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Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate Trials: 1958 - Tough Background, Hostage Or Killer?

time couple home nebraska

Defendants: Charles Starkweather, Caril Fugate
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: T. Clement Gaughan, William F. Matschullat, John McArthur
Chief Prosecutors: Elmer Scheele, Dale Fahrnbruch
Judge: Harry A. Spencer
Place: Lincoln, Nebraska
Dates of Trials: Starkweather: May 5-23, 1958; Fugate: October 27-November 21, 1958
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Starkweather: death; Fugate: life imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: Can a dysfunctional upbringing ever excuse homicide? That was the question facing jurors in this remarkable saga that changed forever the face of murder in America.

Although he had murdered a few weeks before, Charlie Starkweather, a diminutive 19-year-old garbage truck driver from Lincoln, Nebraska, didn't begin killing in earnest until January 21, 1958. This was the day when he visited the home of his girlfriend, Caril Fugate, aged 14. While awaiting her return, Starkweather got into an argument with Fugate's mother. When she tried to slap him, he grabbed a rifle and shot her. Seconds later, Fugate's stepfather was similarly dispatched. Minutes later Fugate arrived home, at which point Starkweather stabbed her 2-year-old half-sister to death.

Then, after pinning up a notice in the window that read "Every Body is Sick with the Flu," the couple hunkered down for the next six days, watching television, having sex, gorging themselves on fast food. In that time various people visited the house and met the two teenagers. No one noticed anything out of the ordinary.

One week later, alerted by an anxious relative, police officers called at the house and uncovered the massacre. But there was no sign of the wanted couple.

Another week passed before they were captured. In that time they had gone on a killing binge across Nebraska, littering the highway with bodies, until their final tally reached 11 victims. When eventually arrested, Starkweather mugged for the cameras like some psychotic James Dean, cigarette drooping from his mouth—America's first rock 'n' roll killer had just been born. By this time Fugate had already washed her hands of him.

They were tried separately, Starkweather first. He swaggered into court on May 5, 1958, before Judge Harry Spencer, to face a single count of murder, that of Robert Jensen. The facts were not in dispute, and neither was Starkweather's culpability; at issue was his mental state.

Earlier Starkweather had pointedly refused to cooperate with attempts to save his life through a plea of insanity, sneering, "Nobody remembers a crazy man." Now, when his chief counsel, T. Clement Gaughan, told the jury that Starkweather's IQ was "only a point or two above an idiot," the defendant's knuckles whitened as he gripped the desk in rage. Starkweather, it seemed, would rather die in the electric chair than be classified as mentally subnormal.

Charlie Starkweather and Card Ann Fugate. (Bettmann/Corbis) Charlie Starkweather and Card Ann Fugate. (Bettmann/Corbis)

Cheryl Christina Crane Inquest: 1958 - Tale Of Star-crossed Lovers, Cheryl's Statement Introduced [next] [back] Burton Abbott Trial: 1955 - Emotion Over Evidence, Amused Defendant

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almost 6 years ago

great-great grandson? interesting since all of this happened in 1958...wow, someone was busy...

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over 6 years ago

The story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate will always interest me because my former father-in-law knew them. He worked for a Lincoln newspaper and both Charles and Caril Ann were among his newspaper carriers. He said that Charles seemed polite but was a little "slow." He also said that Caril Ann was a "fireball." Something "ticked" her off one time and she threw her whole bundle of newspapers into a ditch (canal or something like that). My father-in-law said that the only way he can think that Charles pulled off those murders is with the help of Caril Ann. Caril Ann knew how to push Charles Starkweather's buttons. I think Fugate is living in Iowa now and had asked for a pardon but was denied. Fugate always said that she was innocent. "Baloney" is what I say. And that's a nice way to put it.

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about 3 years ago

this is my great great grandfather

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about 3 years ago

she got off too easy. she had plenty of chances to escape but she didnt. she didnt even ask about her family.

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almost 4 years ago

the fact an unremorseful,unrepented psychopath like caril fugate served a mere 17 years for multiple murders is proof we have no justice in this country. in 2011 she is now 68 years old. she should die in jail.

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almost 6 years ago

man that was horrible what that Starkweather gut did!!! Killing all those people, this sounds mean but they both deseve to die because she didnt do anything to stop him!!!

