“If I fry in the electric chair then Caril should be sitting on my lap”
Charles Starkweather was born in Lincoln, Nebraska on 24 November 1938 and was nicknamed “Little Red” because of his lack of height (he was 1.6 m/5 ft 5 in tall), his red hair and bowlegged figure. He also had a minor speech impediment and was picked on at school because he wasn’t terribly bright although that may have been due to his severe myopia. In 1956 he met 14-year-old Caril Ann Fugate and they began to go steady. He left school and found work in a warehouse but was not a good worker. His boss said, “Of all the employees in the warehouse, he was the dumbest man we had.” Starkweather was thrown out of his home after Fugate crashed his car into another car and Charlie’s father had to pay for the damages because he was the registered legal owner. Starkweather became a dustman.
On 1 December 1957 he killed petrol station worker Robert Colvert, 21, after he had refused to sell Starkweather a stuffed toy on credit. The next month he began his killing spree. He went to visit Fugate but she was not at home. As he waited for her to return, he sat playing with a .22 hunting rifle which annoyed her mother, Velda Bartlett. She told him to stop and he responded by shooting her dead. Next he shot and killed Marion Bartlett, Fugate’s stepfather. When Fugate returned, she watched as Starkweather strangled and stabbed her two-year-old sister, Betty Jean. After Starkweather hid the bodies around the house, the couple stayed at the house for six days, sticking a notice that read “Stay a Way Every Body is sick with the Flue [sic]” on the front door.
Fugate’s grandmother, Pansy Street, arrived but was fobbed off by Fugate. She became suspicious and rang the police. They did not arrive until 27 January by which time the killer couple had left. They drove to Bennet, Nebraska where they stopped at the farm of family friend August Meyer, 70. Starkweather shot him in the head. They abandoned their car and local teenagers Robert Jensen, 17, and Carol King, 16, offered Starkweather and Fugate a lift. Starkweather repaid their kindness by stealing the car and killing them both although he later claimed that Fugate had murdered and mutilated Miss King.
They next arrived at the home of rich businessman C. Lauer Ward, 47. The couple stabbed his wife Clara, 46, and maid Lillian Fend, 51. When Mr Ward returned home from work that night, Starkweather shot him. They next shot travelling shoe-salesman Merle Collison, 37, in his car. Starkweather said that Fugate had killed Mr Collison after his gun had jammed. They were captured as they tried to escape.
924 Belmont Avenue, Lincoln,,Nebraska, USA
Sunday 1 December 1957-Tuesday 28 January 1958
Starkweather at first took the credit for all the killings but said that Fugate was involved. “If I fry in the electric chair,” he told reporters, “then Caril should be sitting on my lap.” She claimed that she only went along because he had threatened to kill her family (she said that she did not know that they were already dead). Charles Starkweather was executed in the electric chair at the
Nebraska State Penitentiary on 25 June 1959. Caril Ann Fugate was sentenced to life in jail. She was paroled in June 1976.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The case inspired the films Badlands (1973) and Natural Born Killers (1994) and the Bruce Springsteen song Nebraska.