8 March 1951 – Martha Beck

Martha Beck‘A 200lb figure of wrath’ Martha Beck had to be wedged into Old Sparky when it was found she was too big to sit in the electric chair on this day 1951.

She was executed for mass murder at Sing Sing in the States along with her partner, following a life of disappointments.

Weighty issues

Beck had only two wants in life – to be a nurse and to get married. She fulfilled the first of sorts, qualifying as a nurse, but she was a big woman and she could only find work in a morgue. That is, until she went over to California.

She settled fairly quickly by all accounts, but there are varying reports about her behaviour. Some say she slept around and fell pregnant, others say she was married to a man who gave her a son, then promptly committed suicide, or maybe they simply got divorced. Whatever the truth of the matter, she did eventually hook up with one Raymond Fernandez and between the two of them they would travel around Michigan targeting lonely women, fleecing them of their money then some of them bumping them off.

For the scam to work she had to give up her two children, which she did quite willingly, by dumping them off at the local Sally Army. Beck was then free to pretend to be Fernandez’s sister and they’d both get close to their victims, Fernandez even married some, before transferring money over into their names and then dumping them.

To baldly go

Of course things started getting hairy when they were compelled to beat one of their victims, Janet Fay, to a pulp. Things continued to spiral out of control when they shot Delphine Downing, after she was repulsed by Fernandez’s baldness. They were then forced to kill her daughter by way of silencing her.

Not long after they buried their victims, the police caught up with them. The deadly pair was christened the Lonely Hearts Killers as the media grabbed hold of the pair in lurid accounts of the trial. They were particularly scathing about Beck, vilifying her on account of her size.

But what the papers thought was not an issue. It was the jury that counted and they found against the defendants, who were sentenced to die. Thing is Michigan didn’t have an electric chair, so the two of them were taken to Sing Sing in New York.

Bottle of Beck’s

As a result, on this day in 1951, Old Sparky was busy. It banged out four executions – two 22-year-olds who’d murdered an airline clerk were followed by the Lonely Hearts killers. As the weaker of the two, Fernandez, who was roughly 37, went first and had to be carried to the chair, followed by the far ballsier Beck, who was roughly 32. She even made a statement to the press in which she professed that hers was a love story.

Also on this day

8 March 1900 – Ada Chard-Williams
8 March 2005 – William Smith

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