Short Bussed
serial killer couples.jpg

Pretty self explanatory title. Post your fave serial killer "intimate" couples here. Some like Bernardo/Homolka, Fred/Rose West, etc. already have their own posts, so I would advise performing a forum search first.

I'll start it off:

Nightrider and Lady Sundown: The Bonnie and Clyde of Georgia


Mysterious Attacks

Georgia map with Rome locator
Kenneth Dooley was part of the staff at the Youth Development Center in Rome, Georgia, a facility for troubled adolescent girls (sources disagree as to whether he was a teacher or security).� �One night in September 1982, a woman called who claimed to know his wife and who asked for directions to his home.� He gave them, but his wife of a few months claimed not to know such a person.� They forgot about the incident until the night of September 10.� This time, says Thomas Cook in the definitive account Early Graves, a young woman called for Kenneth while he was away.� She called again later, and when he came to the phone, an angry male voice told him he was going to pay.� He could not understand what it meant.
Later that night, four shots were fired into his home and two penetrated his study.� �He saw a car speed away and called the police but did not know what to report.� He couldnt figure out if the shots had been random or intended for him, and if the latter, who might have done it.� Still, he was worried.� He had recently gotten married and along with his wife he had his two children in the house.� He remained awake the rest of the night, but he wasnt alone in being attacked.
The following night, a home-made Molotov cocktail was thrown at another house in town, that of YDC staff member Linda Adair, according to Michael Newton.� �Thomas Cook records the fact from police reports that her husband told her that she had received several phone calls just prior to this incident from a young woman.� But when Linda had gone to the phone to take the call, the line was dead.� Right after the fire-bomb was tossed, a neighborhood boy had seen a brown car with cream-colored stripes speed away with a man and woman in it.� The woman, he reported, had long reddish hair.
When the flames were extinguished, the police examined the bomb, which had been made from basic partsgasoline, a cloth and a bottle.� �They suspected that Lindas husband, an arson inspector, had been the target, but it soon became clear that they had guessed wrong.� The phone rang while they were there and Linda answered.� A young womanperhaps the same one--told her that she and Kenneth Dooley were both going to die that night.� So, clearly the assault that night had been a message for her.
This call and another one made later to police indicated that the two attacks were linked and that the motive was anger and revenge: a female caller who would not give her name or any other details claimed to have been sexually abused at the YDC.� �Her call had been automatically recorded, which would prove useful when the situation became more complicated.� The police had Linda Adair listen to the tape of this call and she realized that the voice sounded similar to the woman who had called her in such an accusatory tone.� Yet she could not identify her as someone she knew from the YDC or anywhere else.
The police searched for clues and interviewed people at the YDC, trying to pinpoint who might have been responsible for the incidents and decide whether the allegation of abuse had any substance.� Since no one had been harmed in these attacks and since there were no clear leads, the case went on a back burner.� There was no reason at the time to suspect that the violence had only begun, with a particularly fiendish agenda.

Lamb to the Slaughter

On Saturday, September 25, 1982, two young girls were approached on the western side ofRome, Georgia, by a woman who wanted to know their names. Her MO, it later turned out, was to pretend she knew a girl she approached and call her by a wrong name.� �Once she was set straight about her mistake and learned the girls actual name and where she lived, this woman would continue to pressure her about going with her to ride around in her car.� Both of these girls managed to avoid her.� They were the lucky ones.

Lisa Anne Millican
Thirteen-year-old Lisa Ann Millican was at Riverbend Mall, the central shopping area in Rome, GA, which had a videogame arcade for families and teenagers.� �Lisa was on an outing with five other girls from the Ethel Harbst Home for neglected girls in Cedartown (though Cook later says there were boys at this facility as well). � Two years earlier, a woman had been robbed at gunpoint here at this mall, on the day before Halloween, but Lisa did not know anything about that.� Nor would she have cared.� Being a teenager, she probably would not have believed that such incidents would ever come close to her.� But she was wrong.� In fact, the very woman who had been arrested for the robbery and sent for a brief time to a juvenile facilitythe Rome YouthDevelopment Center---was now luring her away from the mall and toward a brown car.

Since no one recalled a struggle, Lisa apparently went easily enough.� �One minute she was with the other girls, told to meet at a certain spot within an hour, and by the time they were all back together again, writes Cook, she was gone.� Three separate searches were made, and then the police were called, but Lisa was nowhere to be found. � The worried social worker who had accompanied the girls said that Lisa had been wearing jeans and a white-and-black patterned blouse.

Little River Canyon & Falls, Alabama

Several days went by and there was still no sign of young Lisa.� �Then three anonymous calls to the police from a femaleall of them apparently from the same person---directed them to Alabamas Little River Canyon, near Payne, some thirty-five miles away.� First, the Rome police received and recorded a call and checked it out superficially but found nothing.� Then police in Alabamatook the next two calls.� A call also came into a Rome radio station, claming that the police were covering up a murder done by a female juvenile officer.� The caller named Lisa Ann Millican as the victim.� (In retrospect, it appears that the girls abductors were attempting to implicate people in authority for various offenses, from sexual abuse to murder.)
Finally the police decided to make a more concerted effort to search the area where the caller directed them, especially since she had seemed insistent and had given quite specific instructions.� �Just as night was falling on September 29, they spotted the still figure of a child, draped partially over a tree trunk, face down on the canyon floor.� A pair of jeans hung from a branch.� As they rappelled down to get closer, they could see from a bullet hole in the victims back that she had not fallen accidentally but had been murdered.� She apparently had been thrown there from the eighty-foot height onto the rocks.� As they carefully brought her body up to the top in a basket, a woman who had known her from one of the juvenile facilities identified the body as that of the missing girl.� Lisa Ann Millican had been found.
The autopsy showed that she had been subjected to a series of brutal attacks, from rape to injections in the neck and back with something that boiled the fat under her skin into whatNewton�quotes the county coroner describing as the consistency of anchovy paste.� Crime scene investigators also found among the debris near her body three plastic syringes to test for fingerprints and to determine with chemical analysis the substance that had been used on the girl.� From the crime lab, they learned that it had the basic components of toxic household cleaners, such as Liquid Drano.� These would affect the flesh in the way Lisas skin appeared at the site of the injections.� And it would have been terribly painful.� The jeans that had been hanging from the tree had red splotches, which turned out to be blood, and they werent Lisas jeans, so someone who had been close to the girl had thrown them over the edge.� The jeans might belong to her killer.

Det. Sgt. Kenneth Kines
Detective Sergeant Kenneth Kines was assigned to head the investigation.� �Aside from whoever had made the phone call, there were no suspects.� Yet the voice had been recorded, so if an arrest were made this recording could be compared to that person.� It was also a good place to start.� Investigators listened to each of the calls made to the various places regarding Lisa and some of them agreed that the same woman had made all fourespecially when the transcripts were typed out.� The clues lay in how she talkedthe phrases she used and her accent.� She sounded fairly young and several things she had said indicated that she was familiar with the juvenile justice system.� Investigators checked whether Lisa had any enemies.� While it turned out that she was not popular with anyone, there seemed to be no specific grudges that might fuel murderous intent.� Whatever connection she had with the caller, it remained a mystery.

The police figured that Lisas abductor was probably from the Rome�area rather than Alabama, since the first calls had been made there.� Yet they interviewed everyone they could think of, from the girls at the home where she had been placed to former neighbors, to her destitute father, who had allegedly molested her, and her mother, who had a boyfriend fresh out of prison.� Many people were given lie detector tests, and some looked pretty good as suspects, but no one emerged as a viable person to continue to investigate.� It seemed that Lisa either had friends that no one had known about or she had been abducted by a stranger. � Given the calls and the fact that she had been murdered, it was unlikely that she had run away from the mall and had just stumbled into a bad situation.� This incident had all the marks of a predator who had grabbed her.
Even as the police were busy with this crime, another one was taking place on the streets ofRome, with another victim targeted for similar treatment.

Secret Codes

On October 3, cemetery worker John Hancock and his fianc�e, Janice Kay Chatman, accepted an invitation to go riding around.� �Although the young woman in the car was a complete stranger, these two lovers decided to go anyway.� Authors Michael Newton and Jennifer Furio say they were invited to a party and that there were children in the car, but other authors indicate otherwise.� Cook, whose account is most deeply researched, states from Hancocks story that the young woman told them she was lonely and just wanted some company for a little while.� As a Christian, he later said, he felt obligated to do what he could for her, so he and Janice got in.� On the way, they talked with the woman, who showed them her Cobra CB radio and got into a conversation with someone on the other end called the Nightrider. She acted as if she did not know him, but later events indicated otherwise.� Newton says that the couple played with the children, but Cook writes that the children came into the situation at a later point.�

Cobra CD radio

John and Janice had CB handles of their own, so when John saw the weakness of the frequency that their driver was using to chat with Nightrider, he wondered what was going on.� �This Nightrider character seemed to be quite close rather than where he said he was.� He communicated with Lady Sundown in a way that John could not decode, so he just relaxed and went along for the ride.� (Newton insists that her name was Lady Sundance, as a take-off from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.)� But then to Johns surprise, the woman took them outside town.� She came to a stop where Newton says a rather large man was apparently waiting (Cook says she parked first and he came in behind them in a Red Granada).� This man was the mysterious Nightrider.�
John introduced himself and Janice, and Nightrider said he wanted to find some booze.� Then they all drove away together in two cars to yet another spot that was miles from where they had all come together.� Nightrider pretended that he was looking for someone who could supply them.� John no longer had any idea where they were.� He had lost his sense of direction.
To his surprise, when he was allowed to get out to urinate, Lady Sundown walked up to him with a handgun and ordered him into the woods.� �She walked him down a narrow road and then he heard Nightrider yell at her to get it over with.� She told John not to worry about his girlfriend.� Nightrider yelled at her again and John soon found out what they had in mind when she shot him in the back.� He felt the impact in his right shoulder and fell to the ground, stunned.� Fortunately for him, Lady Sundown was in a hurry and did not pause to make certain that she had finished him off.

John Hancock, victim & survivor
John was shocked and dazed by this unexpected turn of events, but still alive.� He lay there for some time, feeling himself losing blood, but then revived.� He knew he had to act quickly.� He heard the cars drive off and when he was certain he was alone, he ran to the road to find someone to help.� He had no idea what this evil couple had planned for his fianc�e, but he hoped he could rescue her before he passed out from the pain in his back or from loss of blood. � Managing to flag down a helpful truck driver, he made it to the hospital, and a nurse called the police.

John had been shot through the right shoulder and would recover.� �The police initially suspected it may have been a drug deal gone bad, since John was saying that a woman had shot him and he had seemed to put up no resistance.� And then there was his manner.� While he spoke to them easily enough and they detected no dishonesty in his account, writes Cook, he seemed oddly unconcerned about his fianc�e, or even about his own attack.� It also seemed to be a rather strange story altogether, especially the part about getting willingly into a car with a complete stranger, for no apparent purpose. � Even so, there had been a number of reports over the past few days of people being accosted by a woman driving around in a brown Dodge with white stripes.� That lent his tale some credibility.
John was able to supply a description that gave police a break in all of the recent puzzling cases, although Cook says that this occurred serendipitously rather than as a result of his interrogation.� John was being taken into the police station for a polygraph by skeptical patrol officers when he overheard Kenneth Kines playing the tape of the female caller.� He recognized the voice as the woman who had shot him.� Telling his story again to Kines, he offered physical details of the couple for a composite sketch.� For Kines, this was a real break in the case.


John Hancock was willing to submit to hypnosis as a way to refresh his memory of the events and possibly supply more details than he had yet been able to offer.� �Cook says that he was taken to Atlanta to have this done.� Yet all he could recall during the session was a bumper sticker that he had not previously described.� He also rode with Kines around town to see if anything he saw might jog his memory.� He noticed two cars that looked similar to the ones driven by his attackersa brown Dodge and red Grenada.� Of that he was certain.
In the meantime, the bullet removed from his shoulder had been analyzed and could be used in the event that suspects were arrested with a weapon.� �Ballistics could make a definitive comparison. �����
Cook indicates that at an earlier stage of the investigation, Kines brought Linda Adair and Kenneth Dooley together in the police station after he had compared all the calls from the mysterious female and decided that they were all linked.� �Because he was investigating them at the same time that he was running down leads from the Hancock story, he got another break.
Kines wanted to know from Dooley and Adair if something had occurred at the YDC to a girl who might now be carrying out a grudge.� �He did not want any more people to be harmed, but Dooley and Adair denied that any sexual abuse had occurred and said that they did not know each other outside a professional relationship at the YDC.� Kines then went over all the files of the girls who had been sent to the YDC due to crimes they had committed and narrowed his list of suspects to five with prior records.� Among them was Judith Ann Neelley, and she fit the descriptions given by some of the witnesses.� In addition, she had been involved with an armed robbery, so she had a gun and knew how to use it.� She was obviously brazen.� Then came another serendipitous turn of events.
Frasier, who based his account in Murder Cases of the Twentieth Century�largely on Cooks book, writes that Linda Adair read the description of the Hancock/Chatman incident in the paper and believed she knew who had been responsible for the shooting.� On October 12, she came to the police with her own story, but Cook says the police actually came to her and told her about the incident. � As they described the two children whom Hancock said had accompanied the Nightrider, Linda reacted.�
She knew of a girl who had been at the YDC with kids that age.� �She even had pictures and showed them to the police.� The girl was Judith Neelleythe same woman whom Kines had decided was a good suspect.� Her husband was Alvin.� Kines found a police record on the Neelleys and asked that the photos be brought to him as soon as possible.� He placed them in a photo line-up to show to John Hancock.� John hesitantly picked out the Neelleys as his attackers, but said hed want to see them in person to be certain.� It had been night, after all, and in the photo the Nightrider, aka, Alvin Neelley, had a beard.

Alvin & Judith Neelley

As it turned out, this request was not difficult to accomplish, because the two suspects had already been arrested for other crimes.� They were in custody in Tennessee.

Boney and Claude

Judith Ann Neelley would acquire a range of monikers, pseudonyms and nicknames over her life, as recounted by Frasier.� �Referred to variously as Judith Adams (her maiden name), her CB handles, Lady of Sundown or Lady Goodyear, and the Bride of Frankenstein, she was born inMurfreesboro, Tennessee in 1964.� Her father, a construction worker and moderate alcoholic, died in an accident when she was nine.� Conditions at home deteriorated and according to Frasier, Judiths mother was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a teenage boy.� Even without that charge, the woman was apparently solidly promiscuous, thinking nothing of having her male companions come to her in the familys trailer.�

Alvin Neelley
When she was fifteen, Judith met Alvin Neelley, twelve years older than her (Cook variously indicates eleven and fourteen years older), and described as larger than most football players.� �He was pudgy and overweight, but apparently had a face that people called sweet.� The impression he gave to Detective Kines when they finally met, according to Cook, was that he was a wimpa pathetic character if there ever was one.� Yet it was always easy for Alvin to pick up girls.� Born inGeorgia, he was a car thief with a friendly demeanor who was more than happy to give Judith a way out of her situation at home.� Their chemistry was instantaneous and neither could imagine life without the other.� But Alvin was married.� He decided to get a divorce from a woman who was more than happy to see him go, and Alvin and Judith quickly eloped in Georgia in 1980.�

Judith moved easily with Alvin�into his life of two-bit crimes.� They were constantly on the move, robbing convenience stores and gas stations from Georgia to Texas to finance their transient lifestyle.� As they came into the Riverbend Mall parking lot in Rome, Georgia, they finally made a mistake.� In 1980, they robbed a woman at gunpoint.� Soon they were caught trying to cash stolen checks and were arrested.� Alvin, with outstanding warrants in several states, went to prison, sentenced to five years, and Judith ended up at Romes Youth Development Center.� She was pregnant at the time and gave birth to twins.� She was then transferred to another facility inMacon, Georgia.�
Judith wrote frequently to Alvin, telling him how much she detested the staff at the YDC and claming that they had sexually abused her.� �Whether she was just looking for attention is anyones guess, although all of her allegations have been denied and police found no evidence to support them.� Still, she managed to get Alvin feeling vengeful over these alleged incidents, and she herself burned with anger about them.
Judith was released toward the end of 1981 and having nowhere else to go, she moved in withAlvins parents in Tennessee�to await his release.� Yet she returned to her old ways, robbing another convenience store, and was arrested again.� Alvins parents helped to care for the twins.
Within six months, Alvin�had been granted early release, so they grabbed their children and picked up where they had left off, except that Alvin now had a score to settle with the staff at the Rome YDC.� When they were ready, they would act.� First, they needed money.� They learned how to steal checks from post offices and use the signatures to forge money orders, which became their primary means of supporting their transient lifestyle.� To keep track of one another, they installed CB radios in their respective cars. � Alvin became the Nightrider and Judith Lady Sundown.� Newton says they gave themselves the nicknames Boney and Claude as a joke about their resemblance to the roving, bank-robbing outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, while Frasier contends that it was the police who did so.� From a hotel, they attempted to lure a woman for an interesting sexual escapade, but she failed to show up.� Nevertheless, they were clearly creating fantasies together at this stage that would fuel their more serious crimes.
In September 1982, they found themselves in Rome, GA and decided to launch an all-out attack.

Quick Hits

First they took shots at Kenneth Dooleys home and tossed the Molotov cocktail at Linda Adairs residence.� �Within days, Judith had grabbed Lisa Millican and kept her captive in two different hotel rooms in Georgia and Alabama for three days.� (While Alvin initially denied being with them, witnesses saw him at both hotels.)� Judith and Alvin had sex with Lisa in front of their children and kept her handcuffed to a bed, which forced her to sleep on the floor. Then at Alvins direction (because, according to Cook, he had learned that this was a way to murder someone without discovery) Judith took Lisa to the remote canyon in Alabama that would become her grave and tried to inject her with drain cleaner products they had purchased for this purpose.� However, Lisa did not die.� Judith kept shoving the needle into her, six times over half an hour in the neck and back, but the deadly procedure did not work.� In the end, she decided just to kill the girl quickly, so she used a .38 pistol to shoot her three times.�
One bullet went through Lisas back and out her left breast, killing her.� �When Judith was certain she was dead, she shoved her over the edge of the cliff and watched her fall to the canyon floor.� Judith would later say, writes Frasier, that Alvin had masturbated as he looked down at the battered corpse, far below.� But Cook indicates that Judiths description of this incident to the police indicated that she had been alone.� Alvin, too, denied ever being there, but he had also initially denied raping Lisa before he finally said that he had indeed had sex with herbut only once.� It was difficult to know what the true story was. � He had even tried claiming that Judith had masturbated him into ejaculation and then put the sperm into Lisa herself.� Only when the police refused to buy that did he admit to sexual contact with the girl.
Five days later, Judith went cruising for another victim.� �She saw a woman at a pay phone that appeared to be alone, but Judith was unable to get her to go riding around.� That woman would remember later for the police the strange feeling she had when Judith approached her.� Fortunately for her, she had called her husband to come and get her.� Otherwise, she would have needed a ride.
Then one evening, Judith spotted 22-year-old Janice Chatman.� �She was with a man, but Judith thought that with Alvins help, that was easily managed.� They could get rid of the guy and take the girl with them.� Judith pulled over and invited the couple to go with her.� Then man hesitated but the woman seemed eager to do it.� They finally agreed to come along with Judith.� As the two got into the car, Judith called the Nightrider on the CB radio and let him know through their secretive codes that she was on her way.�
They rendezvoused on the outskirts of town, put Janice and John into Alvins car and the children into Judiths, and then drove around for a while.� �When they stopped, Judith forced Hancock into the woods and shot him.� She simply wanted him out of the way.� She and Alvin then took Janice, who was mentally retarded and unaware of what was happening, to a cheap motel nearby, raped her repeatedly, and then shot her.� They drove her body to a wooded area near a creek and dumped her.� This time they called no one to report the body.
It seemed to them that they had twice gotten away with murder and they were ready for another.� But first they needed money, so they went into Murfreesboro to pass some of their forged money orders.� They did not get very far.� Someone recognized them from a police flyer and they were arrested.� Each began at once to point the finger at the other, but Judiths eventual defense would stagger the police and enrage the town.� Once she was out for herself, she cut all ties to Alvin.� Apparently they both preferred a pirates code: every man (or woman) for himself.� And those who had surmised that Judith was quite bold for such a young woman were about to see how brazen she was.

S/He Did It

That was the way they operated.� �When theyd been arrested back in 1980, each gave a conflicting version of events.� Alvin said that the check cashing schemes had all been Judiths idea and hed done nothing.� Judith claimed that they had planned and pulled the robbery together.� But two years later, her story became more vivid.

