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Fernandez was born in Hawaii of Spanish immigrant parents in 1914.
When Ray was three, his family moved to Connecticut. There his
father ran into job discrimination because of his broken English
and dark complexion. He worked intermittently at a series of low
paid jobs. He saw another disappointment in his son who was often
sickly and always frail. Young Ray lacked the "macho"
his father wanted in a male child. Frustrated, financially struggling,
and disappointed, the "head of the household" drank
heavily. He was a mean drunk who used excessive corporal punishment
on Ray. The punishments escalated into beatings.
mistreated children, Ray developed a deep ambivalence toward his
abuser. He feared his father's wrath yet admired the way he ruled
as the undisputed king of his outwardly humble castle.
Ray could be strong enough, masculine enough to make his father
proud! But alas, the boy was stuck in a small-framed, non-muscular
was self-conscious about many things, including his looks and
his family's material deprivation. As an adolescent, he tried
to assuage the sense of gnawing emptiness by stealing. Jailed
at 15, the teenager decided to reverse the general movement of
immigration: he would leave America for Spain, the land of his
forebears, and make a fresh start there. Upon his release, he
did exactly that. Relatives in the old country were willing to
take Ray in and he settled down and grew to adulthood in Spain.
Depression hit the United States and Ray's father believed he
had had enough of life in the supposed land of opportunity. He
wanted to re-establish a relationship with his son so he wrote
to Ray and told him of his desires. His mother and father joined
him in Spain.
that their son had become well-liked young man. He had a calm,
genial manner that easily won him friends, especially women. The
thin lanky physique that his father had often frowned upon brought
a smile to many a feminine mouth.
was about twenty years old, he married Encarnación Robles
and fathered a child with her. The financially troubled couple
argued frequently and Fernandez solved his marital problems as
he previously had solved his legal ones, by leaving the country.
Almost as soon as he got back to America, Encarnación wrote
to him that their young son was very sick. Alarmed, Fernandez
took the first boat back to Spain.
he found a country ripped apart by Civil War. He enlisted in Franco's
army. After Franco's victory, Fernandez drifted from job to job.
He was never a good breadwinner for his wife and son but did the
best he could. He was a gardener and a garbage collector and did
other tasks both manual and menial.
War II started, Fernandez saw an opportunity. In 1939, he traveled
to Gibraltar and set up as an ice-cream vendor, selling this goodie
to British military personnel and tourists.
a British man asked to speak privately with the ice-cream seller.
Perhaps he recognized that the extroverted man who easily made
friends could be of special use. He explained that he was from
British Intelligence and said, "We can use you provided you
are capable of obeying orders and being discreet."
assured the questioner he was and he became a low-level spy for
the Allies. Precisely what he did remains obscure but Fernandez
appears to have demonstrated intelligence and courage to his spymasters.
In an article published in Killer Couples, Bruce Sander, quotes
glowing testimonial that British Intelligence presented to the
spy, "Raymond Fernandez was entirely loyal to the Allied
cause and carried out his duties, which were sometimes difficult
and dangerous, extremely well."
the war, the ex-spy did not want to return to his life as a humdrum
laborer and family man. He signed on with a ship, for a life of
high-spirited adventure. Instead, he had an accident that would
drastically alter his life. A hatch cover slammed across his head,
cracking his skull. The accident sheared off much of the thick,
black hair he had been so proud and left gruesome scars in its
place. After this misfortune, Fernandez suffered severe headaches
and a personality change. Acquaintances believed his general demeanor
and conduct worsened. Where he had previously been calm and controlled,
he became grumpy and sullen, flying into a rage at the slightest
provocation. Perhaps the worst damage done was to his ego. Insecure
as a child, he found comfort in knowing that women found him attractive
and he knew that his abundant dark hair was part of his appeal.
Being partially bald and scarred must have reawakened the insecurities
of his childhood.
he boarded sailed for the United States of America but Fernandez
first re-visited the nation of his childhood from a jail cell
because he had stolen some items from the vessel. After a year
behind bars, Fernandez went to Brooklyn to look up his sister.
