American teenaged murderer Charles Starkweather was born on November 24, 1938, in Lincoln, Nebraska. He murdered 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming within two months from December 1957 to January 1958. He killed all of his victims, but one between January 21 to January 29, 1958, which is the date he was captured and arrested. Charles had his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate accompanies him in his spree in 1958. He was executed by electrocution one year and five months after his arrest whereas Caril Ann was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Charles execution was the last one in Nebraska until 1994.
Charles and Caril Ann inspired a lot of film/shows including The sad**t (1963), Badlands (1973), Kalifornia (1993), Murder in the Heartland (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), The Frighteners (1996), and Starkweather (2004).
Charles Starkweather was born to father Guy and mother Helen who gave him birth name Charles Raymond "Charlie" Starkweather. Charles was born with genu varum which is a mild birth defect that affects his legs and causes them to be deformed/contorted/misshapen. He also had a speech impediment which resulted in his classmates always teasing him. He came from a poor respectable family where he was the third child of seven children. His father was unemployed most of the time because of his rheumatoid arthritis in his hands which affected his carpentry work. Helen worked as a waitress whenever Guy could not work.
Charles went to Saratoga Elementary School and graduated on to Irving Junior High School and then onto Lincoln High School. He excelled in gym class, and that may be due to gym class helped him to outlet his rage against his bullies and began using his strength to bully those who had bullied him. His anger grew, and he started bullying anyone that did not like him. It did not take long for people in his community to start looking at him different as he went from being a good, well-behaved person to a trouble maker.
Charles" high school friend Bob von Busch said that:
" He could be the kindest person you"ve ever seen. He"d do anything for you if he liked you. He was a hell of a lot of fun to be around, too. Everything was just one big joke to him. But he had this other side. He could be mean as hell, cruel. If he saw some poor guy on the street who was bigger than he was, better looking, or better dressed, he"d try to take the poor ba**ard down to his size."
Charles Starkweather was eighteen-years-old when thirteen-year-old Caril Ann Fugate older sister introduced Charles to Caril Ann in 1956. Caril Ann sister was dating Charles when she introduced him to her sister but called it quits not too long after because he appeared to be too obsessive and creepy. Caril Ann continued talking to Charles after the relationship ended with her sister and him.
Caril Ann and Charles began dating, and Charles began working at Western Union newspaper warehouse after he dropped out from high school. He chose that newspaper company to work for because it was located next to Caril" Ann school (Whittier Junior High School in Lincoln) which allowed him to see her every day after school. Charles employer said that "Sometimes you"d have to tell him something two or three times. Of all the employees in the warehouse, he was the dumbest man we had."
Charles taught Caril Ann how to drive with his father"s car but she crashed his 1949 Ford one day into another vehicle, and Charles" father had to pay for the damages. His father banished Charles from their family home after the car because he did not want to condone Charles behavior.
Charles quit working at the newspaper warehouse and started working as sanitation worker earning minimum wage. Charles used the route his garbage truck takes to began planning his bank robberies and thought of his personal philosophy to live by for the rest of his life: "Dead people are all on the same level."
Caril Ann"s family did not approve of her dating Charles, and they run away together, but they kill her entire family before running away. Caril Ann said that she is innocent and that Charles was the one who murdered her family without her knowledge.
Charles Starkweather Murders:
- 1957, November 30: Charles killed Robert Colvert in Lincoln
Charles was furious when service station attendant Robert Colvert did not want to sell him a stuffed animal on credit, so he returned several times during the night to purchase other small items. His last return to the service station was him carrying a shotgun which he used to demand Robert into giving him $100. He then drove Robert to an isolated area where he shot Robert in the head after Robert became injured from fighting with him for the gun.
Charles confided in Caril Ann that he robbed Robert, but someone else killed Robert. Caril Ann told officials later that she did not believe Charles, but she pretended to believe him because she was scared for her life and fearful of him. Charles told officials that he felts as though he was outside of the law and could commit whatever crime he wanted without feeling any guilt or fearing of what the repercussion might be after he murdered his first victim.
- 1958, January 21: Charles murdered Velda, Marion and Betty Jean.
Charles went to Caril Ann"s home, but she was not home. Charles shot Caril Ann"s mother Velda and stepfather Marion Bartlett after they told Charles to stay away from Caril Ann. Charles then strangled and stabbed Caril Ann"s two-year-old sister Betty Jean several times after killing Velda and Marion. Caril Ann came home to discover her family dead, so she helped Charles hide their bodies behind the house. The couple stayed at the house for a few days, but relatives became suspicious after Caril Ann would not let them in the house and dismissed them quickly. Caril Ann"s grandmother informed police of the Caril Ann"s suspicious behavior and the police arrive at their residence on January 27.
Charles and Caril Ann fled to a family friend, seventy-year-old August Meyer"s farmhouse in Bennet, Nebraska where he shot, and killed, August in the head and also killed his dog. The couple fled the farmhouse scene and drove their vehicle into the mud to hide evidence. They left their car in the mud.