Judith Neelley at time of arrest
Shortly after their arrest, Alvin�lawyered up, effectively shutting down interrogation, but his attorney urged him to tell the police what he knew.� He claimed that Judith had instigated the crimes and was responsible for eight murders (Frasier says 15 and Furio accepts fifteen victims as fact); he had just gone along with her.� She liked to have power over others, he said.� He didn't know what else to do.� He even said he was afraid that his wife might even kill him.� To his interrogators, he insisted that she was dangerous.�

Alvin�apparently believed her tales about sexual abuse at the YDC and thought she had good reason to be angry, but he also gave the impression that he had not wanted to commit the rapes and murders.� He thought there had been a prostitution ring at the YDC in which Judith had become a willing participant and believed that she had been raped by various court personnel as well.� In other words, he was fairly ignorant and gullible, and she seemed to have known how to push his buttons.� Alvin claimed that the weapons all belonged to Judith and that she had killed the two girls because of some rage that she carried around with her at all times.
And at first, Judith did accept the blame, exonerating him every step of the way.� �In her own confession, she described her final moments with Lisa and Janice.� She spoke of how the shots of Liquid Drano and Liquid Plumber had hurt Lisa, how she had begged for her life, and how her blood had gotten on Judiths jeans, necessitating that she be rid of them.� She also took responsibility for the fire-bombing and the shooting incident in Rome, but insisted that Dooley had raped her and that Adair had set it up.� But the suspects would both change their minds and their stories several times.
Alvin�told the police how Judith had killed Janice Chatman and gave directions to where they could find the body.� He even drew a map, implicating himself at least as an accomplice.� It wasnt long before they recovered the decomposing corpse.� She had been raped, shot to death, and dumped in a wilderness area.�

Prosecutors Mike ODell (front) & Richard Igou
Two bodies, two murders, two suspects.� It seemed obvious what came next, but the DA in Tennessee was stuck with a strange impasse.� The major crimesmurder, rape, and assaulthad all been committed in different counties, indeed, in some cases in different states.� And the evidence was weak against Alvin.� They could get him for the Chatman murder but not Lisa Millicans.� So he remained inTennessee, pleading guilty to his part in the kidnap-murder of Janice Chatman in exchange for life in prison.� Judith, however, faced first-degree murder charges in Alabama for the murder of Lisa Millican, and with her confession, they had a good case against her.� She was extradited there for trial, with a possible death penalty hanging over her head. She and her court-appointed attorney, Robert French Jr., got ready.
The Trial

Judge Randall Cole
Judge Randall Cole was to preside over the proceedings.� �Alabamahad a three-count indictment against Judith: murder, abduction with the intent to harm, and abduction with the intent to terrorize.� Frasier indicates that Judiths first legal maneuver was to attempt to be considered under the Youthful Offender Act.� That way she could be tried as a juvenile offender rather than an adult, which if convicted, would carry only a $1000 fine and a three-year prison sentence.� Her request was denied.� Her attorney then put Plan B into action: an insanity defense based on battered woman syndrome.

In the meantime, Judith gave birth to another child in January 1983.� �All three of her children had been born while she was under arrest for crimes.� She also went through psychiatric examinations to attempt to support her insanity plea.� Yet she was found to be oriented and cooperative, i.e., competent to stand trial.� She showed no sign of being delusional or having hallucinations.� She was intelligent and free of obvious organic impairment, and showed a good memory.� While there was some sign of depression, there was no reason to believe she was out of touch with reality or had been unable to conform her actions to the requirements of the law.

DeKalb County Courthouse

The trial in the DeKalb County Courthouse at Fort Payne, Alabama, began two months later in March.� �French attempted to have her confession thrown out, but the judge ruled that it would remain as evidence.� Nevertheless, he put all of his effort into proving that Alvin had controlled Judith and whatever she had done had not been her fault.� Shed had no choice.� Alvin beat her continually.

Judith Neelley with Robert French

French brought in Alvins first wife to describe her years of alleged abuse at Alvins hands, and she claimed to have many scars from those days.� �That set the stage for Judith to take the stand, and Frasier indicates that she was grilled for three days in front of the jury (Cook says four).�

Judith Neelley on witness stand
She went into extravagant detail about being a victim and being deathly afraid of her husband, Alvin.�� �She wanted to impress the jury that she could not help what she had done.� If she hadnt, Alvin would have killed her.� Everything from assault to murder had been done completely under his direction.� She had more or less been a mindless accomplice, unable to think or act for herself.� She had been subjected to vigorous abuse and constant demands for sex.� She had photographs that allegedly documented it all, and said that Alvin had ordered her to kidnap girls for him to rape.� She was, her attorney would say in his closing argument, like the bride of Frankenstein, an extension of Alvin, guided entirely by his will.� He was a Svengali.� Judith had actually begged him to let Lisa Millican go, but he had refused.� Judith had given the girl injections in the hope that it would end her pain quickly.� It had been an act of compassion.

DA Richard Igou
John Hancocks testimony very nearly assisted her, because he had to admit that Alvinseemed to have been directing Judith right before she shot him, but DA Richard Igou managed to get him to say that she had clearly been acting on her own.� Igou also kept Lisa, the victim, foremost in the jurys mind so they would not mistake who was on trial.� Most of what Judith had said contradicted the letters she had written toAlvin, so Igou considered her entire performance on the stand an act.� He was determined that this was a play that would end badlyfor her.� He had no doubt that her rendition of shooting both womenwithoutAlvins directionwould present clear images for the jury.

During rebuttal, he called psychiatrist Alexander Salillas, who said that Judith had known the difference between right and wrong at the time of the offense and that she had consciously decided to commit murder.� �French attempted to derail him by asking about a psychiatric syndrome called coercive persuasion, and then tried to get him to admit that Judith had been subjected to it via isolation, brutality, and control.� In other words, he hoped the psychiatrist would stipulate that Judith Neelley had been brainwashed. Salillas responded that Judith, and other battered women, still had choice.� French attempted to undermine this with one example after another, but the psychiatrist remained firm.� And he was the final witness.� Both sides closed and the judge gave his instructions to the jury...


Short Bussed

Controversial Sentencing

The jury received the case on March 21, 1983, quite late in the afternoon.� �No one expected them to be ready with a verdict by midmorning the next day, but they were.� They found Judith Ann Neelley guilty of the kidnap and murder of Lisa Millican.� Yet they recommended that she be sentenced to life in prison rather than death. (Furio says they sentenced her to death.)
However, the sentence was up to Judge Cole, and he had written two opinions.� Ultimately, he decided that while Judith had been young, she was also brazen and cruel.� He thought the crime had been heinous and atrocious beyond that which is common to most capital cases, and sentenced her to death (Furio says to life, but her account is full of errors).� Judith listened to this and began to cry.� She was only eighteen years old.
Not wanting a second death sentence in another state, she pleaded guilty to the kidnap-murder of Janice Chatman in Tennessee�and received a life sentence.� Then she got ten years for the shooting of John Hancock.� It was her deal with Tennessee that spurred Alvin to finalize his own plea deal.� He was afraid his wife might testify against him.
It was the consensus of those who listened to the various witnesses that Judith was the brains behind the most serious of the couples offenses.� �It was she who had persuaded Alvin to participate with her in the brutal crimes, not the other way around. When they had lured Lisa Millican into their car and molested and killed her, it was Judith who injected her with liquid drain cleaner and who then shot her. She was also the person who shot John Hancock and left him for dead.� The question for a jury was whether she had done so because she herself was psychologically disturbed or whether she had been forcibly subordinated to Alvin in such a manner that she would do whatever he wanted, even when he was not around.� They had decided that she was aware of what she was doing and had not been under anyone elses power.� Apparently, they did.

Judith Neelley in jail
� ��
Judith settled into the appeals process as an inmate at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka.� �She became the youngest woman to have been sentenced to death row.� In a 1983 prison interview, quoted by Frasier and Cook, she reportedly said, I pray for strength.� I dont ask God...for me not to be electrocuted.� I just ask that if Im going to be electrocuted, to give me strength to go through it.

Alvin Neelley
Although Alvin had said that they were responsible for more murders, despite intensive investigations no evidence was ever found to link them to unsolved cases.� Nevertheless, Judith Neelley appears to have had a thirst for violence and power.� That she was young, slender, and blond gave her an advantage with those who would rather believe that the male was the instigator.� She was just a girl, after all, and several groups began to fight on her behalf.

Judith appealed to get a new trial, but in March 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal.� �Less then two years later, they let her death sentence stand.� She converted to Christianity and developed a prodigious correspondence, writing, says Frasier, between 30 and 60 letters a week.�
She apparently developed a relationship with another woman, who on May 21, 1994 was found dead in her home.� �She had shot herself, leaving photographs and a cassette recording of their fatal plan.� Neelley was found in her cell, her wrists slashed with a disposable razor, but she survived.
Then there was more news.

Gov. Fob James of Alabama
Alabama Governor Fob James decided that Judith Neelley did not deserve to die for her crimes.� �Before he left office, he signed an order to commute her sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.� This decision caused an outcry, so in an interview for the Postat www.postpaper.com, he defended his decision.� He said that he had given it long consideration and went through many documents, including letters pleading with him to reconsider Judiths case.� The jury, he noted, had given her life.� It was the judge in her case that had ruled for the death sentence.� James said that since the jury, who had seen all the evidence, had decided on leniency, and they had been chosen as Judiths peers, their recommendation was the proper one to follow.

Jamess act shocked former DA Richard Igou, who went on the record as saying, He did this without speaking to the DAs office or asking our opinion.� �It is clear he did not want us to be involved in his decision.� He found it ironic that James had come to his conclusion about the Neelley case on the same day on which they DAs office had requested that her execution date be set.�
Then after the sentence was commuted, with the expectation that it could be the final word, Alabamas attorney general ruled that the�law allowed the governor to commute the sentence.��

Judge Gene Reese
Neelleys attorney clamed that with time served she was eligible for parole immediately, but as reported in the Weekly Post, Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Gene Reese ruled in July 2002 that Neelley may not be considered for release until January 2014, fifteen years after her sentence was commuted.� �Even if she were paroled, she could be extradited to Georgia to face her life sentence there for the rape-murder of Janice Chatman.�

Judith Neelley
Currently, she is the second-longest serving female death row inmate in the country, according to a newsletter from Abolish, which publishes death penalty items from every state.� Given the twist and turns in this case to date, it would not be surprising to hear from Ms. Neelley again.

Baker, Teri.� �Court Rules Neelley not Eligible for Parole, The Weekly Post. � July 24, 2002.
Cook, Thomas.� �Early Graves: The Shocking True-Crime Story of the Youngest Woman ever Sentenced to Death Row.� New York: Dutton, 1990.
Frasier, David K.� �Murder Cases of the Twentieth Century.� McFarland & Co.� 1996.
Furio, Jennifer.� �Team Killers: A Comparative Study of Collaborative Criminals.� New York: Algora, 2001.
Halpern, Rick.� �Death Penalty News, Alabama, January 20, 1999.
Kelleher, Michael D. and C.L. Kelleher.� �Murder Most Rare: The Female Serial Killer.� New York: Dell, 1998.
Latty, Kristin, and Scott Wright.� �Former Governor Explains his Decisions to Commute Death sentence of Judith Ann Neelley, Prison Talk Online, April 2002.
Neelley v. Nagle, No. 97-6162, April 9, 1998.
Newton, Michael.� �The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.� New York: Facts on File, 2000.
Rawls, Phillip.� �Senators Try to Keep Child Killer Behind Bars, Prison Talk, March 5, 2003.
Wright, Scott.� Former Governor Explains Decisions to Commute Death Sentence, The Post, July 19, 2002.

Old Riverbend Mall in Rome, Georgia.
Where they abducted Lise Ann on Sept. 25, 1982.

On September 28, 1982, Lisa Ann Millican was shot in the head by Judith and
her body was thrown in the Little River Canyon in Fort Payne, Alabama.

A clue left behind at Little River Canyon in Fort Payne, Alabama.
Had red splotches, which turned out to be blood, and they weren’t
Lisa’s jeans.


Short Bussed
The True Story of Ray and Faye Copeland

Rare Breed

Ray and Faye Copeland in 1980

Ray and Faye Copeland arent the only husband and wife killers, but they might be the most bizarre. Not only did they commit multiple murders together, but they were both eligible for Social Security at the time of their crimes.��
Little information is readily available and few studies have been conducted on perpetrators over the age of 60.� According to the 2000 Russian Journal of Psychiatry, by L. K. Khokhlov, E. A Grigoryeva., and M. M. Rozum, most elderly murderers demonstrate a close relationship between pre-senile, senile disorders and social-psychological factors and more than half demonstrate clear evidence of psychopathology.� Another study conducted that same year by the Medical Correctional Authority showed that most of those sent to prison for the first time when 60 or older had committed crimes of passion.��
Ray and Faye were convicted of killing five men, and none of them were crimes of passion. Thats not to say they were in their right minds at the time.� �Perhaps in looking at the complete picture we can get a better understanding of what drove them to kill.

Paul Cowart, victim
Startling Discoveries

Jack McCormick, witness
On August 20, 1989, the Nebraska Crime Stoppers hotline logged a call from 57-year-old Jack McCormick.� �He had recently moved fromMissouri, where he had witnessed several events that made him fear for his life.� He had worked on a farm for an elderly couple named Ray and Faye Copeland, who would use drifters to commit crimes involving the sale of livestock.� In the beginning he was unaware of the illegal activities, but he eventually realized what was going on.� McCormick said Mr. Copeland eventually became aware of his suspicions and tried to kill him, which was why he fled.� As the conversation came to a close, McCormick mentioned he had seen several human bones on the farm.�Nebraska authorities, while somewhat skeptical of the story, notified detectives in Missouri.�

Copeland had a long arrest record for forgery and cattle theft, so Missouri�authorities took the tip very seriously.� They spent the next few months gathering evidence and used McCormicks statements to secure a search warrant.� On the morning of October 9, 1989, Sheriff Leland ODell, along with as many as 40 officers, several backhoes, and teams of bloodhounds, descended upon the Copeland farm.� With such a large area to cover, ODell needed all the help he could get.

The Copeland Killings
After spending a week scouring the farm and surrounding property, investigators had not found any evidence to back up McCormicks story.� �Some were beginning to wonder if they had made a terrible mistake.� Nonetheless, on October 17, 1989, all doubts were put to rest.� According to The Copeland Killings, by Tom Miller, investigators discovered three bodies in a local barn Ray Copeland was known to use.� Each one was buried in a separate grave and they were later identified as 21-year-old Paul Jason Cowart, from Dardanelle, Arkansas; 27-year-old John W. Freeman, from Tulsa, Oklahoma; and 27-year-old Jimmie Dale Harvey, from Springfield, Missouri.� All three had died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the skull.
No Deal

Barn, location of some bodies

The following week, investigators searched another barn Ray was known to use.� �More than a dozen deputies and volunteers spent several hours removing 2,000 bales of hay, which was stacked ceiling high. Investigators discovered a body wrapped in black plastic beneath the barn floor.� The victim had also been killed by a single gunshot to the back of the head.� He was later identified as Wayne Warner, age unknown.

Marlin bolt-action rifle

During a search of Rays home, investigators seized a .22 caliber Marlin bolt-action rifle.� According to the Kansas City Star, ballistics tests later revealed it was the weapon used in each murder.� Investigators also discovered a handwritten list of farm helpers in Fayes writing.� Twelve of the names had scrawled X's by them.� Five of those men turned up dead, and investigators suspected that the others, who turned out to be missing, were also dead.� In addition, they also found a quilt, which Faye had made from the clothing of the murdered men.

Dennis Murphy, victim
As the search began to wind down, investigators made one final discovery.� �While examining an old well close to where Warners body was found, they discovered the body of another man.� He was later identified as 27-year-old Dennis Murphy.� As with the others, his death resulted from a single bullet to the back of the head.
Prosecutors were quick to offer Faye Copeland a deal -- if she were to tell investigators where more bodies might be found, they would only charge her with conspiracy to commit murder and she would serve a few months in jail for her cooperation.� Regardless, Faye claimed to have no knowledge of any of the murders.� Both Ray and Faye Copeland were arraigned on 5 counts of first-degree murder.

Wayne Warner
Prosecutors did not want to take any chances and Ray was taken to a state mental hospital for evaluation.� �The last thing the state wanted was an insanity defense.� The public defenders office knew it would be hard to defend the couple together, so they filed for a motion to have the cases tried separately.� No one knew for certain which direction the trial would take, but everyone suspected Faye would have a better chance on her own.� The prosecution was playing hardball and rather than life in prison, they were seeking the death penalty in both cases.
Early Years

Ray Copeland was born in Oklahoma�during 1914, just as WWI was beginning in Europe.� Rays parents, Jess and Laney Copeland, moved around frequently as he was growing up and eventually settled in Ozark Hills, Arkansas.� By this time, Rays mother had given birth to a daughter and another son.� Following the conflict in Europe, the Great Depression began.� In order to survive, every person had to contribute to the familys survival.� Ray was no exception and during his fourth grade of schooling, he dropped out to help with the familys small farm.� Little is known about Rays adolescent years, but friends of the family later described him to Miller as stubborn and insubordinate.

Copeland family, circa 1930

Rays life of crime started at the age of 20, when he stole two hogs from his father and sold them in another town.� �His father later found out, but no formal charges were ever filed.� For the next several years Ray continued to commit petty thefts.� The majority of his illegal activities revolved around the theft of livestock, but he eventually started to commit more serious crimes.� In 1936, he was arrested in Harrison, Arkansas and charged with forging government checks.� He was later sentenced to one year in the county jail.�����

Ray Copeland, 1938
After serving out his sentence, Ray moved back to his parents farm.� �There is no public record of his activities for the next three years, so he either managed to stay out of trouble during this time or he was more careful in the crimes he chose to commit.

Things began to look up for Ray during the spring of 1940.� �During a routine visit to a physicians office, he met a young girl named Faye Della Wilson.� The fair-haired 19-year-old was the daughter of Rufus and Gladys Wilson, a hard working couple from Harrison, Arkansas.� Fayes parents had very little money, but they did manage to raise seven children in a dirt floor cabin.� Ray and Faye quickly hit it off and less then six months later they were married.� Within a year of their nuptials, the couple had a boy, whom they named Everett.� Two years later Faye gave birth to another child, Billy Ray.

Faye Copeland, 1938
In 1944, Ray decided to move his growing family to Fresno County,California.� The following year, the couples first and only girl, Betty Lou, was born.� Two years later, in 1947, the couples third son, Alvia, was born.� In 1949, Ray was accused of stealing horses from a local farmer.� No charges were filed, but Rays reputation was severely damaged.� Later that same year Faye gave birth to the couple's fifth child, William Wayne.� Due to suspected horse thefts, Ray was unable to find steady work, so he eventually moved his family back to Arkansas.
Downward Spiral

The Copelands were in Arkansas�for less then a month before Ray was arrested for cattle theft.� Charged with grand larceny, he was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail.� Upon his release from prison, Ray moved his family to Rocky Comfort, Missouri.� The change in scenery did not help and in 1951, Ray was again arrested for cattle theft.� He was sentenced to manual labor on the judges farm.
In 1953, Ray moved his family to Illinois.� Over the next eight years the Copelands moved from town to town and Ray was arrested on at least three separate occasions for writing bad checks.� Fines and jail time did little to deter Ray and he continued to dabble in illegal activities.� In 1961, Ray paid for 20 head of cattle with a $2,960 check.� The seller soon discovered the check was no good and Ray was arrested and sentenced to nine months behind bars.� Directly after his release, Ray passed another bad check during the purchase of 19 head of cattle.� He was again arrested and sentenced to another nine months in jail.
After his last stint in jail Ray finally came to the realization that something needed to change.� �He was spending more time as a prisoner than he was a free man.� Unfortunately, rather than change his actions he ultimately decided he needed to change his methods.� He needed to formulate a new game plan and he decided to go straight until he could figure out the details.
During the summer of 1966, Ray decided it was time to move once again, and he took his family to Missouri.� The following year, the Copeland clan purchased a small farm with 40 acres of land.� They paid $6,000 for their new home, which was located in Mooresville, Missouri.� They were in desperate need of money, so Faye soon took a job at Midwest Quality Gloves Corporation.
Over the course of the next several years many of Rays neighbors began to loathe him.� They viewed him as a penny-pinching old man and several suspected he beat his wife and children.� His wife and kids would verify these suspicions many years later.

The Unsophisticated Swindler

Ray had a keen eye for cattle and he knew a good deal when he saw one.� �His only problem was he never had any money.� As the old saying goes, It takes money to make money, so by the early 1970s Ray began working out the details of his new plan.� He knew he could not continue writing bad checks.� He never got away with it in the past and the last thing he wanted was to be sent back to jail.� His arrest record was long enough and another arrest could send him away for a substantial period of time.� No, he knew he could not risk doing that himself, but then he wondered if he could convince someone else to do it for him.� Someone no one knew and someone who could disappear without rousing any suspicion.� The plan needed some work, but he was certain he had stumbled onto something feasible.
Once Ray worked out all of the details, he began showing up at cattle auctions with hitchhikers and drifters.� �The two men would sit on opposite sides of each other during the sales and Ray would signal whenever he wanted a particular group of livestock.� When it came time to complete the purchase, Ray would have the man write out a check from Rays book and sign his name to it.� The check would eventually bounce, but by then Ray would have already sold the cattle.� When law enforcement confronted him about the checks, Ray would pretend to have no knowledge of the sales and would proclaim his innocence by pointing out the signatures on the checks were not in his handwriting.� Hence, no charges could be filed against him.� The scam was not very sophisticated, but surprisingly he was able to pull it off dozens of times.� Ray used several different drifters and all of them would disappear after the sales.�

Ray Copeland in custody

Ray felt he had formulated the perfect plan, but he did not count on the determination of local law enforcement to prove his involvement in the cattle scams.� Investigators eventually caught up with one of the drifters.� The man, Gerald Perkins, was cooperative with detectives and he provided them with a detailed account of Rays schemes.� Ray was quickly arrested and ended up serving almost two years in jail for check forgery.� After his release from prison, Ray managed to stay out of trouble for several years.� He still felt his plan was successful, if in need of some minor adjustments.
By the mid 1980s, Ray had fine-tuned his last scheme and was eagerly putting it into operation.� He would still use drifters, the only difference being he would not have them write checks from his account.� Instead, he would have them get a post office box and open an account in their own name and have them write checks from their own account at various livestock auctions.� Ray would explain this to them by saying the auctioneers disliked him and would not give him a fair shake.� Once the drifter wore out his welcome, Ray would see to it that he disappeared for good.

Trials and Verdicts

On November 1, 1990, 69-year-old Faye Copeland went to trial.� �According to articles in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Faye's defense was that her husband had committed the killings without her knowledge. She claimed she was both a bystander and a victim of battered woman syndrome.� As evidence of her guilt, prosecutors presented the list and quilt discovered during a search of the farm.� The jury found her guilty of five counts of first-degree murder.� The judge sentenced her to death by lethal injection for four of the counts and life without parole for the fifth.� Upon hearing her sentence, Faye Copeland sobbed uncontrollably.

Faye Copeland in court, 1991
The morning after Fayes verdict, a sheriff involved with the case was transporting Ray Copeland to a Kansas City�Hospital for another mental examination. During the trip, the sheriff began questioning Ray about Fayes trial.