The kind-hearted woman gave her brother shelter and he gave her
a hard time. Unable to find employment, he was generally in a
bad temper and often verbally lashed out at her.
this period, Fernandez practiced voodoo. His sister was disconcerted
by the odor of incense that frequently wafted from his room as
well as the indecipherable chantings he uttered as he knelt before
his makeshift altar.
to Sander, Fernandez told his sister "a fantastic story about
learning Voodoo spells and rites from a prisoner in Tallahassee
with whom he had become friendly." He also claimed he learned
to "hypnotize folks from a distance" and "make
women do what I want by thought concentration."
sister scoffed at his bragging. But Fernandez was to show that
he did have a certain baffling power over some members of the
to several members of various lonely-hearts clubs. In 1947, he
began writing to Jane Thompson.
marriage had recently collapsed. Bespectacled and plain-faced,
she was not sure she would be able to find another husband and
a life of solitude frightened her. The letters from Fernandez
impressed her with their tone of gentle caring. She was excited
by his romantic approach: he asked for a lock of her hair! She
was delighted to send it to him. She did not know that the hair
was for a voodoo spell that Fernandez believed would put a woman
completely under his power. Soon they arranged a meeting.
a toupee of thick, black hair, Fernandez was gratified to find
Thompson falling under his "spell." While Fernandez
attributed his success with women to voodoo, it is more likely
his firm belief in it helped him radiate the confidence many women
found appealing. Fernandez had a gut-level understanding of female
needs and knew how to make a woman feel that he desired her. He
gazed at each woman as if he were utterly enthralled by her and
his piercing dark eyes seemed to turn into mirrors that reflected
an image of youth and beauty to women who were often insecure,
aging, and homely. He knew not to give the impression he was out
after sex but appeared to care about her as a person.
traveled to Spain on her nickel pretending to be married. Strangely,
Fernandez took Thompson to meet his real wife - after he convinced
Mrs. Fernandez to be introduced as an old friend named "Senora
Robles." Why would Encarnación participate in such
a bizarre deception, especially when it was so demeaning to her?
Fernandez had a knack for convincing women he was madly in love
with them and a appeared sincere when spouting outrageous lies.
It is a common practice among con artists to play on the larcenous
spirit in their victims. Perhaps he told his wife he needed to
get money from Thompson so he could support her and their young
son. If he pulled this off, he would settle down with the woman
he deeply loved and had pined for, Encarnación. The odd
trio went out to restaurants, theaters, and bullfights without
Thompson ever suspecting his old friend was really his wife and
the mother of his child. However, one day Fernandez and Thompson
had a loud, raucous argument in a hotel room. Thompson was found
dead the next morning of digitalis poisoning. Police suspected
her "husband" but could not question him because Fernandez
took the first boat back to America before his lover's corpse
US, he scammed Jane Thompson's mother. After several hours, he
was able to draw a good facsimile of Thompson's signature affixed
to a document purporting to be her last will and testament, leaving
everything to Ray Fernandez. He sought out her mother, Mrs. Wilson,
and waved the document in her face. His appearance of sincerity
and conviction gulled her into believing it genuine.
scared Mrs. Wilson. It said that the home she shared with her
daughter belonged to him. He assured her he was not going to make
her leave - after all, she was the mother of a woman who had been
so dear to him. The two of them could share the home. "I
shall see that you are not disturbed," he said. "Things
for you will continue just as before." The older woman was
grateful to the man who seemed so caring and considerate. Her
daughter must have been lucky to be loved by such a kind, generous
living there, Fernandez continued writing to lonely-hearts club
members stealing dollars, checks, jewelry, and whatever of value
he could grab. His victims were not wealthy so his takes were
never high but he was able to make a living through the sheer
number of swindles. The women he conned were single when unmarried
women were still being called "spinsters" with no sense
of irony. They yearned for passion, which Fernandez seemed to
bring, and marriage that he routinely promised. When they realized
that they had been taken, they were too ashamed to go to the police.