- 1958, January/February: Robert Jensen and Carol King
Teenagers Robert Jensen and Carol King stopped to offer Charles and Caril Ann a ride, but Charles forced the teenagers to drive them to an abandoned storm shelter in Bennet, Nebraska. Charles shot Robert in the back of his head and tried to rape Carol but could not which resulted in him getting furious leading him to kill her and stabbing her numerous times on her partially nude body. Charles confessed to shooting Robert but denies killing Carol and said that Caril Ann shot Carol.
- 1958, February: C. Lauer Ward, Clara, and Lillian Fencl
Charles and Caril Ann entered a family"s home in a wealthy residence part of Lincoln, Nebraska and stabbed Clara and her maid Lillian Fencl to death. Charles then snapped their family"s dog neck. Charles shot and killed Clara"s industrialist husband C. Lauer Ward when he came home that evening. The couple then stole as much jewelry as they could from Ward"s home and put it in Lauer"s black 1956 Packard.
Charles claims that he threw a knife at Clara, but Caril Ann was the one who stabbed her multiple times. All police agencies around the area came together to do a house-by-house search for the killers as Lancaster County was in an uproar over the murders so close to home. The chief of police of Lincoln requested a block-by-block throughout the city while Governor Victor E. Anderson sought the Nebraska National Guard"s help.
- Merle Collison
Charles and Caril Ann needed a new car because police knew Lauer Ward"s vehicle. They awoke Merle Collison who was a traveling salesman that was sleeping in his Buick outside of Douglas, Wyoming along the highway. Charles said that Caril Ann shot/killed Merle after his shotgun jammed. Charles also mentioned that Caril Ann was the "most trigger happy person" he has known.
Charles was not familiar with the push-pedal emergency brake which was a new feature in cars and Merle"s car had it on. They did not get far because the car stalled while they were driving and a passing motorist somewhat came to their rescue, but an altercation ensues after Charles threatened him with his gun.
Caril Ann ran to a deputy sheriff as he arrived on the scene screaming that Starkweather is going to kill her. Charles tried to escape the sheriff by driving over 100 miles per hour as the officer fired shots at him which caused his windshield to shatter and cut him resulting in him bleeding. Charles stopped his vehicle and surrendered to the police.
Sheriff Earl Heflin of the Converse County said that "He thought he was bleeding to death. That"s why he stopped. That"s the kind of yellow son of a bitch he is" referring to Charles Starkweather.
Charles Starkweather decided to be extradited to Nebraska because he thought that both states had the execution law and he would have been executed regardless of what state he chose. Charles did not know that Wyoming Governor opposed the death penalty. Charles and Caril Ann were transferred there the late part of January 1958.
Charles Starkweather first tried to free Caril Ann of all charges by claiming that she had nothing to do with the crimes and that he captured/kidnapped her but he changed his confession several times. He testified at Caril Ann"s trial that she wanted to partake in the crime and he did not force her. Caril Ann claimed that she did not know her family was dead and that Charles always threatened her that he would kill her family if she did not do as he says. Judge Harry A. Spencer knew that Caril Ann had many chances to escape Charles but did not, and the Judge did not believe her hostage story. Charles stated that he thought that he should be sentenced to execution but Caril Ann should also be condemned to execution.
Charles Starkweather was convicted of murdering Robert Jensen and was sentenced to the death penalty. Robert was the only victim that Charles was tried for. Charles was executed on on June 25, 1959, at 12:04 a.m. by the electric chair at Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Nebraska. Charles was buried at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln which is the same cemetery five of his victims were buried in, including Mr. and Mrs. Ward.
Caril Ann Fugate was sentenced on November 21, 1958, to life imprisonment and paroled in June 1976. She only served 17 1/2 years at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York, Nebraska. Caril Ann changed her name after she moved to Lansing, Michigan and began working as a janitor at a hospital in Lansing. She later married Frederick Clair in 2007. She only spoke once in 1996 about the murder spree and refused to at all other times. Caril Ann Clair then moved to Stryker, Ohio where she was involved in a fatal car accident with her husband who was driving on August 5, 2013; her husband died from the accident.
Film and TV shows inspired by Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate:
Show: Naked City - Episode: A Case Study of Two Savages (1962)
The sad**t (1963)
Show: Stark Raving Mad (1983)
Show: Murder in the Heartland (1993)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
The Frighteners (1996)
Show: ID series, Deadly Women
Episode 4: Dangerous Liaisons
Aired September 2, 2010
Show: ID series A Crime to Remember
Episode: Teenage Wasteland
Aired December 6, 2016
Show: Criminal Minds
Episode: The Thirteenth Step
Aired: January 11, 2011
Title: Caril (1974)
Author: Ninette Beaver
Title: Outside Valentine (2004)
Author: Liza Ward
Title: Not Comin" Home to You (1997)
Author: Lawrence Block
Title: Pro Bono: The 18-Year Defense of Caril Ann Fugate
Author: Jeff McArthur