You hear about the verdict Ray?
Nah ...what happened?
Well, they found her guilty and recommended execution for her, Ray.
Well, those things happen to some you know, he responded. Ray never asked about Faye again.

Ray Copeland, headshot
On March 7, 1991, 76-year-old Ray Copeland went to trial.� �After weeks of testimony and the admittance of the prosecutions ballistic test results, a jury of his peers found him guilty on all five counts of first-degree murder.� He was then sentenced to death by lethal injection.� Upon hearing the verdict, Ray simply mumbled, Im OK.� Ray and Faye Copeland became the oldest couple in American history ever sentenced to death.
Two years later, while awaiting execution at the Potosi Correctional Center, 78-year-old Ray Copeland died.� To this day many investigators believe Ray was responsible for other murders, which have yet to be discovered.

Potosi Correctional Center

On August 6, 1999, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith overturned the death sentence for 78-year-old Faye Copeland.� Fayes attorney was quoted by the Columbia Daily Tribune, as saying, The evidence of Faye's guilt was pretty thin, Faye just happened to be there.� She works in the greenhouse at the prison every day.� She wouldn't hurt a fly.� I think you can ask the warden and he would say he could open the door and there wouldn't be a danger to anybody.� Fayes attorney filed the appeal because the Livingston County jury that convicted her was not allowed to hear evidence of battered woman syndrome.
Even though the death penalty was no longer an issue, the judge allowed her murder convictions to stand and she was ordered to remain in prison for the rest of her life.� Several women's activist groups began to protest Fayes imprisonment, claiming she had suffered enough and that she presented no threat to society.� But their requests to commute her sentence to time served fell upon deaf ears.


Two weeks after her sentencing, Faye Copeland gave a rare interview to Lee Kavanaugh of the Kansas City Star.� �The following are excerpts from that interview:
"I couldn't have flowers at home, he didn't like me to be tending to anything other than him.� �As long as I was with him or working the cattle or the tractor that was OK. But flowers, no, he didn't like them.
I was raised to love my husband and support him no matter what.� �The man is the head of the family.� The Bible says it should be that way. It wouldn't do to say if Ray was (sic) mean to me or not.� Yes, he did mess up my life, but that's not to say that I wasn't a good wife to him.� I was never mean to him.� Maybe we'd have got along better if I had knocked the shit out of him a few times.

Faye Copeland, 1994
I've often thought since, maybe this was for the best.� �Where did I go wrong, if I went wrong?� I know one place was getting married at all.� But he was my life for many, many years. I didn't know nothing else.� Will I get out? I may go out feet first but I'll get out of here. Someday.

In November 2000, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon appealed Judge Smiths ruling and asked the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate Fayes death sentence.� �But, the federal appeals court upheld the decision.� Faye remained quiet during most of the proceedings, but when asked if she had anything to say, she stood up stating at that hearing, I think Ive paid for what I did or what I knew."� "God will forgive me for anything Ive said or done.
Afterwards, Fayes son, Al Copeland, spoke briefly with the Associated Press and said he had been pressing for his mothers release since she was imprisoned.� �Theres no way in the world Mom could have done what they said she had done," he said.� But in regards to his father, Al said: He was guilty. I have no qualms about that.
The following month, Tom and Jeanette Block, founders of Missourians Against State Killing (MASK), began fighting to have Faye released from prison.� �They desperately sought the publics help and requested that people send letters of support for Faye.� During this time this author contacted the group and later received the following reply:
While we are grateful that Faye is out of danger of execution, we are disappointed that she will remain in prison for the rest of her life.� �We have an application for clemency pending before Governor Wilson, asking that he commute her sentence to time served.� I have attached a copy of the petition.� Anyone interested in helping could write and urge the governor to grant our petition. Thanks for your support. Sean D. O'Brien - Public Interest Litigation Clinic.
On August 10, 2002, Faye Copeland suffered a stroke, which left her partially paralyzed and unable to speak.� Weeks later, she was paroled to a nursing home in her hometown.� The following year, on December 30, 2003, 82-year-old Faye Copeland died at the MorningsideCenter nursing home, from what Livingston County coroner Scott Lindley described as natural causes.� Faye finally gained freedom -- even if it was feet first.


The Copeland Killings, by Tom Miller.�1993, Pinnacle Books; ISBN: 1-55817-675-6
Kansas City Star�st1:State>Missouri
ColumbiaDaily TribuneMissouri
Saint LouisPost-Dispatch�-Missouri
Associated Press


Public Interest Litigation Clinic
Prison Talk
Abolish Archives
Hyper History Online



Short Bussed
Alton Coleman & Debra Brown: Odyssey of Mayhem


Deadly Duo

Maybe people shouldnt be surprised that a boy who had to endure the nickname Pissy because of a tendency to wet his pants would grow up to be one of Americas most savage spree killers. And it certainly didnt help that Pissy would go to prison on a robbery charge and emerge two years later with a tendency to dress in womens clothing and a desire for rough sex. Whatever the reasons, Alton Coleman and his girlfriend Debra Denise Brown will go down in history as a short-lived U.S. version of Great Britains multiple sex-slayers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.
The story of Coleman and Brown begins in the mid-1970s, takes place in five states and involves one of the largest manhunts in recent history. It is a tale of American criminal justice that stands among the most depraved and cruel incidents of the modern age -- Coleman and Brown demonstrated a lack of respect for human life that shocked even hardened FBI agents and police officers. In less than two months, they assaulted, raped and murdered their way from Illinois to Michigan and down to Kentucky before authorities were finally able to capture them.
Coleman and Brown are behind bars, each awaiting a date with the executioner, but the evil they wrought upon their innocent victims lives on to this day. The duo have used every avenue of judicial appeal possible and seek mercy from the courts mercy they rarely showed when they prowled the Midwest.
With every new court ruling or delay, dozens of survivors relive the horror of their encounters with the murderous pair of lovers. A child victim who managed to avoid death at their hands vows that she will never marry because of her inability to trust and questions whether she is still pure. Another survivor battles drug addiction, suicide attempts, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A mother and father must adjust to the fact that Coleman will never stand trial for their daughters murder and they may never find out the circumstances surrounding her slaughter.
Colemans family, on the other hand, consider themselves victims not of their deadly relative, but of a system that they believe persecutes and plans to kill an innocent man. Debra Brown's mother continues to rue the day her daughter met Alton Coleman. Brown was a good girl, unknown to police before she fell under Colemans spell, but by the time the pair were caught, it was clear that Brown was just as vicious and murderous as her ex-con boyfriend.
Probably what is most disturbing about Alton Coleman is that he shouldnt have been on the streets to begin his rape- robbery -murder spree. Over and over Coleman managed to manipulate the judicial system in his favor, beating sexual assault charges on several occasions. Frustrated prosecutors and lawmen knew they had a monster on their hands, but could only stand by helplessly as jury after jury let the him walk, confident the system had worked to free an innocent man.

A Boy Called "Pissy"

Alton Coleman
Born in Waukegan, an Illinois town about a half-hours drive north of Chicago, Alton Coleman endured the taunts of schoolchildren who teased him because he so often� wet his pants. They christened the mildly retarded boy Pissy.

Family members and law enforcement officials who had dealings with Coleman since his teen years said Alton was slow to show emotion and generally kept to himself. Clearly alienated from his peers, Coleman had a reputation for his strong sex drive reportedly he was bisexual and willing to engage in sex any time, any place with anyone.
Said one friend of Colemans late mother: He knew he was different...even as a young child.
As he grew up, (Coleman) was deeply into insidious kinds of sexual gratification.
Coleman first came to the notice of police as a teenager when he was picked up for breaking windows in his Waukegan housing project. He was quickly labeled as a troublemaker, but for the most part, his crimes were of the petty sort. There was little indication to authorities of the mayhem to come.
Interestingly, property damage, often in the form of arson, can be an indicator of serial murder tendencies. That is not to say that every youngster who breaks windows or lights fires is bound to be a serial killer, but only that many multiple murderers committed similar acts as children.
On the way to becoming a serial killer, Coleman gave the law many chances to put him away, but Alton was smooth as silk, according to those who fought him in court. Lawmen said Coleman put on a good appearance in court which often convinced jurors that authorities had the wrong man. Alton, according to friends, also relied upon the supernatural to help him escape justice. He claimed that voodoo made him invulnerable to attack by the law.
He was good at conning jurors, Waukegan Police Lt. Marc Hansen told the Detroit Free Press in 1984 when Coleman and Harris were hiding out in Detroit. He tells a convincing story in court. People are impressed with his testimony. He comes off as a decent person.
A prosecutor who watched Coleman beat a rape charge agreed.
He knows what kind of case holds up in court and which ones dont, said former U.S. attorney Fred Foreman. Hes been to the penitentiary. Hes a career criminal.
But when the fa�ade wouldnt work and voodoo god Baron Samedi wasnt listening, Coleman resorted to more common forms of beating the rap, most notably witness intimidation.
Its difficult to get people in court to prove these charges because they are sexual assault charges, they involve kids, they involve family that dont want to see him go to jail, said Hansen.
In 1983, Colemans sister went to authorities and told them her brother tried to rape her eight-year-old daughter. Three weeks later, she went to court to have the charges dropped.
Its a misunderstanding, she said. A lot of families go through that. It doesnt make any difference now.
The judge hearing the motion for dismissal was astounded by the 25-year-old womans testimony I think the woman as she stands here today, is terrified of this man, the judge said.� He called her account of the incident completely implausible.
But in the end, with no victim and no witnesses, the judge had no choice but to free Alton Coleman and dismiss the charges.
Colemans rap sheet before his Midwestern spree reads like a one-man sex crime wave.
In 1973 he and an accomplice kidnapped, robbed and raped an elderly woman. She refused to testify about the rape and Coleman served two years on the robbery charge. Three months after his release from Joliet, Coleman was arrested for another rape. He was acquitted but served time for a lesser charge. Four years after that spell in the pen, Coleman was acquitted of rape. A year later he was arrested for an attempted rape the charge was dismissed. In July, 1983 he was charged with the rape of his niece. That charge was dismissed. In early 1984 he was indicted for the knifepoint rape and murder of a suburban Chicago girl whose mother was a friend of his.
Coleman learned he was wanted for that crime but disappeared, kicking off his multi-state crime spree with his girlfriend, Debra Brown.

Odyssey of Mayhem

Debra Brown
Why Alton and Debra went underground is still a mystery 15 years after they were arrested. Police blamed Colemans intense hatred of blacks, but longtime friends dismissed that reason as absurd.� The pairs victims were mostly black because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Coleman stayed in traditionally black neighborhoods because they provided a place for him to hide.

That sounds so crazy to me, said one Waukegan public official who knew Coleman since he was in diapers.
Why does he victimize blacks? Black neighborhoods are the logical place for him to go. If he went into a white community, they would have found him long ago.
A friend of the family said Coleman could not deal with his homosexual tendencies.
He used to dress up like a woman a lot. It was well known that he had different habits than a normal male, the friend said.
Coleman is a classic disorganized serial killer. He rarely stalked a particular victim, but instead lashed out at whomever was nearby. He used whatever tools he had handy to kill or incapacitate his victims and there did not appear to be any ritual to his violence.
What probably set him off was the realization that he no longer had anything to lose. Perhaps the indictment on the aggravated rape and murder charges which could have brought the death penalty were enough to finally push him over the brink to whatever madness prompts such violence.
While the pair was on the run, Coleman was indicted on murder charges in Wisconsin and a federal warrant was issued for his capture.
Regardless of the motivation, Coleman and Brown began their spree on June 5, 1984 when the pair rented an apartment in Gary, Ind. Coleman had been wanted by police since May 31 and Debra Brown had been interrogated about his disappearance on�June 1.

The Spree Begins

The pair laid low for two weeks until June 18 when two young girls, Tamika Turks and her 9-year-old aunt disappeared on their way to a candy store. Later that day, the 9-year-old was found beaten and raped. Tamika was missing.
A day later, Tamika's badly ravaged body was found in a wooded area in Gary. She had been raped and killed by someone stomping on her chest.
The older girl was forced to watch as the pair killed Tamika Brown holding Tamika to the ground and covering her nose and mouth and Coleman jumping on her chest and face until her ribs fractured and punctured her vital organs. The older girl then was forced to have sex with both Brown and Coleman before being beaten about her head. To this day the young woman suffers severe headaches and screaming fits.
She will get to screaming and crying like someone is hitting her on the back of the head, said Mary Hilliard, the childs mother. Her injuries left the family with $15,000 in medical bills, which were substantially, but not completely, covered by insurance.
LaVerne Turks, Tamikas mother, was forced to move to Minneapolis because the memories of Tamika in Gary, Indiana, were too painful.
LaVernes gone. Tamikas missing. My daughter is having these problems. Our family will never be the same, said Hilliard, who attempted suicide shortly after her granddaughters death.
The same day Tamika's body was discovered, Donna Williams, 25, was reported missing by her parents. Her car was stolen, as well.
A week later, Williamss car was found abandoned in Detroit with a forged identification card featuring Browns picture. Residents from the area said the car had been parked in the alley since June 19. Police in four states were now looking for the pair, working on the assumption that Donna Williams had been murdered, even though her body had not been found. In the meantime, two days after Williams was reported missing, a Detroit woman was kidnapped by a man and woman whom she later identified as Coleman and Brown. She escaped while driving the pair to Toledo by purposefully ramming her car into oncoming traffic.
Coleman and Brown were able to survive by befriending good Samaritans and later turning on their friends, authorities said.
Weve come to the conclusion that Coleman and Brown are staying with people they meet, said FBI Special Agent John Anthony in Detroit. They spend a day or two with the people, get a little money gambling with them and then assault and rob them and steal their car.

Detroit Crime Wave

While in Detroit, Coleman and Brown eluded police while instigating a small, but violent, crime wave. Warrants for their arrest were issued for the kidnapping and robbery of the 28-year-old Detroit woman who managed to escape the killers, a June 28, 1984 robbery and beating of an elderly Dearborn Heights couple and the June 30 robbery of two Detroit men.
By the time the deadly duo left Detroit, police in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, as well as federal authorities, were on the lookout. Despite Colemans disorganized pattern of murder, there were some similarities among the crimes in every case the cars stolen by Coleman and Brown were recovered within 12 hours. When authorities were not able to locate a 1975 Buick stolen by the pair after they beat and robbed a 55-year-old woman and her companion, they had good reason to suspect that Coleman and Brown had left the Motor City.
Sadly, even though the pair had fled to Toledo, the evidence of their crimes continued to surface. In an abandoned house near Wayne State University in Detroit, the badly decomposed body of Donna Williams was found on July 11. It was clear that she hadnt lived long after she arrived, as a hostage, in Detroit.
There will likely never be any closure�- legal or psychological�- for the family of Donna Williams. When authorities gathered to determine the best course of action against Coleman and Brown, the Williams case was not tried.
We chose to go with the strongest cases against the two that would result in the death penalty, said Lake County, Indiana prosecutor Jack Crawford. It appeared that Williams was killed in Michigan, which does not have the death penalty.
For Robert and Zenota Williams, Donnas parents, punishment is not foremost on their minds.
I will always wonder what, exactly, happened, Zenota Williams told the Detroit Free Press in a retrospective on the spree three years later.
Three other homicides tied to the pair will also probably not ever be tried: the slaying of 77-year-old Eugene Scott of Indianapolis and the killings of Virginia Temple and her 10-year-old daughter in Toledo. Scott was suspected of being their last murder victim because his car was found in Evanston, Ill. where they were arrested.
From Toledo, the pair continued south, stopping long enough in Cincinnati to murder Marlene Waters, who was found bludgeoned to death in the basement of her home. Waters husband was badly beaten in the attack and left for dead. Coleman and Brown stole the Waters car and headed to Lexington, Ky., where they abandoned the car in a cornfield.
In nearby Williamsburg, the duo kidnapped Oline Carmical and drove to Dayton, Ohio leaving Carmical locked in the trunk of his car. An elderly Dayton couple was found beaten and gagged in their home after the fugitives stole their car. Another Dayton couple reported to police that Coleman and Brown robbed them.
The trip from Tamika Turks murder to the crimes in Indianapolis took less than a month, with the pair committing felonies on the average of crime every other day.
In all, the murderous 53-day rampage from the time Coleman raped and murdered the 9-year-old in Kenosha, Wis., to the time they were arrested in Illinois -- resulted in a slew of felonies: eight homicides, as many as seven rapes, three kidnappings and 14 armed robberies.


Some time after the murders of the Temples and Scott, Coleman and Brown returned to the Waukegan area. Their case had inspired a great deal of notoriety across the country and Coleman had recently been named as a special addition the FBIs 10 Most Wanted list. In becoming a special addition, Coleman joined such notable felons as H. Rap Brown and Martin Luther Kings murderer, James Earl Ray.
Colemans family aside, they had few friends left after their spree and it wasnt surprising that when an acquaintance of Colemans saw the pair walking near Evanston, Ill., he would turn them in. Authorities had been watching Evanston closely because of Colemans known associates there and the fact that the duo had rented an apartment in Evanston prior to fleeing to Gary. Knowing that there were few criminals as desperate as Coleman and Brown, authorities were cautious in making the arrest.
Once police pinpointed their location the pair was spotted by undercover officers in a local park state, local and federal authorities began to converge on the couple. Shortly before noon on July 20, 1984 Coleman and Brown were watching a pick-up basketball game from the bleachers at Mason Park on the west side of Evanston as officers began to approach.
Coolly, as if he hadnt a care in the world, Coleman began walking away as plainclothes and uniformed cops neared. Wearing a torn yellow shirt and sporting a short haircut unlike the jheri-curl do he wore in published photos, Coleman surrendered peacefully when confronted.
You got the wrong man, he told arresting officers. He provided two aliases and Brown identified herself as Denise Johnson. She was carrying a loaded revolver and Coleman had a long knife hidden in his boot, but neither went for their weapon.
They looked like they did on TV, said an 11-year-old who witnessed the arrest. The capture was quick and easy. �

Coleman and Brown in police custody

Although there were some holes in the authorities investigation, it was clear that they had been expecting the two-person crime wave to return to Evanston. Neighbors in the area said they had heard for three weeks that Coleman and Brown would eventually turn up there. The mood of the neighbors was as jubilant as that of police, who clearly basked under the media spotlight.
There was a community awareness about him, said one neighbor. He wasnt going to be able to come in here and snatch anybody. We were waiting for him.
Residents of the Mason Park area told the media that Coleman looked tired and emaciated when arrested and they speculated that the lethal duo had just run out of steam.
Law enforcement officials thought along similar lines with one officer wondering if they had unconsciously wanted to do so: Coleman had never worried about leaving fingerprints at his crime scenes, and FBI agents said he was so lackadaisical it was almost as if he was trying to leave a calling card.
Those same fingerprints would eventually do in Alton Coleman. Despite his protests that officials had the wrong man, Evanston police were able to positively identify the man arrested in Mason Park as the man who left fingerprints at crime scenes in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. Fingerprints on file with the FBI conclusively proved that the suspects in custody were Coleman and Brown.

Brown's Confession

With Coleman and Brown in custody, the problem fell to state and federal officials to untangle the slew of accusations against the couple and to decide which cases to prosecute.� It was clear from the outset that the most punitive states would have first shot at the pair. That meant capital crimes committed in Michigan and Wisconsin, which have no death penalty, would be tried last if at all.
We want him first, said Lake County DA Fred Foreman. Ive been in court with this man before and I want to bring him back.
Brown and Coleman were separated by police and Debra, easily the most wanted woman in the country, was advised of her constitutional rights. She immediately invoked her right to remain silent and asked to speak to an attorney.
In the Evanston police station, the FBI agent who administered the Miranda warning continued to ask Brown questions about her identity things like her name, age, birth date, and address, according to court documents. An Evanston detective questioned Brown as well, seeking clues to an attack in his jurisdiction for which the pair was suspected.
When the time came to transport Brown to the federal lockup, she spoke with agents on the trip to Chicago. Arriving at the federal building, she was once again advised of her rights and she once again refused to sign a waiver. She did, however, agree to talk to officers as long as she could stop when she wanted to.
Over the next two and a half hours, Brown discussed the crime spree in detail, in effect confessing to many of the crimes committed during the brief, but violent odyssey across the upper Midwest. When she finished, she once again asked to speak with an attorney. No further inquiry was made until after Brown spoke to a lawyer.
During trial, Browns attorney protested that her Fifth Amendment right the right against self-incrimination was violated because authorities continued to interrogate after she had asked for counsel. The trial court found that the Evanston detective did violate her rights and the evidence from his questioning was ruled inadmissible. However, the confession given to federal authorities in Chicago was used in the trial and with it conviction was easily obtained.
Brown was sentenced to die for the murder of Tamika Turks.
Later, Brown was sentenced to die for the Cincinnati murders, but she continued to be held on Indianas death row. Coleman was convicted of the same murders and also sentenced to die. In January 1991 the governor of Ohio commuted Browns death sentence, saying she was retarded and dominated by Coleman. She is now serving two life sentences in Ohio for her crimes there. However, Indiana is not finished with her.
It took almost seven years, but in August 1991 the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court had not erred by allowing the confession into evidence. The conviction and death sentence would stand. The appeals court found that despite her repeated attempts to speak to an attorney, the confession was separated by space, time and subject matter from her first request for counsel that it was proper. Brown willfully gave the confession, the court noted, after being advised of her rights.
Interestingly, it was Browns conversations with authorities while she was being transported to federal custody that created the loophole which could result in her execution. She asked questions like where am I going? and what am I charged with?
Criminal defense attorneys fumed at the courts decision, with one saying to the Indianapolis Star that the Fifth Amendment was being squeezed to death.
If you ask anything, you create an opening the state can drive a truck through, said Daniel L. Toomey, who argued Browns case before the Court of Appeals.
Today, Debra Brown, the only woman on Indianas Death Row, is serving out her sentences in Ohio. Whether or not she will ever see the executioner in the Hoosier State remains up in the air.