They would have had to reveal themselves as fools and, perhaps
even worse, to tell the police they shared physical intimacies
with a man to whom they were not married.
of these swindling sorties, he encountered a woman who was to
change his life, a very lonely, sensuous, dark-haired, 300-pound
nurse named Martha Beck.
Seabrook in Milton, Florida on May 6, 1920, she came into the
world with a glandular problem that caused her to be morbidly
obese, and she was endlessly teased and jeered by her schoolmates.
Her father deserted the family while she was a toddler. To compound
her problems, her brother sexually assaulted her when she was
thirteen years old.
she was accepted by a school of nursing. She graduated first in
her class in 1942. Martha Seabrook was going to succeed. However,
she had difficulty getting employment despite her qualifications.
She attributed this to her weight. Finally, an undertaker hired
her to prepare corpses. The job was a bitter disappointment. Seabrook
had honed her skills in nursing school and knew that she could
give good care to patients. Yet, she could only get a job working
with those no longer able to benefit from her care.
woman escaped the disappointment and failure of her life by reading
true romance magazines. She also frequented theaters to watch
movies like The Garden of Allah and Gaslight that
starred her favorite actor, Charles Boyer.
eight months of working for the mortician, Seabrook heard there
was a nurse shortage in California and decided to take her chances.
Shortly after her arrival in the sunshine state, she got a job
at a hospital.
started to partially live out the fantasies of romance she had
nurtured for so long. She had an affair with a bus driver. Soon
the twenty-something nurse found herself pregnant and demanded
her boyfriend marry her. He put her off, and then attempted suicide
by throwing himself into the Pacific Ocean. Rescuers pulled him
out but he made a hurried and complete exit from Seabrook's life.
was unable to track him down when her mind snapped under the stress
of an unwed pregnancy in an era when it was a disgrace. She was
hospitalized for psychiatric reasons.
to recover after a few days. Then she behaved sensibly, moving
to Pensacola, Florida so she could put on a ring and pretend to
be the wife of a soldier away in the war. Around the time of her
baby's birth, she sent herself a phony telegram saying her husband
had been killed in action.
mother and ersatz war widow found herself a genuine beau by the
name of Alfred Beck. Oddly, like the father of her child, he was
a bus driver. The two soon married but Beck divorced Martha within
a year, when she was pregnant with her second child.
her personal life was again bleak, Martha's career took a turn
for the better. The Pensacola Crippled Children's Home hired her.
She did so well she was promoted to superintendent. She was making
something of herself as a nurse.
her on-the-job success encouraged Beck to take another chance
on love. She joined Mother Dinene's Family Club for Lonely Hearts
and received a letter from Ray Fernandez. She took a liking to
the man whose epistles were so courtly and charming.
corresponding regularly for a while, they agreed to meet in Florida.
When Beck saw the thin, black-haired gentleman who had written
her such flowery letters, she fell head over heels. She thought
he resembled her idol, Charles Boyer.
Fernandez, accustomed to deceiving women only to bilk them out
of bucks, was smitten as well. Most articles about the case say
that Fernandez was attracted to Beck "despite" her weight.
However, it seems equally possible that he was attracted to her
because of it. At any rate, the couple spent many steamy hours
in hotel rooms gratifying their mutual passion.
soon realized Beck had no money and no property. After two days
of sensual bliss, he wanted to return to women who would gratify
his greed instead of his lust. He made an excuse to Beck and headed
back to New York. From the Big Apple, he wrote his lover a "Dear
Johnette" letter. The epistle devastated Beck but it was
only the beginning of her troubles.
Beck's hotel trysts got back to the board of the Pensacola Crippled
Children's Home. The era was one in which "moral turpitude"
was grounds for firing and Beck got the axe. Unemployed and bereft
of her love, saddled with the care and support of two little children,
the frightened and angry woman determined that wily little Ray
Fernandez would be her salvation whether he liked it or not.
single mother packed her bags, took her kids, and headed for Fernandez's
home. Fernandez's reaction to these uninvited and unannounced
visitors was to take them in. What could those reasons have been?
