Friday, March 2, 2012

Caril Ann Fugate

Caril Ann Fugate (born July 30, 1943) was the adolescent girlfriend and alleged accomplice of spree killer Charles Starkweather. She is the youngest female in United States history to have been tried for first-degree murder.

Fugate lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her mother and stepfather. In 1956 she formed a relationship with Charles Starkweather, a high school dropout five years her senior, who worked as a truck unloader at the Western Newspaper Union warehouse. On January 21, 1958, Fugate later claimed, she came home to find that Starkweather had shot and killed her stepfather, Marion Bartlett, and her mother, Velda. Starkweather then choked and stabbed her baby half-sister, Betty Jean, to death. The bodies were found later in outbuildings on the property.

During the next six days the pair lived in the house and turned away all visitors, which made Fugate's relatives suspicious. Starkweather and Fugate then fled, driving across Nebraska on a spree of robberies and murders that claimed eight more lives before they were arrested. Fugate's downfall was admitting to holding a .410 shotgun on a young high school couple in a car while robbing them of $4; the couple were shot and killed later that evening. The girl was found partially naked and was stabbed multiple times in the abdomen after being shot. Starkweather and Fugate accused each other of the girl's murder, while Starkweather openly admitted to killing the boy.

Starkweather was executed in the electric chair on June 25, 1959. He insisted that although he had personally dispatched most of the victims, Fugate had murdered several as well. The extent of her actual involvement is uncertain.

Fugate was tried for her role in the murder spree. The jury did not believe her claim that Starkweather had held her hostage, because she had many opportunities to escape. She was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York, Nebraska. A model prisoner, Fugate was paroled in 1976 after serving 17 years. She now lives in Lansing, Michigan, as a retired medical aide, and married in late 2007. Her unauthorized biography, Caril, was written by Ninette Beaver, and to this day Caril Ann Fugate maintains her total innocence.

A character based on Fugate was portrayed by Sissy Spacek in the feature film Badlands (1973). Fairuza Balk portrayed her in the television mini-series Murder in the Heartland (1993), and actress Shannon Lucio portrayed her in the feature film Starkweather (2004). Bruce Springsteen's 1982 Nebraska cover song is a a first-person narrative based on this crime spree.

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