In August 2000, ruling in a Virginia capital murder case, the U.S. Supreme Court said a murder defendant is entitled to constitutionally adequate legal representation. Colemans attorneys immediately filed for relief under the high courts ruling and the Court ordered the Indiana Supreme Court to reconsider Colemans death sentence.
Coleman alleged that during the sentencing phase of his trial his counsel was inadequate and did not bring up mitigating factors that might have spared Coleman from a trip to the electric chair. Alton suffered from a troubled childhood, a personality disorder and brain dysfunction, attorneys said.
The Indiana high court had already upheld his conviction and sentence on direct appeal.
Given these aggravating circumstances, even had his counsel presented the evidence of Colemans impoverishment and abuse, we see little likelihood the jury recommendation or the trial judges sentence would have been different, wrote the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court.
Even if the state of Indiana spares Alton Coleman, there are any number of prosecutors who are still awaiting a crack at him. The chances of Coleman, or for that matter, Brown, ever seeing the outside of a prison cell are slim. If Indiana takes a pass on Coleman, then Ohio wants its turn, and if the Buckeye State spares his life, then its on to Kentucky.
Alton Coleman was executed by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville at 10 a.m. Friday, April 26, 2002.� He was 46 years old.
He spent his last days fighting tenaciously for his life, but appeals that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court were unsuccessful. Coleman claimed ineffective counsel and that the prohibition against cruel or unusual punishment would be violated by having his execution broadcast over closed-circuit television.
The spree killer also charged that his jury was racially biased.
Relatives of Coleman's victims in Illinois and Indiana were able to watch the death sentence being carried out via a secured television link, but no recording was made of the event.
Coleman was executed for the beating death of Marlene Walters, 44, of Norwood, Ohio on July 13, 1984.� Harry Walters, the victim's husband, and two of the couple's sons-in-law observed the execution inside the Death House.
His execution, the third since Ohio reinstated the death penalty, was well-covered by media, with the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections reporting that 43 news outlets had applied for credentials, including TV stations, and newspapers in each state where Coleman and Debra Brown killed.
He ordered a huge last meal: filet mignon with sauteed mushrooms, fried chicken breasts, corn bread, biscuits and brown gravy, french fries, broccoli with cheese, salad with french dressing, onion rings, collard greens, sweet potato pie with whipped cream, butter pecan ice cream and a cherry Coke.

Six Thousand Days

Alton Coleman
Alton Coleman spent more than 6,000 days on death row in Ohios Mansfield Correctional Institution and used nearly every means available to save his life.

Mansfiled Correctional Institution
During his more than 16 years as a condemned prisoner, Coleman was described by prison officials as a model inmate who enjoyed the media attention his crime spree and status as one of the first Ohio inmates in decades to realistically face the executioner. He particularly enjoyed speaking to female reporters, and often tried to use his "celebrity" status to curry favors such as girlie magazines and money for the commissary from those who sought to interview him.
The appeals process for capital crimes is lengthy, even when the condemned inmate forgoes his or her right of appeal. Under Ohio law, the first review of a conviction with a death penalty specification is a "direct appeal" that examines the trial record to ensure there were no errors leading to an incorrect verdict and sentence. This direct appeal involves a review by the trial court and the state Supreme Court. Depending on the date of the conviction, as was the case for Coleman, an intermediate state appeals court also reviews a case on direct appeal.
Coleman's direct appeal began shortly after his 1985 conviction, but was not concluded until September 1989.
Alton Coleman's next appeal was a "post-conviction" review, which looks at the case to determine if any errors outside the trial record resulted in a violation of his state or federal Constitutional rights or to an incorrect verdict and sentence. His post-conviction review motion was filed in September 1990 with the trial court in Hamilton County, Ohio. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected his post-conviction appeal more than three years later.
Ohio�capital defendants are given the opportunity for a third state appeal, a so-called "Murnahan Appeal," named after the inmate who brought the first action of this type. In a Murnahan Appeal, the inmate challenges the effectiveness of the lawyers who handled the previous state appellate actions. Effectiveness of trial counsel is examined in the post-conviction review.
Coleman's Murnahan Appeal was rejected six months after it was filed, on August 3, 1994�-- some 10 years after he was first indicted for the crimes for which he was convicted.
Having run out of state appeals, Coleman turned to the federal judiciary for relief. He filed a habeas corpus action�-- a claim alleging that his federal Constitutional rights had been violated�-- in December 1994 that the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati rejected in February 1998.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals received Coleman's notice of appeal of the lower court ruling in May 1998 and for the next two years, the state and the prisoner filed briefs with the appellate court. On December 5, 2000, more than 15 years after his conviction, the two sides squared off in oral arguments before a three-judge panel. Those judges rejected Coleman's habeas petition in March 2001.
On October 15, 2001 the United States Supreme Court denied Coleman's request to review the lower federal court rulings. The way was clear for the Ohio Supreme Court to set an execution date, which it did, choosing April 26, 2002.
Coleman was not out of procedural means to escape execution, however. Once the high court sets an execution date, the state clemency process begins. During his clemency hearing before the Ohio Parole Board�-- which can recommend clemency to the Governor�-- Coleman's attorneys submitted an apology of sorts from the killer and tried to convince the board that Altonwas mentally incompetent.

Governor Bob Taft
Their pleas were rejected, and the Parole Board did not recommend that Governor Bob Taft grant Coleman clemency.

When Taft announced that he would not spare the killer, Coleman quickly filed suit in federal court, alleging that the state's clemency process was flawed. That suit was handily rejected by both the district and appeals courts.
In the days leading up to April 26, Coleman's attorneys repeatedly petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court with various arguments as to why Coleman should not die. In the last two weeks of his life, Coleman sent six unsuccessful petitions to the High Court, all of which were rejected without comment.
That Court, like so many others, saw no reason why Alton Coleman, who killed so many people without a second thought, should be allowed to live.

Unfinished Business

Southern Ohio Correctional Institution
Alton Coleman reportedly spent a fitful night in the death house at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville prior to his execution. Although death row is located in Mansfield, condemned prisoners are taken to Lucasville for execution of their sentence.
He ate a hearty "special meal" (Ohio convicts don't have a "last meal" because they are served breakfast the morning of the execution), but slept poorly, officials who were present said. The morning of his execution, he had a few bites of toast.
He had been baptized two days earlier by a Dallas-based televangelist, and had said goodbye to his family a week prior to his execution. It was their first visit to him in years and they could not attend the execution because "they could not get a ride," the spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told the media.
The observation room overlooking the execution chamber in Lucasville holds 12 people, and an accordion door separates the convict's witnesses from those representing the victims. Altoninvited a spiritual advisor and his legal team. The number of witnesses representing victims presented a logistical challenge to prison officials who finally had to obtain special permission from the Ohio Supreme Court to set up closed-circuit television for the overflow crowd of 18 people (not including media witnesses) who came to watch Coleman die.
In typical fashion, Alton claimed the closed-circuit TV violated his civil rights and sought to block the move. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected that argument.
At shortly before 10 a.m., wearing a "non-denominational" prayer shawl with crosses and Stars of David over his prison blues, Alton Coleman walked into the death chamber and quietly laid himself on the gurney. He remained still as the guards fastened restraints on him and attached the lines that would contain the three chemicals to a shunt already in place in his arm.
He looked over at the witness room and appeared to say something, but it was impossible to hear him through the glass.
A prison official asked if he had any final words, he shook his head and then the executioner pushed the button that would begin the execution process.
Although just three chemicals are used to execute a prisoner, one to induce unconsciousness, another to stop breathing and a third to stop the heart, eight syringes, operated automatically once the button is pushed are required. It often takes two or three very long minutes for all the syringes to empty.
As the drugs began flowing, Alton Coleman began reciting the 23rd Psalm. By the time he reached "he leadeth me beside the still waters," the sodium pentothal began to take effect and Coleman lost consciousness.
He was pronounced death at 10:13 a.m. EST.
Some of the survivors of Coleman's victims considered their work just half finished.
The grandmother of 7-year-old murder victim Tamika Turks of Gary, Ind., said survivors won't know peace until Coleman's accomplice, Debra Brown, is put to death by the state of Indiana.

Debra Brown
"One chapter has been closed, but there's another chapter: Debra Brown," she said. "Until that's done, there can be no peace. (But) we'll never be the same because what they took from us, they cannot give back to us."
Their thoughts were perhaps best summed up by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Rich Niehaus, who sentenced Coleman to death.
"I sentenced him and knowing this day has come, well, I got a queasy feeling, " Niehaus said on the day Coleman paid for his crimes. "But if there was anyone who is Exhibit 1 in an argument for the death penalty, it was Alton Coleman."


Chicago Tribune,�
July 22, 1984, Police Bask In Glory Of Fugitives' Arrests
Detroit Free Press,�
Thursday, June 28, 1984, FBI, Police Search For Slaying Suspect
July 4, 1984, Unsuspecting Residents Aid 2 Fugitives, FBI Says
Friday, July 6, 1984, Mother Fears 'Some Kind Of Spell'
July 15, 1984,Mother Frets For Daughter With Fugitive
July 15, 1984,� Alton Coleman 'Smooth As Silk': Police Say Fugitive Has Frustrated Justice
July 21, 1984, Alton Coleman Held In Illinois: Bond Set At $25 Million Cash
July 21, 1984, The Chase For Alton Coleman
Associated PressFebruary 13, 1987, 1984 Midwest Crime Spree Continues To Exact Price In Pain
The Indianapolis StarAugust 30, 1991,� Murder Spree Conviction Upheld
November 17, 1991, Confession From A Killer: Did Police Cross The Line?
February 3, 1998, Lone Woman On State's Death Row Is In Ohio
April 25, 2000, High Court Edict May Aid State Death Row Inmate: Justices Tell Court To Restudy Sentence Of Murderer Who Claims He Received Ineffective Legal Counsel.


Short Bussed
Gerald & Charlene Gallego

Known Victims

Several of their victims.

  • September 10, 1978 (both were bludgeoned with a tire iron, then shot in the head):
    • Rhonda Scheffler, 17
    • Kippi Vaught, 16 (shot three times in the head)
  • June 24, 1979 (both were beaten with a shovel):
    • Brenda Judd, 14
    • Sandra Colley, 13
  • 1980:
    • April 4, (both were beaten with a hammer):
      • Stacey Redican, 17
      • Karen Chipman Twiggs, 17
    • June 7: Linda Aguilar, 21 (bashed with a rock and fatally strangled)
    • July 16,: Virginia Mochel, 34 (fatally strangled)
    • November 2 (both were shot):
      • Craig Miller, 22 (shot three times in the head)
      • Mary Elizabeth Sowers, 21
We have a few stock images that spring to mind when we think of serial killers. Maybe we see, when we're inclined to think of such things, a Jeffrey Dahmer-type character—quietly savage, a misfit loner who practices his unspeakable avocation under society's radar. Or maybe Ted Bundy is our archetype—a conscienceless charmer who leaves mutilated bodies as his peculiar calling card. We probably do not, however, associate married couples with our notions of serial killing.
But the fact is that couples do commit serial murders, and quite efficiently indeed. Though such murders have not been common enough to entrench themselves in the public psyche, they have occurred with some regularity over at least the past thirty years. Probably the most lurid of these cases is that of Paul and Karla Bernardo, an attractive young Canadian couple who, in the early nineties, gleefully kidnapped, drugged, raped and/or killed a number of women and carefully captured many of their perverse exploits on video tape. The furor over the Bernardo arrests and Paul Bernardo's subsequent trial coincided roughly with shocking revelations coming out of Gloucester, England regarding Fred and Rosemary West. Over many years the Wests murdered several women and girls, including some of their own children, and buried the bodies in various locations in their house, garage and garden. Also in England, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley worked as a serial killer team preying upon children.
A strictly American couple was the Sunset Strip Killer Doug Clark and his girlfriend Carol Bundy, a Los Angeles strain of the same psychopathic syndrome. And even before the sensational cases of the nineties, killer couples were at work. Alvin and Judith Ann Neelley of Georgia, had they not been quite so inept, probably would have taken a greater toll than the thirteen-year-old girl and the woman they kidnapped, raped and killed in late 1982. At least as high a toll as that exacted by Gerald and Charlene Gallego. In the late seventies, the Sacramento, California couple kidnapped and killed ten people. Most of their victims were teenage girls, lured and captured in well-planned schemes, the ultimate goal of which was to provide a steady procession of disposable "love slaves." Depending on whose story you believe, Charlene Gallego was either a reluctant facilitator of, or a willing participant in her husband Gerald's tragic extended binge. After the couple's apprehension, Charlene claimed that Gerald had beaten and intimidated her into helping him, but Gerald, for his part, insisted that she had taken part in the assaults and killings. "We had this sexual fantasy see, so we just carried it out," Charlene later recounted chillingly. "I mean, like it was easy and fun and we really enjoyed it, so why shouldn't we do it?"

Gerald & Charlene

Gerald Albert Gallego,
under arrest by Mississippi
police (CORBIS)
Gerald Armond Gallegos criminal pedigree was flawless.� He was born in 1946 while his father, whom he would never meet, did time in San Quentin.� Upon his parole, the elder Gallego resumed his criminal activity and was returned to prison.� When he was next paroled he fled California, eventually landing in Mississippi where he, in two separate incidents, killed two police officers.� In 1955, Gerald Albert Gallego received the dubious distinction of being the first man executed in Mississippis new gas chamber.��
Little Geralds mother was no stranger to the lawless life either, having been raised in an extended family that included murderers and child molesters.� Lorraine Pullen Bennett Gallego was a prostitute in Sacramentos skid row, and her boy Gerald served as a runner for various pimps during the 1950s.�
By contrast, Charlene Gallegos upbringing was a fairy tale.� She was born Charlene Williams in 1956 to Charles and Mercedes Williams.� Charles Williams had worked his way up in the grocery business, advancing from supermarket butcher to an executive position with a national grocery chain.� Charlene was an only child and grew up in Arden Park, an upper-middle-class area of Sacramento.� She was gifted and talented, with a 160 IQ and a prodigious talent for the violin.� It was not until she started high school that predilections for alcohol, drugs and sex revealed themselves in her character.� She barely graduated high school, failed out of college, and was a veteran of two short, failed marriages, all in rather short order.� Still, millions of girls had preceded Charlene in the grand tradition of teenage rebellion and its related disastrous decisions without descending into sexual sadism.� As far as anyone could tell, she was just a very troubled and spoiled girl.
For his part, Gerald Gallego followed his own tradition of rebellion and disaster.� His run-ins with police began when he was six years old, and by the time he met Charlene in 1977, he had been arrested at least twenty-three times and had served time at the Fred C. Nelles School for Boys, the Preston School of Industry, the Deuel Vocational Institution, and the Vacaville Medical Facility, as well as various city and county jails.� He had also accumulated a rather large collection of ex-wives, having married and divorced five times.� Whatever failings he may have had, Gallego was irresistibly attractive to some women.� Among those women was his future wife and partner in crime, Charlene.

Gerald & Charlene
Gerald and Charlene met at a seedy poker bar in Sacramento in September 1977.� I thought he was a very nice, clean-cut fellow, Charlene said years later.� For his part, Gerald found her small stature and blonde hair quite fetching.� Within days he sent her a dozen roses with a card that read, to a very sweet girl.� They were living together within a few weeks, and Gerald laid down the law immediately.� Charlene was to be the primary breadwinner, turning over her earnings from clerking at a supermarket to him.� He told her what clothes to wear, and made no secret of his affairs with other women.� Still, Charlene found him exciting, much more dynamic than her two previous husbands, and when he spoke of his fantasy of having young, disposable sex slaves the idea sounded darkly intriguing.

Kippi & Rhonda

On September 11, 1978 Gerald was ready.� He awoke Charlene (who was two months pregnant and suffering from morning sickness) and told her he had plans that she was to help him execute.� They drove in their 1973 Dodge conversion van (with mountains air-brushed on the sides) to Sacramentos Country Club Plaza shopping center, where Gerald gave Charlene her assignment:� she was to locate two suitable sex slaves and lure them out to the parking lot and into the van.� She was hesitant at first, afraid that shed be unsuccessful, or worse, be caught.� Gerald told her she was taking too long, and if she knew what was good for her shed do what he said.� She redoubled her efforts, and before long had zeroed in on two prime candidates.� Rhonda Scheffler, seventeen, and Kippi Vaught, sixteen, were out for an afternoon of shopping and whatever fun they could scare up.� When Charlene (who looked about their age) approached them asking if theyd like to smoke some pot, it sounded like just the adventure they were looking for.� They followed her eagerly out to the parking lot, where she opened the van.� Inside Gerald waited with a .25 caliber pistol.� The girls were surprised, afraid, and easily subdued.� Gerald bound them with tape and told Charlene to watch them while he drove.�
They headed east on I-80 toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains.� At Baxter, California they left the interstate and Gerald steered them further away from civilization and into the foothills.� After finding a suitable spot, he left the van with the girls, the gun, and a sleeping bag, telling Charlene to wait.� When he returned hours later he told her to take the van into Sacramento and visit friends in order to establish an alibi.� Then she was to drop off the van and return in their Oldsmobile.
Charlene did as she was told, and when she returned to the woods outside Baxter Gerald ordered the girls into the back seat of the Oldsmobile.� He sat with them and directed Charlene, who drove until he said to stop.� Along the way he talked as if he would presently release the captives, but when he finally ordered Charlene to pull over he ordered the girls out, knocked them unconscious with a tire iron, and shot them.

Brenda & Sandra

Gerald and Charlene, having married quickly in Reno, decided to leave California for a while until the heat from the murder investigation diminished.� Rather than see their daughter and their good name disgraced by Gerald's apprehension, Charles and Mercedes Williams stepped in to assist.� They instructed Charlene to steal her cousin's birth certificate, and with that Gerald obtained a driver's license and other documentation in the name of Stephen Robert Feil.� Then Charles Williams used his business pull to get Gerald a job driving a truck for a supermarket in Houston.� The job, however, did not suit Gerald, and he and Charlene were in Reno by the following spring.
For a while things were relatively normal.� Gerald worked for a time as a driver for a meat distributor, while Charlene worked in the office of another distributor.� But by June Gerald had again left his job, and in his restlessness he had begun formulating a new plan.� He wanted new sex slaves, and the best place to get them, he figured, was the Washoe County Fair.
Fourteen-year-old Brenda Judd and thirteen-year-old Sandra Colley were almost out of the fairgrounds and on their way home when Charlene stopped them.� She needed help distributing advertising leaflets in the parking lot, she said, and would they be interested in earning a few extra dollars?� When the girls agreed, Charlene said she needed to get more leaflets from her van and led the way through the lot.� The three got into the van, and Gerald, who had been watching and following Charlene from a distance, arrived a moment later.� Brandishing a gun, Gerald bound the girls and headed for I-80.�� On the way to the highway, he stopped at a hardware store, returning to the van with a hammer and a shovel.�
Gerald drove east on I-80 for a while, then headed into the hills toward Mustang.� After a while he told Charlene to drive, while he got into the back of the van and assaulted the girls.� He took his time, and Charlene kept driving further into the Nevada hills.� Eventually, telling Charlene she drove too fast, Gerald took the wheel again. When he stopped, he took the girls away from the van one at a time, using his new tools to kill and bury them.
Charlene cleaned out the van when they returned to Reno the next morning, but Gerald decided to keep his hammer and shovel.� Meanwhile, though Brenda and Sandra had been reported missing, there was some confusion regarding two other girls who had run away to join the carnival company that ran the midway rides for the fair.� Even when that was cleared up, the investigation into their disappearance didn't get far.� Feeling reasonably safe, Gerald and Charlene left Reno to return to Sacramento within a couple of months.

Stacey & Karen

Things settled down.� Gerald found new sexual intrigue with another woman, and Charlene was relieved that his demands on her and their accompanying frustrations (Gerald was often impotent when attempting normal intercourse) had lessened.� But in time, the novelty of his new conquest wore off and Gerald was again seeking excitement.� It was time, he told Charlene, for more love slaves.
April 24, 1980 found Gerald and Charlene eyeing the crowds of teenagers in the parking lot of Tower Records in Sacramento. Seeing too many cops mixed in for their liking, they moved on to the Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, about 20 minutes outside Sacramento.� Theyd had good luck at a mall with their first victims, they reasoned, so why not try again?
Stacey Ann Redican and Karen Twiggs, both seventeen, were worldly girls, but not wise enough to realize that the offer Charlene made to them of free drugs and a ride in a cool van would lead to their deaths.� Even as Gerald pointed his .357 Magnum at them and ordered Charlene to drive they seemed more inquisitive than frightened, as if they thought the situation was some sort of grown-up game they should play along with.� Presently, though, reality sank inthis was no game.� As Charlene headed east on I-80 Gerald crawled in the back of the van and raped them repeatedly.� Every so often, he paused to shout some directions to Charlene, and after a while they ended up at Limerick Canyon near Lovelock.� As he had done before, he walked the girls away from the van one at a time and dispatched them with a hammer.� This time, though, Charlene wouldnt let him keep his weapon; she flung the hammer out the van window on the way back to Sacramento.
Charlene, who had had an abortion the previous year, realized that she was once again pregnant.� She steeled herself for Geralds reaction, expecting the worst, and was shocked when he seemed rather pleased.� The idea of creating life fed his enormous ego, and besides, domesticity provided an excellent cover for his true depravity.� He even went as far as marrying Charlene again, this time using his Stephen Robert Feil alias.� Feeling that his new marriage helped to cement his new identity and further obfuscate his old one, Gerald breathed easy.�
And he began to take risks.