Fernandez was used to loving and leaving women - after fleecing
them. They were suckers but not this woman. She wanted to impose
on him. That was a switch. The demanding, take-no-nonsense Beck
had a will as strong as his. Her portly size may have inflamed
his erotic passion while her brashness aroused deeper emotions,
perhaps even a kind of respect.
soon concluded the apartment they shared with Jane Thompson's
mother was too crowded. He told her, if she were going to stay
with him, the kids would have to go. Beck did not want to be a
out of work single mother. Even more, she did not want to lose
Fernandez for with him she was living the love she had read about
in romance magazines. He was her Charles Boyer, just as handsome
and charming and a thousand times more precious because he could
hold her in his arms. The kids were packed off to Beck's relatives
in Florida. Not long thereafter, Mrs. Wilson also vacated. Beck
may have given her the creeps and, if so, Wilson can be credited
with astute judgement.
surprise, Beck was not upset when he told her he had been a swindling
woman through lonely-hearts clubs. Instead, she wanted to join
him in the fleecing. Sanders' analysis was probably right on target
when he wrote that "She had suddenly seen an opportunity
for hitting back at her own sex, for squaring the long overdue
account for all the humiliation and misery she had suffered from
the years of tender girlhood." The pigeons represented every
skinny girl who had taunted her, every slender woman who had a
husband while she had only True Romance, and all the women
hired over her who were favored because they were at an acceptable
weight. She would be deceiving women into thinking they had this
wonderful, entrancing man while she would know he was really hers.
Beck would pose
as Fernandez's sister when they met victims.
first mutual mark was a Pennsylvania schoolteacher named Esther
Henne. This "unclaimed blessing" exchanged several letters
with Fernandez and was impressed by the eloquence, interest, and
concern his epistles radiated. The woman was convinced that she
had found true love and connubial bliss would follow. The skinny
suitor visited his amour with his full-figured sister in tow.
proposed marriage and the teacher accepted. She found herself
on a strange honeymoon, however. Each night, her groom retired
to his own bedroom while the bride shared sleeping quarters with
her supposed sister-in-law. When the wife objected to this bizarre
arrangement, Beck became intimidating which was not hard given
that there was a considerable size difference between the two
women. The three returned to New York. The wife discovered that
her finances had been bled dry but was too frightened to confront
Fernandez and Beck. Instead, she just left.
wrote, "For two years these confidence tricksters worked
at their cruel and unrelenting racket, duping the gullible into
mock marriages with the alleged brother, and then extracting their
personal wealth and making life so generally intolerable that
the dupes were glad to decamp."
they found a pigeon too feisty to do as she was told and then
get out of the way. Middle-aged widow Myrtle Young of Greene Forrest,
Arkansas hoped life was not passing her by when she started exchanging
letters with the dashing, romantic Fernandez, she had a new lease
on life. His marriage proposal was eagerly accepted. In August,
she traveled to Cook County, Illinois where she and her thick-haired
Latin Romeo wed.
was outraged when her ostensible sister-in-law insisted on sharing
her honeymoon bed. Beck forced the woman to take a heavy dosage
of barbiturates. Then she and Fernandez put the semi-conscious
woman on a bus headed for Little Rock, Arkansas. When the bus
pulled into the depot, those around her realized Young was not
in an ordinary sleep and rushed her to the hospital where she
died shortly after her arrival. She was unable to share with police
the story of her strange honeymoon and coerced doping.
and Fernandez intend to kill Young? That cannot be answered although
they were willing to risk it when they forced barbiturates on
her. They would commit quite deliberate murders soon after this
nothing was proven about the death of Jane Thompson, it is possible
Fernandez murdered before he met Beck. There are no reports of
Beck's being violent before her association with Fernandez. By
herself, she was pitiful; with him, she was murderous. Beck falls
into the pattern of a previously non-criminal woman whose sociopathic
tendencies are unleashed through her relationship with a dominant,
homicidal man. Bonnie Parker may be the prime example of this
sort of female criminality. Caril Fugate, who followed boyfriend
Charlie Starkweather into spree killing and Myra Hindley, who
became a child killer at lover Ian Brady's behest, are other examples.
case should it be assumed the women were previously "normal"
or that going along with murder was simply a matter of the submission
to the man's wishes. Women with strong moral codes would give
a firm "no" to a murderous partner. Rather, these women
had destructive desires that might have remained untapped had
they not met the men that they did.
