In the little town of Lincoln, Nebraska 13-year-old Caril Fugate was introduced to a charming young man by the name of Charles Starkweather, a 18-year-old high school drop-out and garbageman. The two hit and off and dated off and on from 1956 until 1958. Although Fugate was wildly attracted to Starkweather’s bad boy image, she found him to be possessive at times. It was during their relationship, unknown to Fugage, that Starkweather would commit his first murder.
Starkweather wanted to purchase a stuffed animal as a gift for Caril, but didn’t have enough money to pay for it. He attempted to convince the shop clerk, Robert Colvert, to allow him to purchase the toy on credit. Colvert refused and Starkweather left the store. On December 1, 1957, a couple weeks after his argument with the shop clerk, Starkweather returned to the service station brandishing a gun.
He forced Colvert to hand over $100 dollars from the register and then ordered him into his car. Starkweather forced Colvert to drive to a remote area of town. A struggle ensued between the two men and Starkweather shot Colvert in the head. Starkweather ditched the gun and altered his car’s appearance in order to cover up the crime. Starkweather was able to dodge the police and was never suspected of Colvert’s murder. This would only be the first of many murders to come.
In January of the following year, Starkweather paid a visit to the Fugate home. Caril wasn’t there and her parents ordered Charles to stay away. Starkweather shot Caril’s step-father in the head and stabbed him repeatedly, then he turned the gun on Caril’s mother and shot her in the face. Caril’s 2-year-old half-sister, Betty Jean, was crying and hysterical. Starkweather stabbed the baby in the neck and beat her with the butt of his gun.
Starkweather wrapped Caril’s mother’s body in bedding and stuffed her into the outhouse toilet, her baby sister was placed into a box on top of the seat, and her step-father was placed into the chicken coop.
There remains dependencies within the story on whether or not Caril had antagonized the murders of her family. Caril claims she had come home and was held at gunpoint by Starkweather. He ordered her to go along with his plans or else he will kill her entire family. Starkweather says that it was Caril’s idea and that she had participated in the murders, bludgeoning her baby sister to death.
Caril placed a note on the front door ordering visitor to go away, as the family had been stricken with a bout of the flu. On the note she signed the name “Betty Jean Bartlett”, the name of her half-sister. Caril claims that she did this intentionally in order to alert visitors that something was amiss. It took two months before other relatives became suspicious and alerted authorities.
Starkweather, with Caril by his side, fled the town of Lincoln and headed to Bennet, Nabraska. There they went to the farm owned by a family friend of the Starkweathers’, August Meyer. Starkweather shot Meyers in the back of the head then dragged his body to the shed out back. He and Caril then went into the house, shot Meyer’s dog, and looted Meyers’ possessions.
Starkweather’s car had gotten stuck in the mud, so both he and Caril began heading down the road on foot. As they were walking, two local teens saw the couple walking and pulled over to offer them a ride. Starkweather forced the two teens into a storm cellar within an abandoned building. Starkweather shot the man, Robert Jensen, six times in the head. The man’s fiance, Carol King, was found partially nude. She had also been shot in the head and stabbed repeatedly in the genital region.
The pair stole Jenson’s car and planned to make their way towards Washington, in order to stay with Starkweather’s brother. Instead the pair made their way back to Lincoln. They entered the home of a wealthy local, C. Lauer Ward. Ward’s wife, Clara, along with the Ward’s maid, were stabbed to death. When Mr. Ward returned home from work, Starkweather shot him. Starkweather and Caril filled Ward’s Packard with whatever valuables they could find within the home and began heading west to get as far away from Lincoln as possible.
Meanwhile, the sleepy town of Lincoln was in a panic. The nation had never seen a crime spree as brutal and as random as Starkweather’s. The pressure was on for police to capture Starkweather and bring him to justice. The nationwide manhunt for the fugitive couple was on.
Realizing that the police were on the search for Ward’s Packard, Starkweather decided they needed to ditch the car once they reached Wyoming. He and Caril came across a traveling salesman, who had pulled off the road in order to catch a few hours of sleep in his car. Starkweather awoke the salesman and shot him in the face.
Starkweather wasn’t familiar with the push-petal emergency break in the salesman’s Buick and stalled the car as the couple attempted to head back on the road. A good samaritan pulled over to give Starkweather a hand. Starkweather threatened the man with a gun. As luck would have it, as the man attempted to wrestle the gun away from Starkweather, a Deputy Sheriff had been passing by and stopped to end the altercation. Caril immediately alerted the Deputy that Starkweather was trying to kill her.
Starkweather fled the scene as quickly as he could. Police chased after Starkweather and began shooting at the vehicle. A bullet shattered the glass in the windshield, causing shards of glass to cut Starkweather. He pulled the car over and surrendered himself to police.
Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate were both taken into police custody. Starkweather’s story has changed several times on the level of Caril’s involvement in the murder spree, but she maintains to this day that she had been held hostage, believing that Starkweather would have her family murdered had she not gone along with his plans. She alleges that she never knew of her family’s murder until after she had been arrested.
Starkweather was only tried for the murder of Robert Jensen and was sentenced to death. He was executed on June 25, 1959. Caril was also sentenced to life in prison for her suspected hand in the murders. She was granted parole after serving 17 ½ years. She has tried to live a private life after her release and has made very few public appearances.