Caril Ann Fugate

Caril Ann Fugate (born July 30, 1943) was the adolescent girlfriend and accomplice of spree killer Charles Starkweather.[1] She is the youngest female in United States history to date to have been tried for first-degree murder.[2]

Background to crime spree

Caril Ann Fugate lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her mother and stepfather. In 1956, at age 13, she formed a relationship with Charles Starkweather, a high school dropout five years her senior, whom she met through her sister Barbara, who was dating Charles' friend, Bob von Busch. Charles worked as a truck unloader at the Western Newspaper Union warehouse. On January 21, 1958,[3] Fugate later claimed, she came home to find that Starkweather had shot and killed her stepfather, Marion Bartlett, and her mother, Velda. Starkweather then choked and stabbed her baby half-sister, Betty Jean, to death. During the next six days the pair lived in the house and turned away all visitors, which made Fugate's relatives suspicious. The bodies were found later in outbuildings on the property.[4]

Cross-state crime spree

Starkweather and Fugate then fled, driving across Nebraska and into Wyoming on a spree of murders that claimed six more lives before they were arrested.[4] She admitted holding a .410 shotgun on a young high school couple in a car while robbing them of $4; the couple were shot and killed later that evening. The girl was found partially nude and was stabbed multiple times in the abdomen after being shot. Starkweather and Fugate accused each other of the girl's murder, while Starkweather openly admitted to killing the boy.


Starkweather was sentenced to death and executed by electric chair on June 25, 1959. He insisted that although he had personally killed most of the victims, Fugate had murdered several as well. Although she continued to maintain her innocence, she was tried and convicted for her role in the murder spree. Based on evidence presented that Fugate had opportunities to leave her captivity, the jury found her testimony that she was Starkweather's hostage to be incredible. She was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York, Nebraska.[2]

Release from prison

Considered to be a model prisoner, Fugate was paroled in 1976 after serving 17 years.[5] She lived for a time in the Lansing, Michigan area after being paroled. Following her release, Fugate worked as a janitorial assistant and a medical technician, and has since retired.

In 2007, Fugate married Fredrick Clair, a machinist who also worked as a weather observer for the National Weather Service. Their most recent city of residence has been Stryker, Ohio.[6] She now resides in Hillsdale, Michigan. Fugate's stepson states she suffered a series of strokes in her late 60s.[7]

Fugate was seriously injured August 5, 2013, in a single vehicle 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 accident.[6]

Portrayal in media

Film and television

The Starkweather–Fugate case inspired the films The Sadist (1963), Badlands (1973), Kalifornia (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994) and Starkweather (2004). The made-for-TV movie Murder in the Heartland (1993) is a biographical depiction of Fugate and Starkweather, starring Fairuza Balk and Tim Roth in the starring roles. Stark Raving Mad (1983), a film starring Russell Fast and Marcie Severson, provides a fictionalized account of the Starkweather–Fugate murder spree.

The 1996 Peter Jackson film The Frighteners features central plot elements with characters almost identical to Starkweather and Fugate, who resume a murder spree. The fourth episode, "Dangerous Liaisons", of season three from the ID series, Deadly Women (aired September 2, 2010), was about the Starkweather–Fugate murders. "The Thirteenth Step", the January 11, 2011 episode of Criminal Minds, depicts newlyweds on a North Dakota/Montana killing spree similar to the Starkweather–Fugate case.[8] The television series "Dexter" introduces Wayne Randall and Hannah McKay in its seventh season, whose story resembles that of Starkweather and Fugate. In the Fox Files episode, Mass Murder on the Great Plains (aired Aug. 26, 2013), Claudia Cowan interviews Del Harding, who covered the story for the Lincoln Star.


The 1974 book Caril is an unauthorized biography of Caril Ann Fugate written by Ninette Beaver.[9] Liza Ward, the granddaughter of victims C. Lauer and Clara Ward, wrote the 2004 novel Outside Valentine, based on the events of the Starkweather–Fugate murder-spree. The 1997 novel Not Comin' Home to You by Lawrence Block fictionally parallels the Starkweather and Fugate crimes.

In 2011, art photographer Christian Patterson released Redheaded Peckerwood, a collection of photos taken each January from 2005 to 2010 along the 500 mile route traversed by Starkweather and Fugate. The book includes reproductions of documents and photographs of objects that belonged to Starkweather, Fugate and their victims, several of which Patterson discovered while making his photographs and have never been seen publicly before.

In May 2014, "The Twelfth Victim: The Innocence of Caril Fugate in the Starkweather Murder Rampage" was released. It is written by Linda M. Battisti and John Stevens Berry, and tells the story of Caril Fugate from her point of view.


Bruce Springsteen's 1982 song "Nebraska" is a first-person narrative based on the Starkweather-Fugate case; likewise "Badlands" is full of themes regarding alienation and resentment by the protagonist. The song "Badlands" by Church of Misery on their album Houses of the Unholy centers on the murders and is told from a first-person perspective. The San Francisco pop-punk Band J Church's 1994 song "Hate So Real" is a first-person tale of the murders, including the names of several of the victims and the line "Now Caril can't deny me and to this day I swear, she should be sittin' on my lap when I go to the chair."


  1. Rule, Ann (2004). Kiss Me, Kill Me: Ann Rule's Crime Files. Simon and Schuster. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-671-69139-4. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  2. 1 2 Cawthorne, Nigel (2007-01-01). Serial Killers & Mass Murderers: Profiles of the World's Most Barbaric Criminals. Ulysses Press. ISBN 9781569755785.
  3. Wishart, David J. (2004). Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. U of Nebraska Press. p. 462. ISBN 978-0-8032-4787-1. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  4. 1 2 "CARIL FUGATE IS FOUND GUILTY, GETS LIFE TERM". St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Main ed.). Associated Press. 1958-11-21. pp. 1, 15.
  5. Flowers, R. Barri; H. Loraine Flowers (April 2005). Murders In The United States: Crimes, Killers And Victims Of The Twentieth Century. McFarland. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-7864-2075-9. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  6. 1 2 Caril Ann Fugate, Infamous 1950s Murder Spree Convict, Critically Injured In Crash That Killed Husband,, August 7, 2013.
  7. New Life Is Redemption for Caril Ann Fugate, Who Still Claims Innocence in Killings,; June 27. 2012.
  8. "Criminal Minds Recap: The Thirteenth Step". 2011-10-14. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
  9. Beaver, Ninette; Ripley, B. K.; Trese, Patrick (1974). Caril. Lippincott; ISBN 978-0-397-00997-8. Retrieved 22 October 2010
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