Beck and Fernandez prey on women? Beck had a grudge against other
women. Females often feel they in competition for males and Beck
had been unfairly passed over for slimmer women in work and love.
abused as a child by a man, had feelings toward his domineering
father that included admiration, envy, a desire to impress, fear
and loathing. It is probable he was contemptuous of his weak,
ineffectual mother who watched her son being bullied and beaten
but did nothing to protect him. His mother put up with alcoholism
and child abuse rather than risk losing her husband. His victims
wanted marriage so badly they believed his lies. "Fools deserve
whatever they get," is the con artist's classic creed. Fernandez
expanded it to cover those whose lives he took.
and Beck continued pulling cons.
the alias "Charles Martin," he began writing to a 66-year-old
widow in Albany named Janet Fay. Fay knew that she was long past
the age when women are usually regarded as being attractive but
she still hoped for someone with whom to share her life. She lived
in a large apartment; it was too big for one person and reinforced
her sense of loneliness. A deeply religious Roman Catholic who
faithfully attended mass, Fay was pleased to find that this eloquent
and refined Charles Martin shared her beliefs. His letters were
filled with references to God, Jesus Christ, and the church. She
was thrilled when he asked for a lock of her hair. They arranged
to meet in December 1948. Fernandez altered his appearance to
make himself look older. He put white streaks in his hair and
make-up to deepen lines around his eyes. In late December, Martin
and his "sister" traveled to Albany to meet Fay. The
courtly gentleman showed up on Fay's doorstep carrying a bouquet
of flowers. They spent much of their time sharing their similar
New Year of 1949 rolled around Fay found herself entranced by
this smooth-talking, and deeply Christian man. So smitten she
agreed to give all her cash, bonds, and jewelry to the man she
thought of as her husband-to-be. Martin's helpful sister packed
it in the trunk had been the property of the late Myrtle Young.
Fay probably anticipated a romantic elopement when she set off
with her fiancé and future sister-in-law for the small
town of Valley Stream. The trio rented a little apartment. Settling
into her new digs, Fay spoke of writing to her stepdaughter. Beck
reacted sourly to the idea and harsh words were exchanged. Suddenly
the 300-pound nurse grabbed a hammer and slammed Fay's head with
it. The elderly woman's skull cracked but she did not die instantly.
As blood flowed from her head, Fernandez strangled her. False
teeth plopped out of her mouth as she died. Nonplussed, Beck shoved
the corpse into a cupboard and got rid of the dentures. Beck and
Fernandez sat around discussing ways to get rid of the body. Fernandez
mentioned his sister in Astoria lived in a home with a big basement.
Myrtle Young's trunk was not big enough to hold Janet Fay so they
bought a new one, and then headed for his sister's house. Could
they leave the trunk in her cellar for a little while they asked?
Certainly, his sister replied. The January weather was freezing
so Beck figured the body would keep for a few days before giving
off a telltale odor. Fernandez and Beck rented a house in Queens
that had a cellar then fetched the trunk from his sister's home.
They buried Fay in a hole in the basement they filled over with
cement. When the cement hardened after a few days, the couple
went to the real estate agent to say they did not want the house
Fay's property from American Express but knew it might set off
alarms if they did it themselves. She believed she could persuade
Janet's stepdaughter to help them. Thus, she typed the following
letter and mailed it to that stepdaughter, Mary Spencer.
Spencer immediately spotted this letter for a phony. She knew
her stepmother could not type and the formal signature jarred.
