When Ferrell was five months old, Karen and Terry Ferrell adopted her from Korea. A year and a half later, she said, her parents converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved from Phoenix to Salt Lake City.
"I grew up in the in the quintessential middle-class, suburban family. I say it's akin to the Cleavers, just a little less Aryan," she said.
Her parents were very supportive of her when she was growing up, she said. She started playing piano at three and a half and participated in gymnastics and dance. She even tried tennis for a while, she said.
"That didn't last long," she said. "I guess I'm not WASPy enough for it."
Ferrell said that she was "a straight-A student" with test scores "off the charts." By second grade she said she was already reading at a college level and had actually skipped the first grade, only moving back because she couldn't handle the older kids.
Friends came easily through life. Asked if she is making friends in jail, Ferrell said: "I would say more acquaintances. I know that I am here as well as them, but I don't necessarily think this is the place for me to be making life-long friends."
Growing up, her favorite book was "To Kill a Mockingbird." These days, she has been reading Douglas Coupland's "JPod" and "All Families Are Psychotic" and said she loves Henry Miller, Proust, Augusten Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Tolstoy.
Recent reads from the jail's library -- "they actually have a pretty good selection," she said -- include books by David Sedaris and Ira Glass.
By the time Ferrell made it to high school things changed. She said she didn't connect with teachers.
"In history I always asked about the war in the Philippines or how Columbus slaughtered millions of people. And that's not what they teach in the public schools in Utah," Ferrell said. "The teachers had no idea what to do with me."
She dropped out of school, landing a job as a veterinary technician.
"They had me at $11.75 an hour," she said. "At the time that was amazing because all the people I knew still in high school were working at Little Caesars for five bucks an hour."
Eventually, that wasn't enough.
Checks started being forged. Other scams -- taking advantage of the time it takes a check to clear -- were played on banks. She opened a cable account in her ex-boyfriend's name. Several thousand dollars were stolen.
Then there was Western Union.
Ferrell said she borrowed money from her mom and step-dad, Calvin Slaaen, who her mother married after divorcing Ferrell's father and moving back to Arizona.
On June 6, 2008, Calvin Slaaen went to a Western Union counter to pick up an $8,300.72 money order from Ferrell, according to court documents. The Western Union office had received a fax purportedly from another Western Union official stating that such a money order will be sent and should be picked up by Karen or Calvin Slaaen. A fraud investigator for Western Union told police that the letter was fake.
Ferrell told ABC that the whole set-up was done "just to stall my parents."
Instead, the police got involved. Eventually other victims in Utah would come forward -- $1,600 here, $850 there -- because of the publicity of her case.
Ferrell was briefly in jail, before being bailed out by a friend. Then she skipped a court date and decided to move to New York.