25 June 1959 – Charles Starkweather

Charles StarkweatherSerial killers always seem to gain notoriety. And Americans certainly have a love-hate affair with Charles Starkweather. His story spawned films, songs, you name it, he inspired it and hence he was immortalised. And when you hear the story, you’ll know why.

With his jailbait girlfriend in tow, Starkweather fancied himself a bit of a Jimmy Dean. With all that angst bottled up, he rampaged his way sullenly through Nebraska, Wyoming and Missouri in a killing spree that was to leave 11 dead.

Bullied boy

Ok, so some killers can blame it on poor upbringing, but not Starkweather – his was a loving family environment. But what shaped his future could well have been the merciless bullying as a result of a deformity to his legs and a speech impediment. Yet, he was able to turn it all around after he discovered his talents in the gym at school. His prowess gave him the wherewithal and physical strength to stand up to his oppressors, and in doing so, he eventually seized the upper hand.

Sadly his family life deteriorated and he was eventually kicked out of home, so he became a bin-man and would use his routes to fantasise about bank jobs, planning robberies to while away the time. But that didn’t stop him being submerged in self-loathing.

Nevertheless there was one high point in his life – he fell in love with Caril Anne Fugate, a child of just 14.

Storm brewing

Besotted by the underage girl, Starkweather’s life revolved around the child, and it was in relation to her that he committed his first murder. He tried to buy her a soft toy, but the sales assistant at the petrol station refused to serve him. Starkweather’s anger brewed until at 3am that morning he returned, toyed with the victim by driving him out to a lonely place before they struggled and he gunned the cashier down in cold blood.

A couple of months later, he went round to Fugate’s. She was out but he still managed to get himself into a row with her parents. Incensed, he shot her mum and stepdad, even violently killing her two-year-old sister once Fugate had arrived home.

Body of evidence

The couple then stashed the bodies round the house and hunkered down for a few days, blagging that the household was suffering from a bout of flu. Suspicions soon grew, but by the time the boys in blue had arrived, the deadly duo was long gone.

They absconded to a friend of the Starkweather family, but the ties that bind, didn’t prevent Starkweather from embedding a bullet in the 70-year-old’s head. The couple then accepted a lift from a kindly pair of teenagers, and for their pains, Starkweather shot them too. Apparently Fugate was said to have mutilated the young girl’s body because Starkweather had fancied her.

Bin around

Around this time, money and a car would have been mighty handy, and this is where his bin-man days came in useful. Starkweather knew precisely where to go – the wealthy side of town. Three stabbings, lots of loot and a lovely car later and they were off. But the classic car (a Packard) was to draw attention to the murderous maniacs. So they ditched the comfy motor in favour of a sleeping salesman’s saloon. They accosted the dosing driver, did him in and commandeered his car.

Indeed this latest murder was notable because Fugate was alleged to have pulled the trigger on the victim, prompting Starkweather to brand her the ‘most trigger happy person’, but more of that later.

Car trouble

Some sources state that the problem with this new car was that it was new-fangled. It was the 50s and the car had a brake pedal, which Starkweather just couldn’t comprehend.

By this time, the couple was wanted and his inevitable stalling drew the attention of the authorities and a police chase ensued. But ‘Crime Library’ states, he jumped into the Packard and drove off.

Either way, it was only when Starkweather thought he was going to bleed to death from broken glass that he pulled over.

Tall stories

The couple was taken in and things started to fall apart. Fugate made out that he’d taken her hostage, saying that he’d threatened to kill her parents (remember those dead people who’d been stashed away in the house?). Meanwhile Starkweather first said she had nothing to do with anything, but slowly that story changed and he began to shift some of the blame her way too.

However, it was obvious who the main man was, and in court, while his defence team tried to make him out to be criminally insane, Starkweather painted a far more composed picture. As a result, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was hooked up to Nebraska’s very own Old Sparky on this day, at the tender age of just 20.

Interestingly Fugate also got life, but was freed after 18 years, for good behaviour.

This story has sparked many an offshoot, not least ‘Nebraska’ – a Bruce Springsteen song as well as providing inspiration behind Oliver Stone’s ‘Natural Born Killers’.

Also on this day

25 June 1990 – Ronald Gene Simmons
25 June 1985 – Morris Mason

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One Response to “25 June 1959 – Charles Starkweather”

  1. Susanne Says:

    Very interesting story. Still think Caril should have rode the lightening sitting on Charlie’s lap…instead of a married old age in Ohio…

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