Friday, March 2, 2012

Charles Starkweather

Charles Raymond Starkweather (November 24, 1938 – June 25, 1959) was an American teenaged spree killer who murdered eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming during a two-month road trip with his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. The couple was captured on January 29, 1958. Starkweather was executed seventeen months later, while Fugate served 17 years in prison.

Starkweather first claimed Fugate was captured by him and had nothing to do with the murders; however, he changed his story several times, finally testifying at Fugate's trial that she was a willing participant. Fugate has always maintained he was holding her hostage by threatening to kill her family, claiming she was unaware they were already dead. Judge Harry A. Spencer did not believe that Fugate was held hostage by Starkweather, as she had many opportunities to escape. Starkweather received the death penalty for the murder of Robert Jensen (the only murder for which he was tried), and Fugate received a life sentence on November 21, 1958. Her sentence was eventually commuted, allowing her to be paroled in June 1976.

Starkweather was executed in the electric chair at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Nebraska, at 12:01 a.m. on June 25, 1959. Fugate was paroled in June 1976 after serving 18 years at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York, Nebraska. She settled in Lansing, Michigan, where she changed her name and worked as a janitor at a Lansing hospital. Fugate married in 2007 and, apart from a radio talkback show in 1996, has refused to speak of the murder spree. Starkweather is buried in Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln along with five of his victims: the Bartlett family and the Ward couple.

The Starkweather-Fugate case inspired the films The Sadist (1963), Badlands (1973), Natural Born Killers (1994) and Starkweather (2004). The made-for-TV movie Murder in the Heartland (1993) is a biographical depiction of Starkweather with Tim Roth in the starring role, while Stark Raving Mad (1983), a film starring Russell Fast and Marcie Severson, provides a fictionalized account of the Starkweather-Fugate murder spree. The 1996 Peter Jackson film The Frighteners features a central plot elements with a Starkweather-inspired killer who goes on a similar murder spree complete with a kidnapped female accomplice. "The Thirteenth Step," the January 11, 2011 episode of Criminal Minds, depicts a North Dakota and Montana newlyweds killing spree similar to the Starkweather-Fugate case.

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