She went to the police with her suspicions.
meantime, Fernandez and Beck traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan
so he could meet 41-year-old Delphine Downing, a widow he was
courting through a lonely-hearts club. Downing had lost her husband
in the recent war. She wanted to remarry but feared that eligible
men would not be interested in a ready-made family and would run
when they learned of Rainelle. She was pleased Fernandez had not
lost interest when she told him she was the mother of a toddler.
the pair to her almost 2-year-old daughter Rainelle and allowed
"brother and sister" to stay in her home so she and
Fernandez could become better acquainted. Fernandez entranced
by little Rainelle spent time playing with her. The debonair Latin
who courted her in such a thoughtful, romantic manner equally
entranced the child's mother.
at Delphine's home, Fernandez was relaxing and reading the newspaper.
He had kicked off his shoes and removed his toupee. Suddenly the
door opened. A stunned Delphine Downing exclaimed, "You're
bald!" Upset by the look of disappointment on her face, Fernandez
said, "Look, honey, you don't have to act this way because
I cover a bald patch. Heck, it's no crime, Delphie." She
had thought he was suave, handsome, and young. She shrank from
his approach. "Don't touch me, you imposter!" she cried.
"Why, you're old. Old!" He tried to sweet talk her but
she ordered both he and his "sister" to leave immediately.
Fernandez grabbed but she struggled out of his grasp and ran into
300-pound Beck, attracted by the commotion. Accounts differ as
to what transpired next. One of those versions holds that Fernandez
took a pistol out of his jacket pocket, and shot Delphine Dowling
in the head.
to the floor as Fernandez watched her last breath, his mind was
not on her death, but on the disgust, she had recently hurled
his way. "Martha," he said plaintively, "she saw
me without the toupee and said I was old. She didn't want me.
She said we had to leave tonight. Martha, you don't think I'm
old - not too old?" She took him in her arms, held his long
lean head against her well-endowed chest, and gave him the reassurance
he craved. Of course, he was still attractive, still youthful,
she told him.
cry disturbed this loving scene.
Fernandez they should take care of this the way they had Janet
Fay. He should dig a hole in the cellar big enough for mother
and child. The former nurse and mother of two filled a bathtub
with water to drown little Rainelle Dowling. After breaking through
the thin layer of cement in the basement with his shovel, Fernandez
dug out a little pit. Delphine was shoved inside it along with
her dead baby and it was covered over.
version of the Downing murders maintains they were stretched out
over a couple of days. When Delphine ran into Beck, the "sister"
tried to soothe her and convinced her to take sleeping pills.
Rainelle saw her mother in an unnatural sleep and started crying.
A frazzled Beck choked the girl into unconsciousness but not death.
Fernandez believed they had to kill Delphine. "If she wakes
up and sees Rainelle," he pointed out, "she'll go to
the police." Then he grabbed the gun that belonged to Delphine's
late husband, put it against her head, and pulled the trigger.
Rainelle regained consciousness and saw her mother being slaughtered.
Fernandez and Beck carried the mother's body into the basement
and buried it. For two days, they took care of little Rainelle
as the confused and terrified little girl cried and could not
eat. Finally, Fernandez decided that their only course was to
kill the baby too. He ordered Beck to murder Rainelle. "I
can't do it, Ray!" Beck said. "I can't." Fernandez
told her she would. Reluctantly, she complied, drowning the child,
then helping Fernandez bury her beside her mother in the cellar.
accounts differ about the Downing killings, there is not dispute
about what Fernandez and Beck did after killing Rainelle. The
deadly duo capped the night off with a trip to a theater to take
in a movie where they enjoyed sodas and popcorn along with the
show. They returned home tired and eager to sleep. Fernandez and
Beck did not have time to settle into bed before they heard a
knock on the door. Fernandez answered. Police officers on the
porch invited themselves in. What were they there for? Fernandez
wondered. They could not possibly know what had happened to Delphine
and Rainelle Dowling - could they? "You Raymond Fernandez?"
a policeman asked. "You ever know a Mrs. Janet Fay?"