Linda & Virginia

The Gallegos, now living as the Feils, were on a small vacation in Oregon when they spied their next victim.� It was June 7, 1980, and Linda Aguilar wasnt Geralds typeshe was 21, had dark hair and eyes, and was pregnant.� But when he saw her walking beside the highway, he decided he had to have her.� He slowed the van and asked Linda if she needed a ride.� Linda, on her way home from a local store, accepted.� Charlene knew the routine by nowpresently Gerry ordered her to drive and began his sexual assault.� In a while they stopped, and Charlene wandered about in the woods, killing time until Gerry was ready to go.� When he found a spot he felt was suitably isolated, he took Linda away from the van, striking her with a rock, then strangling her.
Authorities first believed Linda Aguilar, who was known as something of a free spirit, had merely wandered off.� But as the days passed suspicion mounted, and when her body was found later that month, police suspected her boyfriend of the killing.� Even though one witness reported seeing a pregnant woman getting into a van the day of Lindas disappearance, the circumstantial evidence against the boyfriend weighed more heavily in the minds of the police.� He had beaten Linda before, and it seemed he would be charged with her murder soon.
Gerald was getting bolder and more impatient.� It was only a month and a half before he was ready to strike again.� He and Charlene spent the day of July 16, 1980 drinking themselves silly, then spent the evening doing even more drinking a the Sail Inn, a bar in West Sacramento.� Gerald was belligerent and boastful that night, and seemed to pay no special attention to Virginia Mochel, the bartender.� When closing time came, though, he told Charlene he wasnt ready to leave.� They waited in the parking lot, and when Virginia came out after locking up the bar Gerald forced her into the van with his .357.� But this time, instead of heading out into the countryside, he drove the van home.� Charlene waited inside watching television, and when he was finished with raping Virginia, Gerald told Charlene to get in the van.� He made her drive, and while she did, he strangled Virginia.� They dumped the body outside Clarksburg. The next day Gerald celebrated his thirty-fourth birthday with unseemly glee.
Virginia Mochel had two small children and was not the itinerant sort, so police took her disappearance seriously.� Patrons of the Sail Inn reported that two strangers, a man named Stephen and his girlfriend Charlene, had come into the bar that night.� Police tracked Gerald down at his new bartending job, and he admitted hed been at the Sail Inn that night.� He knew nothing of what had become of Virginia Mochel, however.� Charlene gave similar answers, and told police offhandedly that she and her boyfriend had been fishing that day.� When Virginias body was found, her hands were bound with fishing line, which raised detectives suspicions, but didnt offer anything concrete against the couple.� The investigation ground to a halt.

Mary Beth & Craig

Meanwhile, Gerald and Charlene were coming unglued.� Gerald, who had always been quick to use his fists with Charlene, became even more violent.� In September, Charlene moved out, returning to live with her parents.� Gerald left town for a bit, rekindling a previous romance.� But by November he had returned and Charlene agreed to see him again.� On the night of November 1, they borrowed Charles and Mercedes Williams Oldsmobile, saying they were going to dinner and a movie.�
Gerald and Charlene got drunk that night, and it wasnt long before Gerald announced his intention of capturing more love slaves.� Charlene drove as he scanned crowds at various shopping centers for candidates.� It took a while, and Charlene, realizing that the game was getting ever more dangerous, was ready to give up for the night and head home.� But early on the morning of November 2, Gerald ordered her to stop the car at Arden Fair, a popular shopping center.� She was shocked to see that his intended victims were not two young girls, but a man and a woman, probably college students.�
Charlene pulled the Oldsmobile into a parking space and Gerald got out, approaching Craig Miller and Mary Elizabeth Sowers with a .25 caliber handgun.�� Hoping their acquiescence would keep their drunken assailant from hurting them, they complied.� They even kept quiet when a fraternity brother of Craigs, who had attended the same dinner the couple, was leaving, leaned into the car and asked what they were doing.� Just then Charlene, still in the drivers seat, began shouting at the man and pulled away quickly.� Not quickly enough, though.� The fraternity brother wrote down the license number of the Olds as it sped away.
Charlene drove for a while out into El Dorado County until Gerald told her to stop.� He ordered Craig out of the car and shot him three times in the head, then told Charlene to drive to his apartment.� When they arrived he took Mary Beth into the bedroom.� Charlene watched television, and when Gerald was finished raping Mary Beth, she drove the two out into the country again.� He shot Mary Beth, and returned with Charlene to the apartment to dispose of evidence.


Charlene struck a deal.� It took a while, but eventually prosecutors arranged for her to plead guilty to the murders of Craig Miller and Mary Beth Sowers.� In exchange for her plea and her testimony against Gerald, she was given a sentence of sixteen years and eight months, which was the minimum time to which she could be sentenced in California for first-degree murder.� She struck a similar deal with Nevada authorities, pleading guilty to the second-degree murder of Karen Twiggs and Stacey Redican and receiving the same sentence.� Oregon prosecutors decided to let California and Nevada bear the expense of investigation and trial and declined to file charges.� Authorities in California were not happy with the plea bargain and tried to have it withdrawn, but in late 1983, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge dropped the charges against Charlene in the Miller and Sowers deaths.� With the infighting over, the way was clear to prosecute Gerald.

Gerald Gallego views part
of his trial on TV monitors

Gerald, exhibiting the same hubris that had brought him to his current state, decided to serve as his own attorney.� His misadventure in defense began with his deferring his right to an opening statement until after the prosecution had made its own statement.� He further damaged his case and credibility by offering no cross-examination of Mercedes Williams, one of the prosecutions most effective witnesses.� He did cross-examine Charlene however, for six days.
During the prosecutions questioning, Charlene had offered a defense for her lack of action.� She had been afraid of Gerald, she said.� He beat her and he threatened her.� He demanded and kept all the money she made, and when shed expressed doubt or displeasure, she testified that he shamed her, saying she wasnt the girl with heart hed thought she was.�� During his cross-examination, Gerald tried to undermine her credibility, offering as evidence a love note shed written him after their capture.� He portrayed her as an unstable drug addict and got her to admit to a lesbian affair shed had while in jail awaiting the trial.� On the final day of laborious, trivial questioning, Gerald came to his point.� Mrs. Gallego, he said, isnt the bottom line of your deal to blame both these murders on me to save yourself?� Charlene shot back, No it is not!!!
It seemed unthinkable that Gerald could do anything to further undermine his own defense, but he did.� He put himself on the stand, which allowed prosecutors to catch him in countless inconsistencies.� In his closing statement he admitted hed taken a legal licking, but asked the jury to believe him on faith, if nothing else.�� They did not.� On June 21, 1983, Gerald Gallego was sentenced to death for the murders of Craig Miller and Mary Beth Sowers.
Following the California trial, Gerald was charged in Nevada with the murders of Stacy Redican, Karen Twiggs, Brenda Judd and Sandra Colley.� As Judds and Colleys bodies hadnt been found, the States best evidence was in the Redican/Twiggs case.� Charlene had led investigators to a ball of white macram� rope in Geralds car.� The rope matched that found binding the hands of the bodies of Redican and Twiggs.�

Gerald Gallego after
his sentencing.

Geralds second trial began on May 23, 1984 in Pershing County, Nevada.� This time he let a public defender, Gary Marr, handle his case.� Again, the strategy was to try and discredit Charlenes testimony.� As star witness, she gave a detailed account of the last hours of Stacey Redican and Karen Twiggs.� Marr had no more luck swaying the jury than Gerald had, however, and it took them just two and a half hours to return a guilty verdict.� Gerald was again sentenced to death, becoming one of the few American criminals to be put on death row in two states simultaneously.


In the years since he was sentenced, Gerald Gallego vigorously proclaimed his innocence. In February 2001, Gallego appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court that his constitutional right to represent himself at trial was violated when self-representation was denied at his 1999 penalty hearing.
Attorney Brent Kolvet told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Gallego was not really interested in representing himself as much as he wanted someone other than Public Defender Steven McGuire to represent him.� Nor was Gallego cooperative during that penalty hearing. His behavior, which included turning his back on the judge, warranted the need for an attorney to represent him, Kolvet said.

Gallego at his 1999
penalty hearing

After Gallego's 1984 death sentence for the kidnap-murders of Stacey Redican and Karen Twiggs was reversed on appeal, he was given a new penalty hearing in 1999. The new jury took less than an hour to sentence him again to death a second time for the murder of the two young women.�
Gallego was convicted of four killings. Charges were not filed in the cases of the other six murders.�
The Nevada Supreme Court rejected his appeal.
The skeletal remains found in Lassen County, CA were confirmed by DNA testing to be those of Brenda Judd, 14, and Sandra Colley, 13. The girls were killed by blows to the head� in 1979 after being abducted in Reno at the Washoe County Fair. Their remains were found in Nov. 1999 along U.S. Highway 395 some 25 miles north of Reno.
Gallego denied the killings and was not tried for their deaths. His wife Charlene had told police about the abduction and murder.�
Charlene Gallego, known since the mid-80s by her maiden name of Charlene Williams, was released from a Nevada prison in July 1997.� She did not tell authorities where she was headed, but agreed to register as a felon wherever she took up residence.� Mercedes Williams, who raised the son Charlene bore in prison, said Charlene had left California and would not return.
July 18, 2002 Gerald Gallego 56, died at the Nevada prison system's regional medical center. He had been moved there from Ely State Prison's death row.

Gerald Gallego,
prison photo ID,
shortly before his

Cause of death was rectal cancer which had spread to his liver and lungs. The medical director described him as a "very quiet individual. He was very reasonable about no extra treatment or resuscitation efforts." Gallego made no final statements, had no visitors and was heavily sedated when he died.


All His Father's Sins by Lt. Ray Biondi and Walt Hecox. 1988. Pocket Books
The Sex Slave Murdersby R. Barri Flowers. 1995. J. Flores Publications/St.
Martin's Paperbacks.

A Venom in the Blood by Eric van Hoffmann. 1990. Donald I. Fine, Inc.

Article/News Release in The Sacramento Bee by staff writer Wayne Wilson.�
Metro section; Friday, July 19, 1997 page B1.

Article/News Release in The Sacramento Bee by staff writer M. S. Enkoji.�
Metro section; Thursday, February 24, 2000 page B3.


Short Bussed
The real-life Hostel murders

William Holbert and Laura Reese
Like many people, William Dathan Holbert dreamed of moving to a tropical paradise. He went further than dreaming, though, leaving behind his family and his old life as a landscaper and gym manager in North Carolinaas well a fraud charge that had kept him fleeing from state to stateand headed with Laura Michelle Reese to the beaches of Panama's Bocas del Toro.

Life was easy where the jungle met the sea. Bocas del Toro, on Panama's border with Costa Rica, is a laid-back, fairly undeveloped Caribbean resort area. The waves draw an international surfing crowd, and the coral reefs seduce scuba divers, but there are still beaches often empty of anything but palm trees and mangroves.

Bocas del Toro, Panama
The couple took over a hostel. And then, as in the chilling movie of the same name, people went missing.

"Wild Bill" Holbert, 31, and Reese, 27, are alleged to have killed seven or more people as part of a plot to steal their property and money.

William Holbert

William Holbert
William Dathan Holbert grew up in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. Parents William Stanley Holbert and Karen Yvonne Moore raised him in a pleasant suburban home in Hendersonville, N.C. Young William played football for North Henderson High School. After graduating, he worked as a landscaper, eventually starting his own business in Hendersonville. He got married in 1998 and had three children.
He and his wife divorced six years later. Holbert soon declared bankruptcy and stopped paying child support. His bankruptcy filing listed over $500,000 in assets, but over $700,000 in debts.
Holbert then moved to Wilmington, N.C., where he allegedly enacted a scam that involved selling an Oak Island house for which he'd forged the deed
He started bodybuilding, allegedly taking steroids to fuel his transformation into a mountain of a man.
He became the manager of a gym in Ashville, N.C., in 2004. There he met a new love, Laura Reese. His white-supremacist tattoos made clients and the other employees uncomfortable, though, and he told the gym's owner, Kevin Hoover, that he no longer held those racist beliefs. Holbert complied when Hoover asked him to cover up the tattoos at work. Meanwhile, Holbert was also reportedly running a Forest City storefront called Southern National Patriots which sold merchandise emblazoned with swastikas and confederate flags. 2005 tapes show Holbert ranting about taxes and the need to preserve southern culture.

William Holbert
Hoover told the Associated Press that Holbert bilked him out of $25,000 by writing company checks for personal use. Holbert allegedly told him he thought the checks he wrote were covered by the job as part of his living expenses. Holbert agreed to quit, and Hoover never pressed charges.

Holbert and Reese then moved to northern Cleveland County, near Charlotte. They rented a 6-room house on 54 acres, paying for 6 months rent in cash. Landlord Donna Stephens remembers that Holbert nonchalantly peeled the cash off an even bigger wad of bills in his pocket. He told her he was planning to open a gym of his own. Two months later, Stephens found that they'd trashed the house and disappeared, leaving behind beer bottles, pizza boxes, and racist graffiti. And a strange smell that Stephens would later reflect on and hope wasn't the sign of another murder.
Holbert's Forest City store closed about the same time, and Holbert and Reese seemed to have disappeared.
What happened next earned him a spot on Fox Television's America's Most Wanted.

A brush with notoriety

In 2005, a couple who'd dropped in on their Oak Island beach house for the weekend found a stranger there. The man was in the middle of making extensive renovations to the place, and he insisted that it was his own. He even showed them a deed he'd received from the man who sold him the house.

Holbert and Reese, 2005
The recent buyer told the couple and investigators that a doctor named Holbert had sold him the house for a mere $200,000, half of its market price, claiming that it was his sick grandmother's and that she needed the money quickly. William Holbert seems to have used the cash to buy another house in Louisa, Ky., but he and Laura Reese were gone before cops could catch up with him.

In early 2006, the Wyoming Highway Patrol pulled over a couple during a snow storm near Sheridan. The officer discovered that the Jeep they were driving had been reported stolen in West Virginiaand that the "Luke Kuhn" who was driving was in fact North Carolina fugitive William Holbert. The wanted man managed to drive off, fleeing into the blizzard in excess of 100 m.p.h. When the highway patrol once again found the Jeep, it had been crashed. A handgun was still on the front seat, but the couple had escaped once again.
Authorities say that Holbert and Reese traveled as far as Ireland, using aliases such as Donald Lee Brukart and Michelle Brukart. Records show they'd rented a U-Haul truck under those names in Bismarck, N.D. The truck later turned up in West Palm Beach, Fla., but the law would only catch up with the couple south of the border.

Pan American flight

In Bocas del Toro, William Holbert and Laura Reese used the names William Adolfo Cortez and Jane Cortez. Running a hostel and presenting themselves as wealthy entrepreneurs, they fell in with the local circle of expatriate Americans who periodically met for parties and other group events.

Cheryl Lynn Hughes
One of these Americans was Cheryl Lynn Hughes, 53, originally from St. Louis, Mo. She'd owned a hotel in Bocas del Toro for the last 10 years, after selling her Southern Exposure sign shop in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In March 2010, Hughes attended an early evening party hosted by the couple she knew as the Cortezes. When the other guests left, Holbert persuaded her to stay behind to talk about business. Then he lured her into the jungle to watch monkeysand allegedly shot her in the head.
Hughes's estranged husband, Keith Werle, eventually persuaded local police to look into her disappearance, but they made little progress. The family hired journalist and retired Air Force officer Don Winner to find clues to their beloved Cher's disappearance. And Hughes' aunt, Mary Wittmeyer, did what she could to piece together the story from abroad. Wittmeyer even spoke to Holbert over the phone.
Wittmeyer found herself suspicious of Holbert, who allegedly told her that her niece and best friend had sold him her hotel and other property and possessions, and given him control of her financial assets. Holbert told Wittmeyer that Hughes had then spontaneously skipped town to go on an extended sailing trip. Wittmeyer called the FBI and the U.S. Embassy in Panama. Local authorities then searched the property, officially on the grounds that Holbert illegally possessed an AK-47 firearm.

Bo Icelar
Unbelievably, Hughes' Doberman met police at the Holbert property and led them to a shallow grave. Authorities now believe that the bodies they found were those of Cheryl Lynn Hughes and Bo Icelar. Holbert also claimed to have bought a house from Icelar before the retired New Mexico gallery owner disappeared.

Panamanian investigators now think that Holbert and Reese may also be connected to the disappearance of two as-yet unnamed Panamanian victims, and to the deaths of a whole family. According to prosecuting attorney Angel Calderon, Mike Brown was living in Panama under an assumed name because he was wanted on drug charges. Calderon Believes that Brown's large amount of cash and multiple bank accounts tempted Holbert. Brown, along with his wife, Manchittha Nankratoke and his 18-year-old son, Watson Brown, disappeared in 2007.
But Holbert and Reese were on the run again before anyone had sorted that out.


They fled to Costa Rica, where they'd lived briefly before settling in Panama. During this stay, William Holbert contacted at least three people who'd listed their real estate online as for sale. But Holbert and Laura Reese decided to move on.

Holbert's passport
The couple continued their flight north. On July 26 ,2010, they reached the San Juan River which marks the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. There they allegedly stole a boat, throwing its pilot overboard. The Nicaraguan army stopped them when they reached the other bank. Traveling on Dutch passports, Holbert and Reese were carrying a gun and ammunition, as well as documents allegedly related to the murdered and missing persons.

Holbert and Reese, recent
Panama issued an arrest warrant two days later, and Nicaragua immediately extradited the couple.

The media met the couple as they got off the plane in Panama City. Holbert joked with reporters and acknowledged he had a lot to straighten out with Panama's officials.
But Calderon says that during his first questioning, Holbert confessed to killing his five suspected victims, telling prosecutors how he killed each of them and where he buried them. Reese has asked for a lawyer and declined to talk.
There isn't a death penalty in Panama; Calderon says Holbert could get 50 years in prison, but that Reese would serve less time.
Panama, Costa Rica and states within the U.S. are reviewing other crimes to make sure that William Holbert and Laura Reese haven't gotten away with anything else.


Boyle, John. "Ex-Boss: Hendersonville Native William Dathan Holbert had a Tony Soprano-Mindset." Asheville Citizen-Times, July 30, 2010.
http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010100729040, retrieved 8/17/10.
Carroll, Rory. "US Couple Held as Serial Killing Suspects in Panama Paradise." The Guardian, August 1, 2010.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/01/panama-american-serial-killings-suspects, retrieved 8/17/2010.
Carroll, Rory. "More Bodies Found at Panama Home of US Couple Accused of Killings." The Guardian, August 4, 2010.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/04/panama-william-holbert-laura-reese, retrieved 8/17/2010.
DePriest, Joe and Franco Ordo�ez. "Alleged killer lived in their midst." The Charlotte Observer, August 6, 2010.
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/08/06/1604877/alleged-killer-lived-in-their.html, retrieved 8/17/10.
McWilliams, Mike. "Serial Killing Suspect with Ties to Asheville Area Targeted in Scam Inquiry."Asheville Citizen-Times, July 29, 2010.
http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010307290035, retrieved 8/17/10.
O'Connell, Patrick M. "Family Stayed on Case When Woman Vanished in Panama." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 17, 2010.
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/article_459bb672-0d32-559d-8a05-a4b3346a1eb8.html, retrieved 8/17/10.
"Panama Investigates Alleged Murder Weapons in William Dathan Holbert Case." Asheville Citizen-Times, August 9, 2010.
http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010308050036, retrieved 8/17/10.
Perez, Luis. "Former Pinellas Woman Killed in Panama; Serial Killer Suspected." St. Petersburg Times, August 17, 2010.
http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/former-pinellas-woman-killed-in-panama-serial-killer-suspected/1115699, retrieved 8/17/10.
"Police Looking for Fugitive Near Montana-Wyoming Line." Missoulian, February 6, 2006.
http://missoulian.com/breaker/article_b4c4252a-bebd-55c0-b4a3-6da6d1b9dd76.html, retrieved 8/20/10.
Rodriguez, Sandra. "Accused Serial Killer Greets Panama Press Like Star." Asheville Citizen-Times, July 31, 2010.
http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2010307310022, retrieved 8/17/10.
Romo, Rafael and Arthur Brice. "Panama Cops: Americans Would Befriend Victims, Then Rob and Kill." CNN, August 4, 2010.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/08/04/panama.murder.suspect/index.html?iref=allsearch, retrieved 8/17/10.
Romo, Rafael and Arthur Brice. "Panamanian Authorities Search for Bodies in Serial Killer Suspect Case." CNN, August 3, 2010.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/08/03/panama.murder.suspect/index.html?iref=allsearch, retrieved 8/17/10.
Schulman, Mark and James Shea. "Allegations Shock Those Who Knew Holbert in WNC." BlueRidgeNow.com, July 30, 2010.
http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20100731/ARTICLES/7311016/1016/OPINION02?Title=Allegations-shock-those-who-knew-him-here, retrieved 8/17/10.
"Swastikas, Car Chases, Fake IDs." America's Most Wanted,http://www.amw.com/fugitives/brief.cfm?id=37959, retrieved 8/20/10.
Stanley, Kameel and Andy Boyle. "Family, Dog Wouldn't Give up Search for Missing Pinellas County Woman." St. Petersburg Times, August 21, 2010.
http://www.theledger.com/article/20100821/NEWS/8215092/1035/BUSINESS?Title=Family-Dog-Wouldn-t-Give-Up-Search-For-Missing-Pinellas-County-Woman, retrieved 8/23/10.
"Wife of Wild Bill Stonewalling Investigators." (2010, August 11). NewsroomPanama.com, August 11, 2010.
http://www.newsroompanama.com/panama/1546-wife-of-wild-bill-stonewalling-investigators.html, retrieved 8/17/10.
"'Wild Bill' Contacted at Least Three Property Owners in Costa Rica." InsideCostaRica.com, August 8, 2010.
http://www.insidecostarica.com/dailynews/2010/august/08/costarica10080804.htm, retrieved 8/17/10.


