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Charles Starkweather also known as "Chuck" or "Charlie" was born on November 24, 1938, At Saratoga Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska, the boys picked on him because of his thick glasses and speech impediment. When he fought back with a knife they backed off. Starkweather was a bowlegged, high school dropout. His copper colored hair and piercing green eyes, gave him a striking resemblance to James Dean. He believed the world had always been against him. He was recently fired from a job on a garbage truck for laziness, and banned from his rented room until he paid up his rent.
After robbing a Lincoln service station, On December 1, 1957, Starkweather abducted employee, Robert Colvert, 21, and took him to a secluded location to shot him in the head.
His only interests were guns, guitars, hot-rods, (his most prized possession was his souped-up 1949 Ford) and Caril Fugate. He was forbidden see Caril who he had proposed to numerous times, by her parents.
Caril Ann Fugate was born 1943. In 1956, at the age of fourteen she was in love with Charlie who was five years older than her.
On January 21, 1958, Caril Ann came home from school to her family’s rundown, one-story frame house in the poor Belmont section of Lincoln, Nebraska into the midst of her family’s massacre. After an argument with Starkweather, Caril's stepfather, Marion Bartlett, 57, and her mother, Velda Bartlett, 36, were shot in the head. Caril's two-and-a-half-year-old baby sister, Betty Jean was clubbed to death in her bed. Afterwards the couple prepared sandwiches and had lunch.
Starkweather hid the bodies outside and the young couple lived in the house for days. Twice relatives came by to find out why nobody from the family had been seen. Caril sent them away at the door, telling them everyone was sick. Detectives were called to investigate by Caril Ann's grandmother.
They found a note on the front door:
A search turned up the body of Marion wrapped in paper in the chicken house. Caril's mother, Velda, and baby Betty Jean were found in an outbuilding. The lovers were already long gone driving across Nebraska killing and stealing.
What the cops didn't know was that four hours earlier the couple drove to a Highway 77 service station to buy gas, a box of .410 shotgun shells and two boxes of .225 before heading to the rural farmlands of Bennet (pop. 350), 16 miles SE of Lincoln. Starkweather knew where they could hideout, in a nice neat farmhouse owned by old family friend, 70-year-old August Meyer, who frequently invited the Starkweather family to hunt on his property. In the early evening, on the way Meyers, their car got stuck in the mud when the Bennet High School Junior Class President, Robert Jensen, 17, and his date, Carol King, 16, drove by in a Ford with offers to help. Starkweather shot them in the head with a .22 rifle, and made an unsuccessful attempt to rape the girl, before stuffing their bodies in an abandoned storm cellar. They drove to Meyer's house to get more guns and ammunition. Starkweather killed the old family friend with a .410-gauge shotgun, before shoving his body in a washhouse before heading back to Lincoln.
As a garbage collector, Starkweather knew his way around Lincoln's city's exclusive opulent southeast side. After he pulled into the garage of large French provincial home belonging to C. Lauer Ward, president of the Capital Steel Company, he forced his way inside the home. He pushed Clara Ward, 46, and Housekeeper Lillian Fend, 51, to the second floor, before he tying them to a bed, gagged, and fatally stabbing them.
At about 5:30 PM, Lauer Ward, 47, returned from a conference with Nebraska's Governor, Victor Anderson Starkweather was waiting in the hall. Ward was shot in the head and neck, and then stabbed in the back as soon as he opened his front door. Starkweather and Caril took his 1956 black Packard, and headed west out of Lincoln on Highway 2 to Wyoming.
Lincoln was gripped with terror. When Sheriff Merle Karnopp called for a posse, 100 men deputized and armed with deer rifles, shotguns and pistols. The National Guards were called into protect the National Bank of Commerce. District court recessed. Businesses reserved hotel rooms for employees working late. Parents kept their children indoors, even taking them out of school. Over 1,200 law enforcement officers and National Guardsmen were searching for the young lovers.
Chuck and Caril were already 500 miles away striking outside Douglas, Wyo. (pop. 2,500). Merle Collison, 37, a traveling shoe Salesman from Montana pulled his new Buick off Highway 87 to sleep. Caril quietly climbed into the back seat while Starkweather opened the driver's door, and shot Collison in the head nine times. Believing someone needed help, Joe Sprinkle, 40, a geologist, stopped to help. A rifle was immediately shoved into his head, but he wrestled away the rifle just as Deputy Sheriff William Romer approached. Sprinkle ran to the deputy yelling, "Its Starkweather, he's going to kill me." Caril, who was still in the car, ran to the deputy screaming. Starkweather hopped into Sprinkle's Packard, and sped off, racing through a roadblock, at over a 100 m.p.h. until a police rifle bullet shattered his windshield.