Fernandez was too scared to answer. Beck saw the police and said,
"Leave him alone. Don't you goddamn cops touch Ray or I'll
-" She made threats but was not able to act on them before
being clapped into handcuffs. Police found the bodies of mother
and infant buried in the cellar.
of the Lonely Hearts Killers made headlines across the nation.
While only these three murders would be officially established
as theirs, there were persistent rumors that they had done away
with other pigeons. Some estimates say they killed as many as
seemed less concerned with the possible death sentence than their
reputations. Fernandez told investigators, "I'm no average
killer! I have a way with women, a power over them." Beck
was distraught by terms like "Obese Ogress" with which
she was tagged by the newspapers. "I'm still a human being,"
she protested, "feeling every blow inside, even though I
have the ability to hide my feelings and laugh. But that doesn't
say my heart isn't breaking from the insults and humiliation of
being talked about as I am."
were in custody, a dispute arose between Michigan and New York
as to which state would try them. Michigan had no death penalty
while New York had a busy electric chair. Roger McMahon, district
attorney of Michigan's Kent County, used their fear of New York's
death penalty to persuade them to sing a 73-page confession. He
promised that they would not be extradited to New York if they
allowed them to be extradited to New York so they would face the
ultimate penalty for the murder of Janet Fay.
on trial in the middle of 1949's simmering heat wave. The weather
did not keep intrigued spectators from crowding into the courtroom
where they sat, cheek by jowl, wiping sweat off their foreheads
and fanning themselves while listening to testimony about sex
and deception, mayhem and murder. Judge Ferdinand Pecora heard
the case. He was reputed to be a no-nonsense jurist who did not
allow a case to be bogged down in irrelevant details. Nassau County
District Attorney Edward Robinson, Jr. (not the famous actor)
prosecuted them. He put a variety of witnesses on the stand, including
the medical examiner who autopsied Janet Fay, detectives and forensic
experts, relatives, and friends of the victim.
Rosenberg defended both Beck and Fernandez. He called Fernandez
to the stand July 11, 1949. He said he had had nothing to do with
Fay's death. He admitted confessing to it when questioned by the
police in Michigan but claimed he was only being chivalrous, taking
the blame so his ladylove could go free. "All my statements
were made for the purpose of helping Martha," he testified.
Apparently, the prospect of electrocution had led him to discard
his wish to shield the woman he loved.
tore into the defendant on cross-examination. He questioned him
about Jane Thompson, Myrtle Young, Delphine Downing, and her daughter
Rainelle. He grew louder and louder in his outrage until Ray's
co-defendant shouted, "Mr. Fernandez is not deaf!"
admitted he had shot and killed Delphine Downing but denied murdering
Janet Fay. That led to another outburst from an agitated Beck.
"I think at this time," she told Judge Pecora as she
rose to her feet, "I want to take the stand!
admonished her not to talk out of turn. Rosenberg called her as
a witness early in the morning of July 25, 1945. Wearing a gray
and white polka dot dress and a double-strand pearl necklace,
the "Obese Ogress" took the stand. Her lawyer took her
through her background as a teased youngster and her adulthood
of disappointments. He led her to her relationship with Fernandez
and her agreement to become his criminal confederate. Finally,
her testimony turned to the murder of Janet Fay. Beck remembered
Fernandez telling her to keep the woman quiet. Then she was amnesiac.
The next thing she recalled, she was standing over a dead Fay
and Fernandez was shaking her shoulders, asking, "My God,
Martha, what have you done?" If Beck had killed Janet Fay,
it was due to her deep love for Fernandez. When the prosecutor
questioned her, she said, "We loved each other and I consider
it absolutely sacred." Later she stated, "a request
from Mr. Fernandez to me is a command. I loved him enough to do
anything he asked me to."
case went to the jury on August 18, 1949. They began deliberating
at 9:45 p.m. and had a verdict by 8:30 a.m. the next morning.
Both defendants were convicted of first-degree murder. The jury
did not recommend mercy. On August 22, Judge Pecora sentenced
Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck to death in the electric chair.
It would be almost two years before the sentence was carried out.
awaiting execution, Martha wrote poetry.