James Gregory Marlow & Cynthia Coffman, California Serial Killer

Cynthia Coffman (born 1962) was the partner in crime of James Gregory Marlow. She was born St. Louis, Missouri. Coffman and Marlow were accused of killing four women in October–November 1986. They were arrested on November 14, 1986, following which Coffman confessed to the murders. They were put on trial in July 1989, and in 1990 sentenced to death, Coffman being the first woman to receive a death sentence in California since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977. A further trial in 1992 convicted her for another murder with a sentence of life imprisonment. She was still on death row in 2011
Born in 1962, Cynthia Coffman was the privileged daughter of a St. Louis businessman, raised by her parents as a devout Catholic. Abortion was unthinkable when she got pregnant at age seventeen, and she was forced into a loveless marriage, enduring five years of domestic captivity before she left home and fled west, traveling with little more than her car and the clothes on her back. She wound up in Page, Arizona, waiting tables in a diner, moving in with a local man after several weeks. In the fall of 1985, they were evicted from their small apartment after numerous complaints from neighbors of their drunken all-night parties. On May 8, 1986, Cynthia and her boyfriend were stopped for running a stop sign in Barstow, California. Police found a loaded derringer and a quantity of methamphetamine in her purse, but she was released on her own recognizance the charges subsequently dropped. Her lover wound up serving six weeks in the county jail, and it was during one of Cynthias visits that she first met his cell mate, the man who would irrevocably change her life. James Gregory Marlow was doing time for the theft of his sixth wifes car when Cynthia walked into his wasted life. Born in 1957, he had been a dedicated thief from age ten, committed to Folsom Prison in 1980 for a series of home invasions and knife-point robberies. Marlow served three years on that conviction, earning himself a reputation as The Folsom Wolf. proudly wearing tattoos of the neo-Nazi Aryan Brotherhood. It was love at first sight for Cynthia and James, her boyfriend instantly forgotten when Marlow hit the street and they left California together in June. Marlow had relatives in the Border South, and the couple began working their way through the family tree, sponging room and board where they could, ripping off any obvious valuables when they were finally asked to leave. In time, it reached the point where Marlows relatives could see them coming , turning them away with angry words or pocket change, depending on the latest pigeons mood. At last, they were reduced to sleeping in the woods, where Cynthia contracted head lice and James was forced to bathe in kerosene to rid himself of biting chiggers. On July 26, 1986, Coffman and Marlow were linked to the burglary of a home in Whitley County, Kentucky, making off with cash, some jewelry, and a shotgun. Days later, in Tennessee, they were married. Cynthia celebrated the occasion by having her buttocks tattooed with the legend: I belong to the Folsom Wolf. That done, they drifted west again, in search of easy prey. On the evening of October 11, 1986, 32-year-old Sandra Neary left her home in Costa Mesa, California, to obtain some cash from the automatic teller machine at her bank. She never returned, though her car was found by police in a local parking lot. Two weeks later, on October 24, her strangled, decomposing corpse was found by hikers near Corona, in Riverside County. Pamela Simmons, age thirty-five, was the next to die, reported missing in Bullhead City, Arizona, on October 28. Her car was found abandoned near police headquarters, detectives theorizing that she had been snatched while drawing money from a curbside ATM. Ten days later, on November 7, 20-year-old Corinna Novis vanished on a similar errand in Redlands, California. The latest victim had been kidnapped from an urban shopping mall in broad daylight. Lynel Murrays boyfriend was worried on November 12, when the 19-year-old psychology student failed to keep a date after work. He found her car outside the dry cleaning shop where she worked, in Orange County, California, but another day would pass before her naked, strangled body was discovered in a Huntington Beach motel room. In addition to kidnapping and murder, there was also evidence of sexual assault. Police were praying for a break, and when it came, the case unraveled swiftly. First, Corinna Noviss checkbook was found in a Laguna Niguel trash dumpster, tucked inside a fast-food takeout bag with papers bearing the names of Cynthia Coffman and James Marlow. Around the same time, Marlow and Coffman were linked to a San Bernardino motel room, where the manager found stationery bearing practice signatures of Lynel Murrays name. A glance at Marlows criminal record did the rest, and a statewide alert was issued for both fugitives . On November 14, 1986, police were summoned to a mountain lodge at Big Bear City, California, where the proprietor identified his latest guests as Marlow and Coffman. A 100-man posse found the lodge empty, fanning out through the woods for a sweep that paid off around 3:00 P.M., when the suspects were found hiking along a mountain road. Coffman and Marlow surrendered without a fight, both wearing outfits stolen from the dry cleaning shop where Lynel Murray worked. Within hours, Cynthia led officers to a vineyard near Fontana, where they found Corinna Novis, sodomized and strangled, lying in a shallow grave. Marlow and Coffman were formally charged with that murder on November 17, held over for trial without bond. If any further proof of guilt were needed, homicide investigators told press that fingerprints from both defendants had been found inside Corinnas car, and Coffman had been linked to the Fontana pawn shop where the victims typewriter was pawned. Another thirty-two months would pass before the killer couple went to trial, and in the meantime they experienced a falling-out, each blaming the other for their plight. On one jailhouse visit, Cynthias lawyer asked if there was anything she needed from the outside world. Yeah, she told him, pointing to her backside. You can find someone to help me lose this damn tattoo! The couples murder trial finally opened in San Bernardino County on July 18, 1989. Both defendants were convicted across the board, and both were sentenced to death on August 30. Cynthia Coffman thus became the first woman sentenced to die in California since that state restored capital punishment under a new statute in 1977. It seems unlikely that a woman will actually be put to death in liberal California, but the 1992 execution of Robert Alton Harris cancels all bets, making anything possible.

Sandra Neary – murdered October 11, 1986
Pamela Simmons – murdered October 28, 1986
Corinna Dell Novis – murdered November 7, 1986

Lynel Murray – murdered November 12, 1986


Short Bussed
ABEL Wolfgang *1959 ...
0 ... 10 27+
FURLAN Mario *1960 ...
The case "Ludwig" 1977 1984 Verona, Padua, Milano (IT) Munich (DE)
... : ... FM/RD ... ...
Verdict/Urteil: 30 years for 10 murders (in fact free immediately under "open custody")

Verona was an unlikely sort of city to play host to two of the most grisly serial killers in modern history. A role made that much less likely when one considered the background of this pair of sinister young men whose trial was set to shock Europe when it opened on December 01, 1986.
Wolfgang ABEL twenty seven at the time of his trial was the son of a former managing director of a leading West German insurance company who had settled in Verona's suburb of Monte Ricco 'Mountain of the Rich'. Twenty six year-old Mario FURLANlived with his parents in a new suburban development close to Verona's main hospital where his father was a well- known plastic surgeon and head of the burns unit. The boys had been close friends since school, and at university both were credited as being highly intelligent, if a little weird.
According to the indictment at their trial, FURLAN and ABELlaunched their part time career in murder by burning alive a gypsy drug addict in his car in August 1977. The victim survived his ordeal just long enough to say that he thought that in this instance there was a third man involved in the attack.
The second killing was in Padua where a casino employee was knifed to death, and this was followed by the vicious beating and hacking to death of a homosexual waiter in Venice when his body was found it bore thirty-four separate stab wounds.
A prostitute was axed to death, two priests had their skulls crushed with a hammer in Vicenza, and a sleeping hitch-hiker was burned alive in Verona city centre.
The savagery of this sequence of almost ritualised slaughter was beginning to escalate and the next victim, a homosexual priest of Trenton was 'executed' by having a nail hammered into his forehead followed by a chisel with a wooden cross attached to it.
In Milan, five people were burned to death when FURLAN and ABEL set fire to a cinema which was showing pornographic films; and in Munich one young woman died and forty other people were seriously injured when, it was alleged, they burned down a discotheque.
On 3 March 1984, Wolfgang ABEL and Mario FURLAN dressed in Pierrot costumes, were caught in the act of dousing carpets and furniture with petrol at a discotheque near Mantua. This time the dance floor was crowded with more than four hundred young people.
At each of the murder scenes leaflets were left, written in Italian explaining the reasons for the killing. The sheets were headed by the name 'Ludwig' over a German Nazi eagle and swastika, and bore such supplementary slogans as 'We are the last of the Nazis, and 'Death comes to those who betray the true god'. The victims, it was made clear, were all carefully chosen to represent what the killers considered 'sub humans' deserving elimination homosexuals, prostitutes, drug addicts and so on.
Although FURLAN and ABEL deny that they had any part in the crimes committed by 'Ludwig', police claim that they found evidence in Wolfgang ABEL's flat that he was responsible for writing at least some of the letters. It is also significant that since the two suspects have been in custody 'Ludwig' has committed no more crimes though a number of copycat leaflets have come to police attention,
After a lengthy trial during December 1986 and January 1987, both Mario FURLAN and Wolfgang ABEL were found guilty on ten out of twenty-seven charges of murder, and in February 1987 sentenced to thirty years imprisonment. Acceptance by the court that the pair were at least partially insane saved them from a life sentence.
However, when the appeal procedure began, FURLAN and ABEL had already notched up three years in gaol most of it pre-trial and in an act of what could be seen either as enlightenment or as the benefits of privilege, both men were released to live in "open custody", ABEL in the tiny village of Mestrinon nearPadua. Mario FURLAN in nearby Casale Scodosia. In effect they are free to live as they choose with the provision that they report regularly to the local police station. Both give periodic interviews to anybody who cares to listen, the main subject of which is that they are completely innocent and merely the scapegoats of a police force unable to bring the real 'Ludwig' to justice.


Short Bussed
The Lonely Hearts Killers

Raymond Fernandez
Born December 17, 1914
Died March 8, 1951 (aged 36)
Sing Sing prison, Ossining, New York
Charge(s) Murder
Penalty Death by electric chair
Conviction status Executed
Occupation Confidence trickster
Children 4 (previous marriage)
Martha Beck
Born May 6, 1920
Milton, Florida
Died March 8, 1951 (aged 30)
Sing Sing prison, Ossining, New York
Charge(s) Murder
Penalty Death by electric chair
Conviction status Executed
Occupation Nurse

The Honeymoon Killers
(1970) Poster for the cult film
about Raymond Fernandez
and Martha Beck directed by
Leonard Kastle.

Beck and Fernandez (far right)
"I'm no average killer!" Raymond Martinez Fernandez told Michigan cops on the day he was arrested. The slim, smartly dressed, balding man sat in the wooden chair between two detectives as he told a tawdry story of sex, lies and murder. He wiped his sweating forehead every few minutes with a white handkerchief supplied by his co-conspirator and obese sex slave, who looked on with wide-eyed admiration and love. For several hours he described their journey through a maze of deception and betrayal that ended with the deaths of as many as 17 women. "I have a way with women, a power over them," he said. That power, he claimed, was achieved by the practice of voodoo.
Raymond Martinez Fernandez, 34, was born in Hawaii of Spanish parents. His rotund girlfriend, Martha Jule Beck, 29, who weighed well over 200 pounds, lovingly brushed his thinning hair back on his head as he told police how they killed their last victims in the town of Byron Center, Michigan on the night of February 28, 1949. Later, when the victim's two-year-old daughter refused to stop crying over the loss of her mother, Martha drowned her in a tub of dirty water while Raymond looked on. After the murders, they decided to go to the movies where they munched on popcorn and drank a gallon of soda.
The day-by-day revelations about this bizarre couple had New York City's press working overtime to keep up with the story that seemed too sleazy even by tabloid standards. Martha's enormous size was the subject of never-ending speculation by the press who estimated her weight to be anywhere from 200 to over 300 pounds. This constant ridicule caused Martha to write a series of tearful, angry letters from prison to the media complaining of the unfair treatment she received from columnists like Walter Winchell and newspapers like The Daily News and the New York Mirror.
"I'm still a human, feeling every blow inside, even though I have the ability to hide my feelings and laugh," she said, "But that doesn't say my heart isn't breaking from the insults and humiliation of being talked about as I am. O yes, I wear a cloak of laughter."
Fernandez and Beck came to be known as the "lonely hearts killers" in the nation's press. Their murder trial took place during the scorching hot summer of 1949 in Bronx Criminal Court where the salacious testimony of "abnormal sexual practices" caused a near riot among spectators. The Latino Lothario and the plump, love-sick girlfriend who killed lonely, sex-starved women was a story weirder and more intriguing than anything out of the trashiest pulp magazines of the 1940s.


Martha Beck

She was born Martha Jule Seabrook in 1919 in the town of Milton in northwest Florida. As a small child, Martha developed a glandular condition that caused her to physically mature faster than most children. By the age of 10, she possessed a woman's body and the sexual drive of an adult. Unfortunately, she was already obese by that age and suffered ridicule from not only her classmates but from her domineering mother as well. It was claimed at Martha's murder trial in 1951 that her brother sexually assaulted her at an early age. When she told her mother about the incident, she blamed Martha and beat her. Wherever she went thereafter, her mother followed her. If a boy showed any interest in Martha, her mother was sure to chase the boy away with a barrage of insults and threats. Throughout her teenage years, Martha was the focus of cruel jokes and insults which drove her further within herself. She became reclusive, withdrawn and had virtually no friends her own age.
Later, Martha attended a nursing school in Pensacola where she graduated first in her class in 1942. But because of her appearance, she was unable to gain employment in the nursing field. She was forced to take a job working for a mortician in a local funeral home preparing female bodies for burial. It was a surreal environment for Martha who was already remote and lonely. Tending to the bodies of the dead at all hours of the day and night, she may have found a strange solace in the company of those who could not hurt her with criticism and ridicule. She lived with the dead.
In 1942, desperate to begin a new life, she moved to California. She soon got a job at an Army hospital working as a nurse. But at night, Martha would frequent the city's bars where she would pick up soldiers on leave and at times, have sex with some of them. As a result of one of these encounters, she became pregnant. The father was a soldier who was uninterested in her. When he discovered Martha was pregnant he attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself into a nearby bay. Unable to convince the father to wed and deeply ashamed that a man would rather die than marry her, she returned to Florida depressed and alone.
In Milton, Martha soon realized that she had to explain the pregnancy. She made up a story that she met and married a Navy officer in California. She bought a wedding ring and wore it proudly around town. Her husband would soon return from the Pacific and then everyone would meet him. Of course, that day could never happen so she had to come up with a remedy. She arranged to have a telegram sent to herself announcing that her husband was killed in action. She went into hysterics when she received the "news." The town mourned for her and the story even appeared in the local papers. Martha received a great deal of attention and sympathy for her "loss." In the spring of 1944, she gave birth to a daughter, Willa Dean.

A Practical Joke

A few months later she met a Pensacola bus driver named Alfred Beck and Martha became pregnant again. Alfred, perhaps feeling guilty about the pregnancy, reluctantly married her in late 1944. Six months later, they were divorced. Martha had lost her job the year before and now found herself alone once again, this time with two small kids and no income. She fell into a fantasy world of romance novels and afternoon movies, like Confidential Agent and Gaslight, which featured her favorite leading man of the day, Charles Boyer. She read "true confession" type magazines and dreamt of the man who would save her from her loneliness and desperation. In early 1946, she finally secured a job at a Pensacola Hospital for children.
Martha was actually a very good nurse. She took her job and responsibilities very seriously. "I chose this profession," she wrote, "without thought of self and want to prepare myself for this profession, not for material gains but for the purpose of aiding humanity and rendering service to others." Unable to be happy in the social side of her life, Martha put everything she had into her work. Before the year was out, she received a promotion and eventually became nurse superintendent of the hospital. But still, she was depressed and yearned for the day when she could have a man all to herself, a man that would give her sexual fulfillment, companionship and, above all, the kind of love she read about for years in the hundreds of magazines that lay strewn all over her apartment.
As the result of a practical joke played by a co-worker, Martha received an ad in the mail to join a lonely-hearts club. When she read the ad, she broke down into bitter tears. "How could I forget that day?" she later said. But in an act of defiance, Martha placed an ad in "Mother Dinene's Family Club for Lonely Hearts." She had to fill out a form describing herself and send it in for publication. But she conveniently left out the fact that she weighed near 250 pounds and already had two kids. The ad was published and Martha breathlessly awaited her Prince Charming. Each day, when she returned home from work, she anxiously checked the mailbox, searching for the letter that would sweep her away from the pain of loneliness.

Raymond Fernandez

Raymond Martinez Fernandez was born on the island of Hawaii on December 17, 1914. His parents were of Spanish descent and proud people who were disappointed in Raymond's frail and sickly appearance. His father especially was not fond of Raymond and wished for a stronger son. When Raymond was only three, the family moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 1932, Raymond decided to go to Spain to live and work on an uncle's farm. There, at the age of 20, he married a local woman named Encarnacion Robles and set up house. By then, Raymond had left behind the awkward weakness of his youth and evolved into a handsome, well-built young man. He had a calm, gentle manner and was well liked in the village of Orgiva.
When the Second World War began, Raymond served with Spain's merchant marine. But he soon found service with the British government as a spy and apparently achieved certain notoriety in the intelligence gathering community. Little is known of his wartime activities but the Defense Security Office in Gibraltar once said that he "was entirely loyal to the Allied cause and carried out his duties which were sometimes difficult and dangerous, extremely well."
In late 1945, after the war was over, Fernandez decided to return to America to find work and then send for Encarnacion and his newborn son. He managed to get passage on a freighter that was headed for the island of Curacao in the Dutch West Indies. While on board the ship, Raymond was the victim of life altering event. As he attempted to come up to the deck, an open steel hatch cover fell directly on the top of his head. The injury caused a severe indentation on his skull and may have damaged his brain in an irreversible way. When the ship docked in December 1945, he was placed into the hospital where he remained until March 1946.
Upon his release from the hospital, Raymond had undergone a personality transformation. Before the accident he was an ordinary young man who was socially adept, open with people and courteous in manner. But after the accident, Raymond became distant, moody and quick to anger. He did not smile as easily and when he spoke, he often rambled. Personality disorders that result from head injury are well documented and research suggests that the level of disorder hinges upon the severity and location of the injury. In Fernandez's case, the injury, which fractured his skull, was located in the frontal lobe region that regulates the learning, reasoning and logical segments of brain function. There was no doubt: Raymond Fernandez was a changed man.

A New Direction

Raymond Fernandez

He bought passage on another ship headed for Alabama. When the boat arrived at the port of Mobile, Fernandez did a stupid thing. He stole a large quantity of clothing and items from the ship's storeroom that were clearly marked. When he tried to pass through customs, he was immediately arrested. He had no explanation for his conduct and when he was asked why he committed the theft, he said, "I don't know. I can't think. I can't say why I did it. I just saw other men putting a towel or two in their bags, so I thought I'd do the same. Only I just couldn't seem to stop." He was sentenced to one year in the federal penitentiary in Tallahassee, Florida. While he was in prison, Fernandez became cellmates with a Haitian man. This man, a follower of the ancient religion Vodun, introduced Raymond to the practice of voodoo and plunged him into the world of the occult.
He became convinced that he had a secret power over women that originated with voodoo. His sexual powers were at their peak, he believed, when they were enhanced by the energy of the Vodun. Erroneously described as an evil religion, it is a derivative of several African religions, mostly Nigerian, some of which go back over 5,000 years. Raymond fell into the dark side of voodoo and believed that he was a oungan(priest) who could obtain his mystical powers from theLoa (spirits). He read the notorious "Haiti or the Black Republic," written in 1884 and the source of a great deal of misinformation about the Vodun religion. It contained lurid descriptions of human sacrifice and tortures, which later captured the imagination of Hollywood filmmakers who produced films that perpetuated that myth. Fernandez told friends that he could make love with women from great distances by placing voodoo powders inside the envelopes. In his letters, he asked his victims to send a lock of their hair, an earring, or some personal item that he could utilize in voodoo rituals to strengthen his supernatural control. Unsuspecting women, he believed, then fell at his feet, consumed by the erotic sexual persuasion of Raymond Fernandez, voodoohoungan.
In 1946, Raymond was released from prison and moved to Brooklyn to live with his sister. His relatives were upset with his appearance, which had changed dramatically since the accident. He was mostly bald where before he had an abundance of rich, dark hair. The scar from the accident was plainly visible on the top of his head. Raymond locked himself in his room for days at a time and complained of painful headaches. During this period, he began to write dozens of letters to "lonely hearts" clubs where, through the mails, he began to seduce gullible females who were looking for men. Once he gained their trust, he would steal money, jewelry, checks; whatever he could embezzle. Then, he would disappear forever. The victims, often too embarrassed to complain, rarely reported the episodes to the police.

Death in La Linea

For months, Fernandez immersed himself in the world of lonely hearts clubs, writing letters to numerous women, often at the same time. In 1947, he began a correspondence with a Jane Lucilla Thompson who had recently separated from her husband. She was lonely, susceptible to kindness and ripe for the picking. After a letter-writing courtship, Jane Thompson agreed to meet Fernandez. In October 1947, they bought cruise ship tickets with Jane Thompson's money and took a trip to Spain. For several weeks, they traveled together and booked hotel rooms as man and wife. They dined and took sightseeing trips across the Spanish countryside.
Fernandez, though, was still legally married to his first wife, Encarnacion Robles. Eventually, he found his way to La Linea where Encarnacion lived with his two kids. He introduced her to Jane and for a time, the unlikely three frequently dined out on the town. Things seemed to be going well, but on the night of November 7, 1947, something happened between the two women. It is believed that some type of a disagreement or fight erupted between Raymond and Jane at the hotel in La Linea. He was seen running out of the room late that night.

Jane Thompson

The next morning, Jane Lucilla Thompson was found dead in her room of unknown causes. Her body was removed and buried without an autopsy. Later, when suspicions of murder by poison were aroused, her body would be exhumed. Meanwhile, Fernandez skipped town, leaving his wife, the long-suffering Encarnacion, alone once more. He caught the next boat to the United States where he showed up at Jane's old apartment in New York City. With the forged last will and testament of Jane Thompson in his hand, he took possession of the apartment and all the furnishings despite the fact that Jane's elderly mother lived there.
During this tumultuous time, while Raymond traveled through Spain with Jane Thompson, dined with both women and then confiscated the New York City apartment from the mother of his latest victim, Fernandez continued his correspondence with dozens of women.