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over 6 years ago

Whoever wrote this, this is hillarious! First, 2 weeks didn't go by since Charlie killed Caril's family. It was only one week. From the time Caril's mom, step-dad, and half sister were found, Charlie & Caril were captured in Wyoming 2 days later. Littering the highways with bodies? Oh my God, who writes this stuff? August Meyer was found in a bath house on his farm, Robert Jensen & Carol King were found in a storm cellar of a recently torn down schoolhouse, and C. Lauer Ward, his wife Clara, and Maid Lillian Fencl was all found in the Ward house. The only victims found anywhere near a highway were the first & last victims. Robert Colvert was found in the middle of the road on Superior Street & 30th Street and Merle Collison was found in his car on I believe US Highway 20 outside Douglas, Wyoming. And for the lady that asked, Charlie had just turned 19 when he killed Robert Colvert, less then two months before he began his murder spree

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about 7 years ago

Starkweather, what an amateur. If the wannabe had any brains he could have easily tripled his score. And, why did he drag that hussy Fugate along. Typical female, self-centered to the point she advocates the killing of others as long as her vacuous needs and wants are fulfilled.



Appears the Starkweather bloke did have a rough upbringing and not-so-desirable interactions with udder bipedal primates. However, others have had negative experiences akin to his without resorting to amassing a body count.



Perhaps instead of killing these folks we should lock them up for life so the "experts" can study them. Do you think killing Starkweather was a punishment? HAH!!! We ALL die eventually, so what punishment is that. But to spend an entire life in a noisy smelly dangerous prison infested with scum bags and always having to watch out for someone who wants to beat you or rape you or shove a shank into your bowells? To heck with that!!! I would view execution as a release!!!



As for the Fugate hussy. If she had been a male accompanying Starkweather is there any doubt that there would have been two executions? Nice double standard those addle-minded illogical emotion-laden vapid self-centered "little princesses" are allowed to possess. On one hand the litte hissy-fit girls can stamp their little feet in protest about so many imagined wrongs society and men throw at them. But, do you ever hear the little girls whine about the common double-standard when they receive lesser criminal sentences for the crimes they commit when compared to a male's sentence? NO!!!!!



How about not having to register for the draft? So many things that work in the girl's favor yet the delicate simpleton females keep on whining. Sheeesh.



Back to Starkweather. Should have kept the cretin alive so psychologists, criminologists, a whole flock of -ologists could have studied the phreak, perhaps allowing, in the future, the ability to espy certain behavors in weirdos and attempt to intervene and assist those in some way who show inclinations to anti-social behavior.



Heck, the professionals may have amassed the knowledge that would have allowed intervention with that idiotic GW Bush who seemingly achieves some form of sexual release by sending so many of the commoner class to bleed, die, become maimed overseas while allowing MILLIONS of illegal alien invaders to waltz into the USA and inflict an enormous amount of harm upon American citizens.

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over 7 years ago

what pushed charls stark wether over the ege and made him kill 11 people whay is every one so scard of him i think he could be a god person in side. these are some question how old was charls when the murded the first victemand and where was the last murder taken place

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almost 3 years ago

what pushed charls stark wether over the ege and made him kill 11 people whay is every one so scard of him i think he could be a god person in side. these are some question how old was charls when the murded the first victemand and where was the last murder taken place

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about 5 years ago

Regarding Fugate's guilt, it is always worth bearing in mind that Starkweather had already killed once by the time of the 'spree.' Fugate had not, and had never at all been even the slightest bit violent to anyone.



Further, while the prosecution maintained that she had had ample opportunity to escape and/ or shoot Starkweather and yet did not, one must bear in mind the fear a 14 year old illiterate would feel in even attempting anything of the kind- even when armed with a rifle- against a grown man whom she saw kill people in front of her.

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over 6 years ago

ok the guy whos comment is at the top fo this page is crazy... literally insane. i feel abd for him. starkweather got what he deserved and what was right and just.

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over 5 years ago

is Obbob gay? He seems to hate women quite a lott, plus this article isn't even about Starweather's girlfriend, or the punishement she recieved. It's about how some insane retard went crazy and killed people. end of story.

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about 4 years ago

At least he was exicuted quickly without all those stupid appeals they have today and without all the liberal media covrage of today

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almost 6 years ago

Obbop is sexist, I mean before the civil war slaves didn't get drafted and still they had to whine, whine whine right? Then when they were freedom they still wouldn't shut up!(I'm do not discriminate this is merely an example) As far as simpletons go I would say you seem the most ignorant person to comment on this page. Okay maybe not as much as the first lady.

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almost 6 years ago

wow.

should i be scared.

lol.

i go to school with Dalton Starkweather.

i used to date him.

He has a gorgeous baby.

hes cute.



i believe dalton is Charles's great great grandson or something.

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almost 4 years ago

What ever happen to the judge harry
spencer who sent starkweather to the
chair???