Crime History, Jan. 28. 1958: Teen lovers go on killing spree in the Heartland

On this day, Jan. 28, in 1958, Charles Starkweather and his 14-year-old girlfriend killed three more people during a murderous spree in Nebraska and Wyoming that would leave 10 people dead.

Charles Starkweather

Charles Starkweather

The killings shocked the national conscious and inspired numerous movies, including  “Natural Born Killers,” and the 1973 classic “Badlands,” starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek.

Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 title song “Nebraska,” is based on the crimes.

Starkweather was a 19-year-old high school dropout and loner.  In December 1957, he killed his first victim, a gas station clerk who refused to sell him a stuffed animal on credit.

On Jan. 21, Starkweather fatally shot the parents of his adolescent sweetheart, Caril Ann Fugate, after they tried to break up the relationship. He then strangled Fugate’s 2-year-old sister. The duo lived with the bodies for several days, shooing away visitors with an excuse about having the flu.

Caril Ann Fugate

Caril Ann Fugate

Police showed up six days later and the couple fled, killing anyone in their path, including a family friend and two teenagers who assisted them on the side of the road.

Starkweather surrendered during a shootout in Wyoming after he was cut by glass during a gunfight.

“He thought he was bleeding to death,” said Converse County Sheriff Earl Heflin,  “That’s the kind of yellow son-of-a-bitch he is.”

Starkweather was convicted for one of the murders and sentenced to the death penalty. He died in the electric chair on on June 25, 1959.

Fugate is the youngest female in United States history to have been tried for first-degree murder. She convicted, sentenced to life and paroled after 17 years in prison for good behavior.

On August 5, 2013, Fugate was seriously injured in an accident near Tekonsha, Michigan. Her husband, who was driving their SUV when it went off the road and overturned, died at the scene of the crash.

– Scott McCabe



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