A Letter from New York

In sunny Florida, Martha went about her business at the Pensacola Hospital where she was so good at her job, she was made supervisor of all the nurses in just six months time. Her professional career was finally on track but her social life and her yearning for romance was still at a dead end. After she wrote her first letter to Mother Dinene's club, she waited nearly two weeks for a return letter. And each day she was disappointed when none arrived. But sometime before Christmas Day in 1947, she received her first and only reply.
The letter was from a Raymond Fernandez from West 139th Street in New York City. He said he was a successful and well-respected businessman who made his fortune in the import and export trade. The words were written in an elaborate manner, extremely courteous and seemed sincere. He wrote that he was a Spaniard who had recently left his country to come to America for better business opportunities. He now lived alone "here in this apartment much too large for a bachelor but I hope someday to share it with a wife." Fernandez wrote that he knew Martha was a nurse and he wrote to her because "I know you have a full heart with a great capacity for comfort and love."
It was too much for the starry-eyed Martha. She carried the letter with her everywhere she went and read it at every opportunity. She couldn't believe how well he wrote and expressed himself. She immediately bought expensive stationery and began a two-week correspondence that included a dozen letters and an exchange of photographs. The photos were a little bit of a problem. Of course, Martha didn't want to scare off the prospective Romeo with a full frontal view of her generous size. Instead, she sent Fernandez a group photo of all the nurses at the hospital in which she was partially hidden behind a row of friends. In the accompanying letter, she wrote "it doesn't do me justice."
She couldn't have known that size or appearance was of little concern to Raymond Fernandez. By this time, he had already defrauded, tricked, deceived and stole from dozens of women across the country. He didn't care if his victims were fat, skinny, old or young. He had only one criterion: they had to have assets. When he learned that Martha was a nurse, he assumed that she had money or a house or something of value. He knew that he would have to develop a relationship by mail and maybe a telephone call or two before arranging a face-to-face meeting. He had to build trust and inspire a level of sexual anticipation in his victims. Through repeated acts of trial and error, he built up a standard routine and he followed that script almost in every instance right up to the end.
When the victim realized that she had been "taken," most times she was reluctant to call the police. There were strong feelings of humiliation, guilt and even complicity in the crime. And above all, the women did not want their names dragged into public view as "lonely hearts" seeking men through newspaper ads. The self-absorbed Fernandez just assumed that most women were satisfied with his sexual dexterity and imagined they simply accepted the theft as a valid price to pay for a few days or weeks of happiness with a wonderful lover like him.
After a few letters, back and forth, Fernandez performed the necessary step of asking Martha for a lock of her hair. With this hair, Fernandez was able to perform his voodoo ritual, which he believed would make Martha unable to resist his sexual charms. He followed directions from a book written by William Seabrook called Magic Island, a bible of voodoo and secret spells. He considered it a good omen that his favorite author and his latest victim shared the same name.
Martha was thrilled that a man would ask for a lock of her hair. That had never happened before. She happily sent a generous piece of her hair with the very next letter and doused it with a smattering of perfume. Maybe her turn had finally come, she may have thought. Maybe she imagined that Raymond Fernandez would be her knight in shining armor, her dream lover to take her away from the daily routine of bedpans and a life of drudgery.
Maybe her luck had finally changed.

Dead End in Florida

After Fernandez built up enough anticipation in Martha and he performed the necessary voodoo ritual, he decided that the time had come for the meeting. He arranged to take a train down to Florida and for Martha to meet him at the station. Of course, Martha, realizing that she was about to confront the lies she told about herself, was extremely nervous, but her curiosity and desire quickly overcame whatever fears she may have had. On December 28, 1947, he arrived in Pensacola, Florida.
At first, Fernandez must have been surprised at her size but outwardly he gave no signs of his disapproval. When she first saw Fernandez, Martha was thrilled. She couldn't believe how lucky she was to have such a handsome man. He was everything she dreamed of, and more. She thought he strongly resembled her hero, Charles Boyer. They returned to her home where Martha introduced Raymond to her two children and prepared dinner. Once the children were put to bed, Raymond made his move. Martha, already thrilled that he would pay any attention to her whatsoever, quickly surrendered. For the first time in her life, she attained sexual fulfillment. It was a revelation.
Fernandez, though, was still thinking of his scheme to fleece the gullible Martha. He was anxious to learn of her assets in order to determine if she was worth the effort. They spent the next day and night together and had sex several times. Martha swore her undying love and wanted him to stay in Florida to marry her. But Fernandez did not want marriage; he wanted to continue his work. He suddenly told Martha that he had business in New York and really should return as soon as possible. Martha protested but Fernandez calmed her by saying he would soon be back or send money so she could join him in New York. Martha interpreted that as a sort of proposal.
After he boarded the train in Jacksonville, she went back to Milton and told everyone that she was about to be married again. A shower was prepared in her honor, she was happy like she had never been before. Then, on the day of the shower, she received a letter from Fernandez in which he said that she "misunderstood" his feelings for her and he would not be returning to Florida. She was devastated. After Martha attempted suicide, Fernandez relented and agreed to let her visit him in New York. She stayed for a glorious two weeks.
But when she returned to her job in Florida, she was fired without explanation. When she tried to find out why, her employer refused to elaborate. Martha felt it was because the town had learned about her scandalous affair with a Latin lover from New York. She picked up her last paycheck as Martha Fernandez and went home to pack. She got her two kids dressed, said goodbye to a few friends and got on the first bus to New York.
When Fernandez answered his door on the morning of January 18, 1948, much to his dismay, he found Martha and her two children standing there. This was a major stumbling block in his career of theft and deception. Fernandez, though, didn't disapprove of having Martha around. There was something comforting about her, the way she catered to his every need, made his bed, cooked for him. But the kids had to go, he insisted. Martha reluctantly decided that giving up her children was the price she had to pay for Raymond. On January 25, 1948, she dropped off her kids at the Salvation Army and abandoned them. For the next three years, she had no contact with them whatsoever. Not until she was in Sing Sing prison in 1951, did she ever give them another thought.

The Beginning

Once they were rid of the children, Beck and Fernandez had the apartment all to themselves. It was at this point that Raymond brought out all his lonely heart letters. He told her everything: the dozens of women he deceived and robbed, his wife in Spain and the other wives as well. Martha, already committed to Fernandez, realized there was no turning back. He was her man and she was his woman. The way Martha saw the situation; it was her duty to help him. Together, they made plans for his next victim. As they poured over the photographs of widows and lonely hearts, they settled upon a Miss Esther Henne in southern Pennsylvania.
The unlikely pair traveled down to Pennsylvania where they met with Ms. Henne. Martha posed as Raymond's sister-in-law. Within the week, on February 28, 1948, Esther Henne and Raymond Fernandez were married in a brief ceremony at the County Clerk's Office in Fairfax, Virginia. Then the newlyweds, with Martha, returned to the apartment on West 139th Street. She later told reporters: "For four days he was very polite to me. Then he gave me tongue lashings when I wouldn't sign over my insurance policies and my teacher's pension fund to him." Things went downhill after that. "I began to hear stories about how he went to Spain with a woman and she died," she said. Shortly afterwards, the new Mrs. Fernandez left the apartment minus her car and hundreds of dollars which Raymond stole from her.
Several other women followed Esther Henne in quick succession including two named Myrtle. One of them, Myrtle Young of Greene Forest, Arkansas, agreed to marry Fernandez. On August 14, 1948, he and Myrtle were married in Cook County, Illinois. Martha posed as Raymond's sister this time and did everything she could to make sure that the marriage was never consummated. It included sleeping in the same bed as Myrtle. This went on for several days until Myrtle protested so much, that Raymond gave her a heavy dose of drugs which caused her to lapse into unconsciousness. With Martha's help, Raymond carried Myrtle onto a bus and sent her back to Little Rock, Arkansas where she had to be carried off the bus by the police. She was also robbed of four thousand dollars. The very next day, Myrtle Young died in a Little Rock Hospital.
Meanwhile, Martha and Raymond continued on their way back east. They stopped in several towns and met with an assortment of women who had been corresponding with Raymond. They managed to steal some money but none looked promising as a long-term investment. They arrived back in New York and soon were scouring the lonely-hearts ads for more victims. They found one in New England but when they went to meet her, she was younger than Martha imagined and she wouldn't let Raymond work the scam.
The money was dwindling lower and lower. The winter was coming and neither Martha nor Raymond had real jobs. They were desperate for more victims. Soon, they located Janet Fay, a 66-year-old widow who lived in Albany, New York. Raymond took pen in hand and began the game once again.

Janet Fay

Janet Fay rented a spacious apartment in the downtown part of the city and, more importantly, had money in the bank. She had a habit of writing letters to lonely hearts clubs and despite warnings from her friends and family, she continued the practice. Mrs. Fay was a religious woman who attended Catholic church every Sunday, a fact that was exploited by Fernandez who then laced his future letters with references to God and religion. Fernandez often used the name "Charles Martin" for his correspondence with his victims.
After a period of several weeks, in which Fernandez persuaded Janet that his aims were honorable, arrangements were made for him to come to Albany just before New Years Day. On December 30, 1948 Martha and Raymond arrived in downtown Albany and checked into a hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez. The next day, he showed up at Janet's door carrying a bouquet of flowers. They spent the day together getting acquainted and discussing religious matters.
Over the next few days, Fernandez brought along Martha, introducing her as his sister, and together, they had dinner and toured the city. Janet even allowed them to sleep over in her apartment. Soon, Raymond proposed marriage to Janet and she readily accepted. They made plans to move to Long Island where Martha had already rented an apartment at 15 Adeline Street, Valley Stream, Long Island. During the first week in January 1949, Janet made the rounds of the Albany banks cleaning out her bank accounts. She accumulated over $6,000 in cash and checks. As soon as she completed her errands, Fernandez convinced her to leave Albany.
On January 4, 1949, Fernandez, Beck and Janet Fay left Albany and drove to Long Island. When they arrived at the apartment, they ate dinner together and settled in for the night. Fernandez fell asleep first leaving Janet and Martha together alone. What exactly transpired between them will never be known for Martha told several different stories later when questioned by police. But she did say: "I was just burning up with jealousy and anger!" Martha also said that when she entered Raymond's bedroom she saw "Janet naked with her arm around Raymond." Already upset with Raymond because he showed too much attention to Janet, the sight of the two of them in bed was too much for Martha to bear. According to Martha, Janet became angry and yelled, "I won't allow you to live with us! You're the most brazen bitch I've ever seen!" An argument followed during which Fernandez allegedly told Martha: "Keep this woman quiet. I don't care what you do! Just keep her quiet!"
Martha later testified she blacked out and couldn't remember what happened. "The next I knew, the defendant Fernandez had me by the shoulders and was shaking me!" she said. Janet Fay's body lay at Martha's feet bleeding profusely from a severe head wound. She was bludgeoned into unconsciousness with a ball-peen hammer and then garroted using a scarf as a tourniquet around her neck. Martha said that immediately after the killing, she was in some type of a "trance." Fernandez and Beck cleaned up the room, wrapped the body in towels and sheets and pushed it into a closet. Then, they went to sleep.
The next day, they bought a large trunk and dumped the body inside. They drove over to Raymond's sister's house where they convinced her to store the trunk in her basement for the time being. Eleven days later, on January 15, Raymond retrieved the trunk from his sister's home and buried it in the cellar of a rented house. Raymond then covered up the grave with cement. For the next week, they cashed Janet Fay's checks and typed letters to her family saying "I am all excited and having the time of my life. I never felt as happy before. I soon will be Mrs. Martin and will go to Florida!" They signed the letters "Janet L. Fay." But in their haste, they made a pivotal error. Janet did not own a typewriter and couldn't type. Her family immediately notified the police.

Delphine and the Baby

Beck and Fernandez quickly left Valley Stream and headed west to Grand Rapids, Michigan where the next victim was waiting. For several weeks, Fernandez corresponded with a young widow named Delphine Downing, 41, who also had a two-year-old child, Rainelle. Delphine also knew Fernandez as "Charles Martin," a successful businessman in the export trade who also had a special love for children. So when "Charles" wrote Delphine and told her that he was coming for a visit to Byron Center, a suburb of Grand Rapids, she was pleasantly surprised. She also didn't mind when he said that he would be bringing his sister, Martha, along.
When they met, in late January 1949, Delphine was impressed with "Charles" and may have thought that she had a future with him. She liked his courteous manner and considerate attitude toward Rainelle. Before the month was out, he was having sex with Delphine, a development that had Martha quietly seething with rage. But Delphine's happiness was short lived. One morning, she entered the bathroom and accidentally observed "Charles" without his toupee. She was shocked at his baldness and the ugly scar on the top of his head.
She accused Fernandez of fraud and deception. Fernandez turned on the charm to placate her, but nothing worked. Martha was still burning inside but remained quiet, hoping the situation would calm down. She convinced Delphine to take some sleeping pills. While the pills did their work, Rainelle began to cry, perhaps sensing that her mother was not acting normally. Martha, already furious with Delphine and Fernandez, suddenly grabbed the child and began to choke her into unconsciousness causing obvious bruises on her neck. Fernandez was angry.
"If she wakes up and sees Rainelle, she'll go to the police!" he said.
"Do something, Ray!" Martha said. Fernandez went into the next room and retrieved a handgun that belonged to Delphine's dead husband. He wrapped the pistol in a blanket and placed the muzzle against Delphine's head. He pulled the trigger, sending a bullet into her brain, which killed her instantly. Rainelle watched the entire event from a few feet away. Then, they wrapped Delphine up in sheets and carried her into the basement. They dug a large hole and dumped the body in. Fernandez covered the grave with cement while Martha dutifully cleaned up the murder scene.
For the next two days, they made their plans to escape. They cashed in whatever checks that Delphine had and looted the house of all valuables. Meanwhile, Rainelle cried constantly and refused to eat. They talked over what should be done with the little girl but could not agree. Ultimately, Fernandez told Martha to get rid of her.
"I can't do it, Ray, I can't!" she pleaded. But Martha was already in too deep. She was accomplice to several murders and partner to dozens of frauds and thefts. She had no real home and had abandoned her own children to be with her Svengali lover. And now, after burying yet another body to hide their crimes, Fernandez wanted her to do the unthinkable. She may have tried to resist, but his power over her was complete. As Rainelle continued to sob, Beck and Fernandez transferred some of the water that had accumulated in the basement and filled an empty metal tub to the brim. Then, in an act of callous depravity, Martha picked up the child and held her under the water until she drowned. A few minutes later, Fernandez was digging another grave next to Delphine. Only this one was a lot smaller.
Although they were now free to leave town and move on, they chose not to. Instead, Martha and Raymond went to the movies. Later when they came back to the apartment, they began to pack their bags. There was a knock at the door and when Fernandez opened it, he found two stern-looking cops standing in front of him. Suspicious neighbors had called the police.

The Arrest

After they were arrested on February 28, 1949, Beck and Fernandez were brought to the Kent County D.A.'s office where they were questioned by the police and the District Attorney. Perhaps because they were already resigned to their fate, neither asked for an attorney nor did they attempt to avoid questioning. "I'm no average killer," Fernandez said to investigators. Together they told a salacious story of sex, deception and murder to the police. They signed a 73-page confession in the presence of Kent County D.A. Roger O. McMahon who assured them they would never be turned over to the New York police. Fernandez and Beck were aware there was no death penalty in Michigan and were content to remain in Kent County rather than be extradited back to New York to face charges for the Fay killing.
"The electric chair scares me!" Martha said. With the promise that if they told the truth, Fernandez could be out of prison in six years with time off for good behavior, they cooperated fully with investigators.

Martha Beck

The next day, the Lonely Hearts murder case was in the nation's headlines. It was page one in every big city newspaper. The N.Y. Times wrote, "3 'Lonely Hearts' Murders Trap Pair; Body Dug Up Here." Wherever Beck and Fernandez went while in custody, the photographers followed, hoping to catch a photo of America's most dysfunctional couple. And just as soon, the process of dehumanizing Martha Beck began.
The papers called her "fat," "simpering," "Big Martha," "a 200 lb. figure of wrath," "the giggling divorcee," "unattractive," "a weird woman," and other humiliating terms. Each newspaper story published during that period included her weight, which was falsely reported in nearly every instance. (Her actual weight at the time of her arrest was 233 pounds.) Unfortunately, the New York press has a long and shameful history of such reporting, particularly in murder cases where the accused is a female. From the time of Ruth Snyder in 1927, a woman convicted of murdering her husband, right up until the modern era, the city's tabloids often lose every sense of objectivity when it comes to reporting on criminal trials in which the defendant is a woman. Snyder, especially, was vilified by the press in a way that is seldom seen for any criminal defendant, male or female. Her case became the journalism benchmark on how a woman can be totally demonized by newspaper reporting.

Raymond Fernandez in jail

Headlines such as "Reveal Lonely Hearts Blood Money Dealings," "Hearts Killer Explodes at Attorney," and "Fernandez Tells Strange Love Story" built an image in the public's eye that the two defendants were already guilty and a trial was just a necessary formality. In a startling display of the media's bias in this case, even just a cursory read of the press coverage before and during the murder trial reveals an expectation, even a demand, that Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez receive the death penalty. The pressure for them to die was building.
During the week of March 8, 1949, after several phone calls from New York Governor Thomas Dewey to the state of Michigan, a deal was cut with Kent County prosecutors. They would waive criminal charges for the Downing murders and permit New York to extradite the defendants to face charges in the Janet Fay murder.
The reason was simple: Michigan had no electric chair.

The Trial Circus

Martha Beck, attorney Rosenberg (mid-
dle) and Raymond Fernandez

Amidst a stunning, deadly heat wave that gripped the nation that summer, the trial of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez opened on June 28, 1949. A young Manhattan attorney, Herbert E. Rosenberg, was chosen to represent Martha and Raymond. Of course, one attorney to represent both defendants was a violation of ethics and unfair to the accused, but the decision was allowed to stand. A change of venue from Nassau County, Long Island, where the Fay murder was committed, was granted and the trial moved to the more spacious, more accessible Bronx Supreme Court near baseball's famous Yankee Stadium. But nothing could save the spectators from the oppressive heat. Over the July 4th weekend in 1949, at least 881 people died nationwide from heat and accidents, a record that still stands today.
Judge Ferdinand Pecora sat on the bench, a stern but fair jurist who had a reputation of moving things along in his trials. The prosecutor was Nassau County District Attorney Edward Robinson Jr. who was on the case since the very beginning and participated in the deal to extradite the defendants back from Michigan. The prosecution began its case with a barrage of witnesses including the medical examiner, friends of Janet Fay from Albany and the landlord from Janet's apartment. Michigan investigators followed them to the stand and forensic detectives later explained the substantial physical evidence to the court.
Raymond Fernandez took the stand on July 11, 1949. He denied any role in the Fay killing and said that he only met Martha a short time before by writing to lonely hearts clubs. He admitted confessing to the Michigan authorities but wished to retract the entire statement because he said he confessed only to save his sweetheart, Martha. In a soft voice and often smiling over at Martha as she nodded approvingly during his testimony, Fernandez appeared the picture of the sophisticated Spanish gentleman.
"All my statements were made for the purpose of helping Martha," he said softly, exposing his gold lined front teeth. "I love her. It couldn't be anything else," he added.
But prosecutor Edward Robinson jumped all over Fernandez's story by bringing up Jane Thompson, Delphine Downing, Rainelle Downing and Myrtle Young, all dead after meeting with Raymond Fernandez. Robinson kept after him in a shouting, blistering examination.
"Mr. Fernandez is not deaf!" said Martha from her seat after one exchange. But Fernandez scored points also, especially when he described the Michigan interrogation.
"Everybody was permitted to question me, including the newspapermen," he said. "I didn't know if I was coming or going. And the D.A. said that whatever I said would not be used against me." Fernandez regained his composure and continued on, sensing that this point was one to dwell on. "They would look upon me as a murderer in New York and let her go," he said. "As a man, I could take it better than a woman. If I cooperated, they said I would do six years and be paroled. Then I could do what I liked. If I didn't cooperate, I would go to jail for life."

Lurid Details

But the defendants had too much against them. The lengthy confession with all its gruesome detail came back to haunt them many times over. As the statement was read into the record, the courtroom gasped when they heard descriptions of the murders. "I can still hear it! The blood was dripping, dripping, dripping and the sound of it just sounded like it could be heard all the over the house!" Martha had told the Michigan investigators. While Fernandez was strangling Mrs. Fay, she said, her false teeth fell out. They had the presence of mind to dispose of them because "we realized in case her body was found, if the teeth were there, that would be a mode of identification."
D.A. Robinson then asked Fernandez if he shot and killed Delphine Downing.
"That is true," he said simply. But when asked if he killed Janet Fay, he denied it. At that point, Martha suddenly jumped out of her seat.
"I think at this time, your honor, I want to take the stand!" she shouted. Judge Pecora admonished her as her attorney pushed her down into the seat. Page after page of their confession, each one more damaging than the last, went on to describe their twisting journey through deception, sex, fraud and murder.
The testimony of Raymond Fernandez included descriptions of extensive sexual relations he had with his various victims. Much was made of a three-way strip poker game he played with Martha and Esther Henne, one of his victims. The last hand was played for who would have the pleasure of sleeping with Fernandez. Martha won. This type of testimony continued through the morning of July 21 and was so lurid that "unauthorized persons were not permitted to loiter outside the courtroom." The N.Y. Times said that "many of the would-be spectators, predominantly women, did without lunch in order not to lose their places."

Martha Takes the Stand

The anticipation had been building for weeks. The tabloids were filled with stories of how Martha would testify. Would she give up Raymond? Would she take the blame for all the murders herself? Would she cry? When her name was called on the morning of July 25, 1949, she rose from the defense table and walked slowly to the witness stand. She climbed the two steps up to the platform and sat gently into her seat. She wore a gray and white polka dot summer dress, two strands of pearls around her neck and green wedge-type shoes. It was an outfit inappropriate for a courtroom. After Raymond described their "abnormal sexual' practices during his testimony, the New York papers went into overdrive to further degrade the accused killers. The courtroom was jammed with an overflow of spectators and reporters.
When Martha told her story to a hushed and crowded room, Fernandez sat rigid in his chair, not knowing what to expect. Martha began with her childhood, reciting all the problems she suffered through as a child. When she was just 13, Martha said, she was subjected to "two incestuous attacks" which left her "frightened and shy" and also pregnant. She said that the assaults "preyed on my mind ever since." She dreamed constantly of being in love. "Life was not worth living," she explained. "I'd rather be dead than to continue arguing with my mother each day of my life." She said that her mother was over-bearing to such a degree, that "I had to give her a day-to-day story of whom I was with and what I did." She attempted suicide on several occasions.

