carol fugate

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Charles Starkweather was an American spree killer in the 1950’s. Starkweather, along with his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, would eventually kill eleven people in a two month period before being apprehended by law enforcement. 

Starkweather was born on November 24th, 1938 in Lincoln, Nebraska, to a mild-mannered family. The third of seven children, the Starkweathers were often stretched for money, but Guy and Helen Starkweather made sure their children never went without the necessities. School was miserable for young Charles, a birth defect left his legs misshapen, making him an easy target for bullying. In addition, a speech impediment made him especially susceptible to teasing. Many thought Charles was mentally challenged, but it was discovered in his late teens he had severe myopia, which impaired his vision. The one class Starkweather excelled in was gym, where he could release all his pent up rage caused by bullying. Eventually his rage stretched from those who bullied him to anyone who crossed him the wrong way. Charles soon became a troubled young man, unlike the rest of the Starkweathers. An inferiority complex tormented him, and he believed there was nothing he could do right.

In 1956, Charles, now eighteen, met thirteen year old Caril Ann Fugate. Charles had already dropped out of high school, and was employed at a newspaper warehouse near Caril’s school. After an incident where Caril, who was with Charles at the time, crashed Guy Starkweather’s car, Guy forbid Charles from ever going to the Fugate household again. 

Starkweather commited his first murder on November 30th, 1957. A gas station attendant refused to sell him an item on credit, so after many visits back to purchase menial items, Starkweather shot and killed the attendant. 

Two months later, on January 21st, 1958, Starkweather went over to his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate’s house. She was not home, and Charles was told to stay away from her. He then shot and killed Fugate’s mother and stepfather, Velda and Marion Bartlett, and her two year old half sister Betty Jean through strangulation and stabbing. Upon Caril’s return, the bodies were hidden and the pair remained at Fugate’s home until January 27th, 1958. They drove to Bennet, Nebraska to meet a family friend, August Meyer. Starkweather shot and killed Meyer and his dog, before leaving with Fugate to abandon their vehicle. 

Two teenagers, Robert Jensen and Carol King, offered Fugate and Starkweather a ride. Starkweather proceeded to take them hostage and force them to drive to an abandoned storm shelter. Jensen was immediately shot and killed. Starkweather attempted to rape Carol King, but finding himself unable to perform, shot and killed her as well. Fugate would mutilate King’s genitals. They left Bennet using Jensen’s car.

Fugate and Starkweather arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska. They happened upon the Ward household, where Clara Ward and her maid Lillian Fencl were currently occupying. Starkweather stabbed both Ward and Fencl, but would later attribute the multiple stab wounds on Ward to Fugate. When Clara’s husband Lauer came home, Charles shot and killed him.

Needing a new vehicle due to the high publicity of the Ward-Fencl murders, Starkweather and Fugate drove around until they saw a traveling salesman by the name of Merle Collison sleeping in the back of his Buick. Fugate and Starkweather proceeded to wake and shoot Collison and steal his car. While driving away the Buick stalled, and a passing driver offered to help. Starkweather threatened him with a gun, and eventually a deputy sheriff arrived. Caril ran towards the officer, yelling something along the lines of “It’s Starkweather! He’s going to kill me!” After a brief chase Starkweather gave himself up, and both Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate were arrested in Douglas, Nebraska.

Charles Starkweather, after being extradited to Nebraska, was found guilty in the murder of Robert Jensen and sentenced to death. Caril Ann Fugate was sentenced to life in prison, and was released in June 1976 after a seventeen and a half year sentence. 

Charles Starkweather was executed by electric chair at 12:04 am on June 25, 1959 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. He was twenty years old.