced into providing Badra with money, others that they had been blackmailed into purchasing items for Badra, who had threatened to make false allegations against them to police.

Francis Silva, Badra’s ex-husband, thought she was likely connected with Rendlen’s death. Their relationship, which began online in 2006, resulted in disaster. Silva alleges he discovered she was lying about a cancer diagnosis and threatened to divorce her, to which Badra responded with a false domestic violence claim against him in order to obtain a Green Card via asylum. On July 10, 2012, Badra sent him an email in which she confessed to having fabricated the abuse. “So be it, I lied about what happened,” she wrote. “I perjured myself. I was angry, I was scared… I LIED AND I TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY.” Silva did not respond. In August of 2012, Badra rescinded the charges, for which Silva had been indicted by the Texas District Attorney at a grand jury trial in 2011. 

While there have been a battery of accusations leveled against Badra by her former friends and romantic partners—lies, theft, coercion, physical abuse—she has never been formally charged with any of these crimes in either Illinois or Texas. None of the ex-associates who spoke with VICE have brought charges. “Yes, I did rebuild my life away from her,” Silva said of his experience with Badra. “I try my very best to forget that ever happened to me.”

Badra declined an interview request for this article. “I apologize, but no,” she wrote via email, calling the allegations against her “Absolut (sic) insane, all of it.” She did not deny involvement in Rendlen’s death, which she described as a “tragic accident” and “the worst trauma I carry with me, for many reasons.” Badra was adamant that the online discourse surrounding the case had been particularly hurtful and damaging after such a loss. “I could spend forever talking about him and how much I miss him and love him, and what type of person he was,” Badra wrote. “These people, these ‘sleuths,’ have caused me enough grief for enough lifetimes already.” 

When VICE reached out to Badra again for comment in this article, she denied using multiple Social Security numbers, stating: “I’ve obviously never used anyone else’s SSN other than my own.” In a follow-up email, she declined to comment any further. “I have retained legal counsel and have been advised by my attorney to not make any statements to you. You and your editor should be hearing from them soon,” she wrote. We never heard from legal counsel on Badra’s behalf. 

In the months after Rendlen’s death, bits and pieces of information about Badra surfaced sporadically in posts in the True Crime Junkies group—an arrest for D.U.I.; photos of an Amazon package addressed to her old Texas apartment; a stay at an ayahuasca retreat. Behind the scenes, Boninsegna and her moderation team received more private messages from those who had encountered Badra.

In August of 2020, longtime friends Davis Trent, then 26 years old, and Tiffany Harris, who was 25 years old, came forward with harrowing accounts of having met Badra, known to them as 28-year-old Anya Audi (Badra was 34 at the time). They had learned Badra’s true identity from a misplaced medical form, and a Google search led them to the True Crime Junkies group. When Trent and Harris called The Colony Police Department with this information, they said they were told that Badra was “dangerous” and to change the locks to their apartment.  

“I watched him die,” they said she would say, over and over. “I watched Ethan die.”

Trent claims that, while he was under the influence of ketamine, Badra convinced him that he had been molested by a family member (as she had with Rendlen), and that she played him interviews with serial killers like Ed Kemper and 911 calls of rapes in progress. “She comes up with these outlandish, horrifying lies about people, then plants them in your brain while you’re tripping,” Trent said. “And you've got to understand that she didn’t just say things. She has done her research. She knew terminology that she could use to make you think it was real.” Harris also alleged that Badra dosed her with methamphetamine, and then psychologically manipulated her. 

But even more peculiar is that both Trent and Harris relay Badra’s recounting of Rendlen’s death. On several occasions, they said she broke down completely, bursting into uncontrollable bouts of tears to confess that she had witnessed his last moments. “I watched him die,” they said she would say, over and over. “I watched Ethan die.”

As of this writing, Badra uses Tatiana on Facebook Dating, where she claims to be 29 years old, and Tanya (a diminutive for Tatiana) on Instagram. On both platforms, she has claimed Jewish familial lineage, despite her past activity on Stormfront and Catholic upbringing (an event program obtained by VICE lists Badra as completing her first Holy Communion in 1997). Occasionally, Badra will post about Rendlen. Davis Trent found her Reddit account still logged in on his computer (the account was also sent to VICE by another independent source and deleted after VICE reached out for comment). “I was present when my fiancé had a psychotic break and made a run for it,” Badra wrote in r/eyeblech, a subreddit dedicated to gore and post-mortem photographs. “Some absolute psychopaths on Facebook gave me the gift of spamming my email with his autopsy photos.” (The Dallas Police Department’s Open Records Division was able to confirm the release of autopsy records, but not the requestor’s identity).

Even recently, Badra’s life, as she recounts it, is filled with stories of high drama and suffering. Members of the True Crime Junkies group posted screenshots of Badra celebrating the sixth month of a pregnancy on her Instagram account, a claim that most members suspected was untrue. But on March 3rd, Badra posted a photo of her newborn daughter, born 19 months after Rendlen went missing, to her Instagram. 

The True Crime Junkies started buzzing again. “I believe it is her baby and hope that being a mother at last for real will make her change her ways,” one member commented. Others were less optimistic. “Oh snap!” another member wrote. “I was team ‘she’s faking this pregnancy!’”

A few weeks later, Badra wrote a sobering post about her baby’s hospitalization for seizures. “Still no answers to the ‘why’ of the epilepsy,” it read. “We have an appointment with genetics on Monday to go over the epilepsy gene panel, then neuropeds on Wednesday. Send good vibes her way!”

RF Jurjevics does research consulting work for a New York City-based private investigator. They were previously a staff writer at the San Diego Reader, and have written for Allure, GOOD, and Real Simple.