Martha Beck

Her luck with men was just as bad. Every time she developed a romantic relationship, she said, it went nowhere. Her first marriage ended when her husband walked out, leaving her pregnant. "He gave me the impression I was the only one he ever had loved," she said tearfully. Each boyfriend after her marriage was a disaster. She had two children along the way and yet still could not hold onto a man. She said the "remorse, fear and shame" drove her to attempt suicide once again. She told the court that she tried to commit suicide six times in the year before she was arrested and that "it entered in my mind almost every day." When she explained how she dropped off her children on January 25, 1948 at the Salvation Army in New York City, she broke down again.

"My God, Martha, what have you done?"

After a short recess, Martha returned and resumed her testimony. She claimed that she knew Fernandez was a murderer and that she helped him find lonely women to victimize. "Raymond got quite a kick out of the photographs of some of the old hags who write to him and expected him to correspond with them," she said. At times, Martha giggled when she recalled how easily Raymond was able to deceive his victims. When the questioning turned to Mrs. Fay, Martha said the last thing she remembered was Fernandez ordering her to keep Mrs. Fay quiet. Then she found herself standing over Mrs. Fay while Fernandez shook her shoulders screaming, "My God, Martha, what have you done?"
When the prosecutor asked about her love of Fernandez, Martha defended him. "We loved each other and I consider it absolutely sacred....You referred to the love making as abnormal but for the love I had for Fernandez, nothing is abnormal!" she said. Martha fidgeted in the stand, her large frame looking out of place in a wooden chair designed for smaller people. She said "a request from Mr. Fernandez to me is a command. I loved him enough to do anything he asked me to!" She insisted she remembered nothing about the killing until she saw Mrs. Fay at her feet bleeding profusely all over the rug. At her instruction, Fernandez wrapped a scarf around Mrs. Fay's neck and twisted it like a tourniquet. With a straight face, Martha said her "training as a nurse taught her that a tourniquet about the neck would stop bleeding from the head."
For three days, she was questioned relentlessly by Nassau County District Attorney Edward Robinson Jr. At times, tearful, angry, rebellious, Martha gave details of her sexual relationship with Fernandez that made some women leave the courtroom. When she began to describe certain sex acts connected to the practice of voodoo, a contingent of two dozen cops had to be called to the Bronx Supreme Court building to contend with the crowds that tried to push their way into the courtroom. The N. Y. Times reported "the lonely hearts murder trial was disrupted yesterday afternoon by a near riot of would be spectators outside the courtroom."

The Verdict

On August 18, 1949, after 44 days of testimony and a five-hour charge by Judge Pecora, the case went to the jury. They took a break for dinner and began deliberations at 9:45 p.m. Later that night, they came back and asked for a reading of Fernandez's confession. They also asked for a clarification on the term "premeditation." Some observers thought that Fernandez would take the weight of the case while Martha would be convicted on a lesser charge. But the jurors worked through the night with no sleep and by 8:30 a.m. the next morning it was over. Ironically, when the verdict was announced, there was almost no one in the courtroom. Thinking that the jury would continue deliberations in the morning, all the spectators went home for the night.

Daily News clipping, August 19, 1949

Almost immediately after the jury received the case on the night before, a vote was taken. The tally was already 11 to 1 for conviction. A single juror wondered if Martha was sane and if Fernandez had premeditated the murder of Mrs. Fay. After several hours of debate that juror gave in and voted for conviction. The jury of ten men and two women found Fernandez and Beck guilty of first-degree murder. The defendants displayed no emotion or surprise though the Daily News said "Mrs. Beck, as she did so many times during the trial, took on a brazen pose." There was no recommendation for mercy for either defendant and sentencing was set for the following Monday.
On August 22, Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez stood impassively as Judge Pecora sentenced them both to die in the electric chair on October 10 of that year. Within the hour, they were on their way to Sing Sing prison on the banks of the Hudson River. Martha became inmate #108594 and Fernandez became # 108595. Upon admission, Martha was asked routine questions.

Warrant of Execution for Martha Beck

"To what do you attribute your criminal act" the guard asked.
"Something I got into. I had no control," she replied. To the same question, Fernandez said, "An accident." They were processed, immediately separated and placed on Death Row. Ironically, Martha was assigned the same cell as murderess Ruth Snyder in 1927 and later occupied by the irrepressible Eva Coo in 1936. Both were executed. The cell consisted of a bunk, a sink and toilet. Her only companions would be the matrons on duty. Martha submitted a list of approved visitors that included her divorced husband, Alfred Beck, her brother and three sisters. She also included her son Anthony, now 4, and her daughter Carmen, 5 who she hadn't seen since January 1948 when she abandoned them at the Salvation Army office in Manhattan.

On Death Row

Martha and Raymond's stay on Death Row in Sing Sing prison had to be one of the most tumultuous events in that prison's history. From the day they arrived on August 19, 1949 until March 8, 1951 when they were executed, the ongoing soap opera of the broken-hearted Martha never ceased. Fed by intermittent press stories of Martha's sexual deprivation and erratic behavior, the public never lost its appetite for gossip about the Lonely Hearts Killers.
In September 1950 it was rumored that Martha was having an ongoing sexual relationship with one of the guards, a story that made front-page news in the tabloids. "For several weeks I have suffered in silence because of the rumors started by Mr. Fernandez," she wrote in a letter to Warden Denno of Sing Sing. "To print that or say that I am having an affair with a guard is one of the most asinine and ridiculous statements ever made!" she said. "Approximately 25 million persons heard Winchell's broadcast tonight including members of my own family. And I'll admit it will be a shock and embarrassment to them."
But Fernandez apparently believed the story and submitted court papers to have his case dropped. The petition stated "the triangle subjects him to mental torture beyond endurance" and requests that all appeals on his behalf be stopped immediately so that he be executed forthwith to "end his living death!" Martha asked her attorney, Herbert Rosenberg to do something to stop the rumors. "What do they expect me to do?" she wrote. "Sit here and let him destroy the one thread of decency I have left? He has done so much talking about how he has me wrapped around his little finger that it was a blow to his ego when I unwrapped myself and forgot about him...All I can say is: what a character!"
As time went on, Martha and Raymond carried on a love/hate relationship that changed almost daily. Some days they professed their undying love for one another, other days they would barely speak to each other. In one letter, Martha belittled him to her mother: "Oh yes, he's brave when it comes to talk and hurting others he can kill without batting an eyelash but to hurt himself he'd never do it. It takes a man to kill himself. Not a sniveling, low-down, double-crossing, lying rat like him!"
Incredibly, all during the time he spent on Death Row and apparently unknown to Martha, Fernandez continued to write and profess his love for his first wife Encarnacion, who was still in La Linea, Spain with his four children. "Kisses and hugs to the children and you receive a million kisses and hugs from the one who always will have you until the last second of my life," Fernandez wrote on January 8, 1951. Encarnacion, who knew that he was involved with many other women, still considered him her husband and wrote: "Do you prefer me to fly to you and spank you for not writing, just as if you were a little child? Kisses from the children. All my love to you, from your wife, Encarna."
But it was Martha, the hopeless romantic, who was trapped in a web of deceit and obsessive love who captured the imagination of legions of women. They could empathize with a young girl, who was ridiculed and rejected by family, friends and boyfriends because of a weight problem. They could feel for a woman who wound up on Death Row because she wanted to please the only man she ever loved and who loved her.

The Love Story Ends

Although executions were still a reality at Sing Sing, the number of executions had diminished greatly in the previous few years. There were only three in 1950, down from 14 in 1949 and a high of 21 executions in 1936. After several failed appeals, their execution date was set for March 8, 1951. Martha would be the 6th female executed in the state of New York during the 20th century. As time ran out for the Lonely Hearts Killers, they reconciled and wrote letters to each other declaring their love once more.
Preparations for the event required weeks of activity by the prison staff. Witnesses for the Beck and Fernandez executions totaled at least 52 people, an unusually high number. They included nine judges, numerous police officials from Michigan, New York and Long Island, press representatives from the Detroit News, the New York Journal American, the World Telegram, theNew York Daily News, the New York Mirror, New York's El Diario, the Pensacola Daily Times and many others. Prison officials were unusually accommodating to the media.
On March 8, her last morning, Martha ate "a good breakfast, ham, eggs and coffee and took a shower," according to a Death Row log kept by Matron Evans. "Martha ate fair dinner. Laundry sent out, returned and checked," she wrote. Martha preferred to spend her last day with Matron Evans but became angry when she discovered that another matron would be on duty from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Martha wrote her last angry letter that afternoon in which she said, "I do not appreciate it one bit, but I am glad that no member of my family will know how hurt and misled my last day was. It hurts me deeply to realize that I have been wrong in thinking that there could be "good" in a state paid employee. Martha Jule # 108594."

Raymond Fernandez's last meal request

According to Martha's written instructions, her last meal consisted of "Fried chicken, no wings, French frys (sic), lettuce and tomato salad." Fernandez ordered an onion omelet, French fries, chocolate and a Cuban cigar. He was especially nervous and confided to prison guards that he may not hold up under the pressure. As the hour grew near, Martha sent Fernandez a note professing her undying love.
"The news brought to me that Martha loves me is the best I've had in years. Now I'm ready to die!" he said. "So tonight I'll die like a man!"
At 11:00 p.m. the procedure began. First, two other convicts, John King, 22, and Richard Power, 22, from Queens, New York were taken from their cells and marched over to the pale green death chamber. They were executed for the senseless murder of an airline clerk in 1950. After their deaths, Fernandez was removed from his cell and taken to the same cold, barren room. It was tradition at Sing Sing that the weakest should go first. "I want to shout it out. I love Martha! What do the public know about love?" he said. Fernandez was a broken man, panic-stricken and paralyzed with fear. He had to be carried into the chair.
Minutes later, Martha was brought into the dreaded room on her own volition, escorted by the matrons. She sat down into the creaking chair carefully and had to wriggle her large frame into the seat. She was able to squeeze into position with difficulty as the teary matrons applied the straps to her body. Her mouth formed the words "So long!" but no sound escaped her lips. At 11:24 p.m. she was dead. It was the first quadruple execution since 1947. The executioner, Joseph Francel of Cairo, New York, was paid $150 per person for his expertise.
Before she was led from her cell, Martha had this final statement for the press. "What does it matter who is to blame?" she said. "My story is a love story, but only those tortured with love can understand what I mean. I was pictured as a fat unfeeling woman...I am not unfeeling, stupid or moronic...in the history of the world how many crimes have been attributed to love?"

Lonely Hearts Movie

by Katherine Ramsland
While svelte actress Salma Hayek is no Martha Beck, a hefty former nurse-turned-serial killer, this vivid rendering of the 1940s "Lonely Hearts" team of grifting executioners is nevertheless a satisfying case study. Since it's meant to honor a detective who stayed on their trail (the director/scriptwriter's grandfather), we get two tales in one. The cops provide the investigative framework, though they often encumber the narrative drive, and the grifters, Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez (Jared Leto), keep things moving.

Salma Hayek

There have been two prior film renditions of this true crime story, The Honeymoon Killers and Deep Crimson, but Lonely Hearts is the first to weave in the detectives' perspective. The filmmakers adopt a noirish style, including a voiceover that spews hard-boiled metaphors as abysmal as the lighting in many scenes, so it takes patience to get into the story. We follow homicide cop Charles Hildebrandt (James Gandolfini) and his dour partner, Elmer C. Robinson (John Travolta), as they track down a male con artist using lonely hearts ads to fleece vulnerable women. (In an interview, Travolta explained that his deadpan portrayal of Robinson mimicked the post-war machismo typical of a man in that position.)

James Gandolfini (left) and John Travolta

While tracking Fernandez's handiwork, the investigators learn that he's teamed up with a woman, who poses as his sister. Robinson thinks they've turned their con game into a deadly affair and on instinct he associates them with more than a dozen fatal incidents, such as suicides that might have been murders.
While it's difficult to imagine how the real Martha Beck, an intended mark both homely and overweight, managed to seduce Fernandez into a relationship (aside from kinky sex), it's not difficult to see how Hayek's Beck accomplished it, which is perhaps why Hayek was cast. While she's hardly credible as a "lonely heart," her sexual manipulations carry the film, especially when the con game grows stale.
Robinson, whose wife has recently committed suicide, keeps seeking proof of the couple's more deadly deeds, despite his partner's skepticism. Finally in a rental house traced to Fernandez, they find evidence: Apparently, the killers didn't realize just how much blood can seep through floorboard cracks and the discovery of this mess is an unforgettable scene.
The cops then learn that Beck and Fernandez have gone to Michigan, but they arrive only after the dirty work's been done — including killing a child. The real Beck and Fernandez were convicted, largely due to their 73-page confession, and both went to the chair on the same day in�Sing Sing. Their post-conviction shenanigans made headlines right up to their execution (though the film does not go that far).


Continuation of Katherine Ramsland's review of the Movie Lonely Hearts
While Fernandez might have been content to simply rob women (reportedly over 100), once Beck crosses his path, more potent demons emerge. She's a jealous lover, and Fernandez's tendency to consummate his faux relationships before getting the dough ignites her fury. Since she has little regard for others she has no trouble "removing" temptation, and in these scenes Hayek ably conveys Beck's cold-blooded rage. Yet Leto is a good match, as he portrays a two-bit Lothario who's in over his head but who's nevertheless addicted to his viperous partner.

Movie poster: Lonely Hearts

Beck's overbearing neediness escalates their violence and one wonders at times if Fernandez participates in the murders in lieu of killing Beck. Just before their arrest, he seems enveloped in the turmoil of a man who's about to either flee or explode. Such is the evolution of many serial-killing duos; often, one has doubts and thus turns the tide against them both.
One glaring (albeit merciful) inconsistency is how the film revels in the gory details of adult murders but avoids that of a child; similarly, we get the entire disturbing experience of the execution of Fernandez but not of Beck. Not that we want to see such terrible scenes, but the abrupt delicacy is like finding a teaspoon in the knife drawer. Yet when the full scope of the violence is shown, it gets quite gruesome: all knives are drawn.
Narcissistic and self-deluded to the end, the killers' just desserts once captured draw a fairly depressing movie to a close. Yet it's at this juncture that the actual story became sensational, and for some reason, the detailed confessions, replete with descriptions of lurid sex, have been overlooked. While obvious only to those who know the story, it's nevertheless disappointing; it's what made the twosome a convincing couple. But then, that wasn't the purpose of this film.
Todd Robinson says he decided to make it after looking over a listing of true crime cases and stumbling across the Beck/Fernandez tale. It triggered memories of the stories his grandfather would tell, and he recalled this one in particular. His grandfather had been in on it. Yet even with this personal connection, the cops' part of the story is lumbering and seems unresolved, perhaps because it was really the Michigan police who brought this killing couple to ground.
Lonely Hearts flirts with the sordid story of Beck and Fernandez the way Badlands once utilizedCharles Starkweather's murderous spree in the 1950s: it's not really the story we expect, but it's not altogether disappointing, either. For those who enjoy a detective film, it's at least an intriguing experiment.


Buck, Paul. The Honeymoon Killers. London: Xanadu Publications. 1970.
Beck, Martha Personal Letters in Sing Sing Case Files. Courtesy of New York State Archives, Albany, New York.
Brown, Wenzell. They Died in the Chair. Toronto: Popular Press. 1958.
Brown, Wenzell. Introduction to Murder. London: Andrew Dakers Limited. 1953
Christianson, Scott. Condemned. NY: Northern University Press. 1998.
Cook, John. "Pulling the Plug on the Electric Chair," Mother Jones Interactive. May, 2000
New York Daily News articles:
Dillon, Edward and Lee, Henry. "Link Lonely Hearts Pair With Slain Widow," June 28, 1949; "Reveal Lonely Hearts Blood Money Dealings," June 29, 1949; "Hearts Killer Explodes at Attorney," July 1, 1949; "Fernandez to Hit Own Confession," July 6, 1949; "Fernandez Admits Heart Killing in Michigan, Denies One Here," July 13, 1949; "Fernandez tells Strange Love Story," July 21, 1949; "Mean Mom, Bad Men My Downfall: Martha," July 26, 1949.
Kivel, Martin. "Hearts Killers Calmly Face the Last Mile," March 9, 1951.
The Citizen Register, September 2, 1949, March 9, 1951
Death Penalty Information Center http://www.deathpenalty.org
Elliot, Robert G. Agent of Death. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co. 1940
Frasier, David K. Murder Cases of the Twentieth Century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company Inc. 1972.
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in New York State 1639-1963. 1997.
Knappman, Edward W., editor. Great American Trials. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press. 1994
Nash, Jay Robert. Bloodletters and Badmen. New York: M. Evans and Company. 1973
Nash, Jay Robert. Look For the Woman. NY: M. Evans and Company Inc. 1981
Seigel, Kalman. "3 Lonely Hearts Murders Trap Pair; Body Dug up Here," March 2, 1949, New York Times.
Sing Sing Prison Electrocutions 1891-1963. Ossining Historical Society, Ossining, New York
Sing Sing Prison: case files of the condemned, New York State Archives, Albany, New York.
Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. NY: Facts on File Inc. 1970.


Short Bussed
  1. SERIAL KILLER COUPLES A True Crime Book by Bestselling ...


    by R. Barri Flowers
    4 Jan 2012 – SERIAL KILLER COUPLES: Bonded by Sexual Depravity, Abduction, and Murder chronicles the true crimes of sexually motivated serial killers ...

  2. SERIAL KILLER COUPLES: Bonded by Sexual Depravity, Abduction ...

    SERIAL KILLER COUPLES: Bonded by Sexual Depravity, Abduction, and Murder, the new true crime book by bestselling crime writer R. Barri Flowers, ...

  3. US couple held as serial killing suspects in Panama paradise ...

    www.guardian.co.ukNewsWorld newsPanama
    1 Aug 2010 – US couple held as serial killing suspects in Panama paradise ... serial killers who murdered up to nine people for their property and money.
    You visited this page on 2/11/12.

  4. Serial Killer Linked To Santa Barbara Couple's 1981

    losangeles.cbslocal.com/.../dna-in-santa-barbara-c... - United States
    5 May 2011 – DNA evidence links the 1981 killings of a Santa Barbara County couple to a serial killer and rapist who has never been caught, officials said ...


    forum.goregrish.com › ... › Serial Killers
    15 Oct 2012 –


Short Bussed

James Clifford Carson (aka Michael Bear Carson) (born 1950) and Suzan Barnes Carson (born 1942) were serial killers reported to have been active in several countries and regions in the late 1970s and early 1980s - particularly, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
They were involved in the counter culture movement. Their crimes emerged from a shared missionary philosophy to exterminate individuals they believed to be "witches". The pair reportedly kept a list of targeted individuals including celebrities and political figures such as Johnny Carson and then-president Ronald Reagan.
After their arrest in 1983, they held a news conference confessing to murders, including those of Karen Barnes, stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her home in Haight-Ashbury in 1981, Clark Stephens, murdered and mutilated (dismembered and set on fire) in Humboldt County and John Hillyar, who was stabbed and shot on the side of the road in Napa Valley. They were also suspects in 9 other murders in Europe and the U.S.
On 12 June 1984 the Carsons were convicted of one murder and sentenced to serve twenty five years to life in prison. Later they were convicted of two other murders and given 50 years to life. Their final sentence was 75 years to life. James Carson is incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison and Suzan Carson is incarcerated at California Central Women's Facility.
FULL TEXT: San Francisco – A couple who complained their murder trial hadn’t received enough publicity told reporters they have killed three people for “religious reasons,” the San Francisco reported today.
“Witchcraft, homosexuality and abortion are causes for death,” said Michael Bear Carson, who with his wife, Suzan, described the killings during a five-hour interview Wednesday with the Chronicle and KGO-TV.
Homicide inspectors from the San Francisco police and the Sonoma County sheriff’s office were also present.
The couple, who say they are vegetarian Moslem “warriors,” face trial in Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa over the January 1983 shooting death of Jon Charles Hillyar, 30. but they also said they had killed 23-year-old Keryn Barnes in San Francisco in March 1981 and Clark Stephens in Humbolt County in 1982.
Carson last month wrote to Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, complaining that his murder trial had received “no publicity in the more important press.”
“We insist on pre-trial publicity,” the bearded long-haired man said Wednesday, complaining that he hadn’t been allowed to air his opinions during a preliminary hearing last week.
Carson, 22, described Suzan as “a yogi and a mystic with knowledge of past, present and future events.” He claimed she had been sexually attacked by Stephens and abused by Hillyar, who said she was a “witch.”
“Susan ordered each killing,” he said as his wife sat beside him, half smiling.
The two said they had led a wandering life, from San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to Europe, the American Southwest and other portions of California. They said they developed feelings of pacifism, came to practice yoga and vegetarianism and then converted to a form of the Moslem religion.
Mrs. Carson complained that Miss Barnes, who shared an apartment with the couple in 1961, faked a conversion to Islam and in fact was draining Miss Carson of her health and yogic powers.
During a hitchhiking trip home from Arizona, the Carsons were staying in an Oxnard motelroom when Suzan “got orders” in her mind to kill their roommate.
“Each time Suzan said it, the thunder would clap,” Carson said.
After arriving back in San Francisco, Carson said, he bashed Miss Barnes on the head “as hard as I could, three times” and when she still made a sound, he stabbed her in the neck with a small knife.
Stephens, who allegedly worked on a marijuana farm near Garberville with the Carsons, was slain near the town of Alderpoint, Mrs. Carson said he was “a demon. He had to be killed.”
Carson said he shot Stephens twice in the head and once in the side and then burned the body and buried it beneath some chicken fertilizer.
Carson said Hillyer, whom the couple met while hitchhiking, “abused Suzan sexually” and therefore had to be killed. He said that was “part of the Koran.”
[“‘Religious Reasons’ Cited – Murder Suspects Admit Slayings,” The Press-Courier (Oxnard, Ca.), Apr. 28, 1983, p. 31]

Users who are viewing this thread