Kansas City doctor whose ex-wife poisoned him and killed 2 kids in fire dies at 68

Michael Farrar, a Kansas City physician whose infamous ex-wife Debora Green was convicted of murdering two of their children in a 1995 Prairie Village arson fire, died Wednesday. He was 68.

Farrar’s loved ones submitted an obituary to the Kansas City Star, which was published on Saturday.

Multiple family members and his employer North Kansas City Hospital, where he worked for 44 years, declined to comment on his death. He died in Smithville, Missouri, according to the obituary.

Born on March 3, 1955, in Lawrence, Kansas, Farrar “excelled at everything he did,” from earning an Eagle Scout designation to being recognized as a Shaman of the Mic-O-Say Tribe, a “meaningful tradition to scouting and the Kansas City community,” according to the obituary.

Farrar, a cardiologist, and ex-wife Green, an oncologist who stopped practicing medicine to care for their three children, had been living apart when a spotlight was thrust on the family three decades ago.

In October 1995, a few days before Halloween, a fire ravaged the six-bedroom home they once shared. Neighbors told The Star they were shocked and horrified to learn two children, including a “darling” 6-year-old, had died.

Firefighters found Tim Farrar, 13, and Kelly Farrar, 6, in the charred guts of the estate. Green and her 10-year-old daughter, who climbed out of a bedroom window, escaped the flames.

Farrar filed for divorce the day after the fire.

Arson investigators quickly suspected foul play. In November 1995, roughly one month later, Green was arrested and booked in the Johnson County jail on charges of capital murder and attempted murder.

Along with setting the blaze, authorities alleged Greene was behind Farrar’s mysterious summer illnesses, which led to three hospitalizations between August and September 1995. They determined he had been poisoned.

One month before the fire, police responded to the Prairie Village home for a domestic disturbance and found castor beans in Green’s purse. When processed, the seeds produce ricin, one of the deadliest poisons in the world.

Green had studied chemistry before going to medical school. Johnson County prosecutors concluded she had poisoned Farrar’s food in an effort to kill him.

Prosecutors threatened to pursue the death penalty and later offered Green a plea deal. She took no-contest pleas in the killings of the two children, acknowledging the state had enough evidence to convict her.

Green was also convicted of attempting to murder Farrar and their daughter who survived the fire. She received a “Hard 40” sentence of 40 years in Kansas prison without the possibility of parole.

In court, as she made her plea, Green spoke of “psychiatric illness” and “basic communication failures within our family” as setting the stage for “this tragedy.”

“I do not seek to use that fact to escape my personal responsibility,” she said at the time.

In a 1997 interview with The Star, Farrar said he was trying to move on from that horrible chapter. Along with losing two children, Farrar underwent brain and heart surgeries to repair damage done by the poison.

He said he was planning to remarry and looking forward to leading a more “private life.”

“To me, I’d just as soon people forget about the whole thing,” Farrar said. “I just want to stay out of the limelight. Just go on with my life.”

People did not forget. That year, the case was the subject of a New York Times bestseller titled “Bitter Harvest” by true-crime author Ann Rule. The book was later adapted to a Lifetime movie called “A House on Fire.

In the early 2000s, Green made headlines again as she sought to overturn her murder convictions and have her prison sentence tossed out. The latest effort trailed off in January 2015 when a Johnson County judge denied her request for a new sentencing hearing.

Outside of brief transfers to Johnson County jail for court appearances, Green, now 72, has remained a prisoner at the Topeka Correctional Facility, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Farrar, meanwhile, largely succeeded in fading from public view. He remained tied to Kansas City, practicing at North Kansas City Hospital as a cardiologist with a career spanning more than 30 years.

Fararr began working in 1988 at what was then known as Northland Cardiology. He arrived there with degrees from University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Medicine, class of 1979, and postgraduate education at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, completed in 1982.

In 2018, North Kansas City Hospital shared a brief video interview as a tribute to his time there. A native Northlander who graduated from North Kansas City High School, Farrar recalled his younger days working there as a volunteer helping X-ray technicians.

“Even though it’s become a big hospital now, it still has a small hospital feel,” Farrar said in the interview. “And being from the area’s a lot of fun. Because, you know, when I first started I used to tell everybody that they took care of all my classmates’ parents.”

“And now, I take care of all my classmates. Because we’ve all gotten old,” he added.

Farrar remembered a time when, as a high schooler, he would walk up to a door where surgeons were actively working and knock. He told them he aspired to become a doctor someday and wanted to watch.

“And they said, ‘Sure, come on back!’” Farrar recalled, flashing a smile. “These people that had these operations had no idea that some high school kid was in there watching.”

He said it was a great experience that led to a long career in medicine.

His beloved career came second only to his affinity for being “Gramps” to granddaughter Norah, according to his obituary.

He survived by his wife Angela and his many close relatives.

Funeral services have been organized by the Meyers Northland Chapel in Parkville, Missouri. They will be held on August 30, 2023 at Avondale United Methodist Church, 3101 NE Winn Rd, Kansas City, starting at 1 p.m.