Charged with murder an exhausted, Charlie and Caril were locked up in a Douglas, Wyoming, four-cell jail. Neither displayed much remorse after being arrested. Caril wailed for her mother until a doctor gave her a sedative. Starkweather smiled for the media while he admitted to the killings and agreed to extradition. He confessed to murdering 19-year-old Lincoln Service Station Attendant Robert Colvert, two months before.
Initially Starkweather claimed he held Caril Ann captive, but when she turned against him, Starkweather claimed Caril shared the guilt. Starkweather waived his right to a preliminary hearing on March 1, 1958, in Lancaster County Court. T. Clement Gaughan and William Matschullat were appointed to defend Starkweather. At his arraignment on March 26, 1958, he pleaded not guilty. His trial began May 5, 1958, in Lancaster District Court. Psychiatrists attributed the murders to paranoia. Starkweather's friends said it was because everyone was against his plans to marry Caril. His father said he was a slow boy growing up too fast. On May 23 a jury found him guilty.
On October 27, 1958, the Caril Fugate trial began. She claimed she was held hostage. Throughout her trial, Caril insisted she was held hostage and feared for her life. Starkweather was brought to the court from his death cell to testify that she was a willing participant and could have escaped when he left her alone with loaded guns. November 21, after ten hours of deliberation the five women and seven men jury gave her a sentence of life in prison. "You've got hope and you've got life," her grandmother told the sobbing 15-year-old. She went to the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York.
Governor Ralph Brooks refused Caril's request that Starkweather’s execution be stayed. June 5, 1959, Charles father, Guy Starkweather, wired the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to spare his son's life. Starkweather was executed by electrocution in the Nebraska State Prison on June 25, 1959, giving him the distinction of being the last person to be electrocuted in Nebraska. He is buried in Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Caril completed her high school education at the Nebraska Center for Women, where she read over 1,000 books, learned to sew, write and ran a "Dear Gabby" column in the prison paper. She was allowed to bowling, swimming, and shopping the town. In 1973 the Nebraska Parole Board, said that based on “her age at the time of the tragic event," they recommended commutation of the sentence. When it was cut to 30 to 50 years, it made her eligible for the parole after serving 18 years, in 1976. She told the board, "I'd just like to settle down, get married, have a couple of kids, dust the house, clean the toilet, and be just an ordinary little dumpy housewife. That's all I want to be." There were no objections to her petition for freedom. The Nebraska Center's Superintendent Jacqueline Crawford testified: "Whether she's guilty or innocent is irrelevant. Nebraska has got its pound of flesh." Caril was given her freedom in June 20, 1976 with plans to settle in Clinton County, Mich., where she had a clerical job and a family was willing to supervise her. She hoped to pursue a career as a medical assistant. September 28, 1981, Caril’s parole was discharged by the Nebraska Board of Parole, based on a recommendation by her parole officer in Michigan, ending all restrictions on her.
She did not marry. She has never discussed the case publicly.
The murders were fictionalized by Terrence Malick for his film Badlands.
Starkweather is the subject of the Bruce Springsteen song " Nebraska" originally titled “Starkweather."
Starkweather is mentioned in the Billy Joel hit "We Didn’t Start the Fire" 1989.
Liza Ward, the granddaughter of victims C. Lauer and Clara Ward, published a bestselling novel, "Outside Valentine," in 2004, which refers to the Starkweather spree.
Murdered on December 1, 1957:
Robert Colvert 21, Lincoln gas station attendant
Murdered on January 21, 1958:
Marion Bartlett, 57, Caril Ann's stepfather
Velda Bartlett, 36, Caril Ann's mother
Betty Jean Bartlett 2 1/2, Caril's half sister, Marion and Velda's daughter.
Murdered on January 27, 1958:
August Meyer 70, Starkweather's friend in his Bennet Frarm home.
Robert Jensen, 17 and his girlfriend Carol King, 16, near Bennet.
Murdered on January 28, 1958, in their Lincoln home:
C. Lauer Ward 48, Lincoln businessman
Clara Ward, 46, C. Lauer Ward's wife
Lillian Fencl, 51, Clara Ward's maid
Murdered on January 29, 1958:
Shoe Salesman Merle Collison, 37 from Montana
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