Charles Starkweather was an American spree killer who personified the pop-culture image of the rebel without a cause who runs away with his lover and kills everyone who gets in their way. Romantic, right? Quite frankly, it is not even romantic when they do it on television but when Charles Starkweather did it, it was outright disgusting. There was nothing romantic or inspiring about it.
Charles Starkweather was born to Guy and Helen Starkweather on November 24, 1938. He was third of the couple’s seven children. Guy and Helen raised their children on a very small income in Lincoln, Nebraska. Guy was a carpenter, who was often out of work because of arthritis. Helen was a waitress who worked hard to make ends meet. According to everyone, including Charles, his parents were not abusive, he never went hungry and he always had clothes on his back.
Charles was born with a few impairments. He had a small speech impediment, bowed legs and he was severely near-sighted. He was teased for the former two when he went to school. Both the teachers and the students also thought him of as slow. However, he probably was not slow. His vision problems went unnoticed until he was fifteen years old. Between being made fun of for not being able to speak properly and having difficult seeing, Charles did not really have a chance to do well at school.
The young Charles Starkweather was a pitiable creature. He is described as being kind and well behaved, but he was resentful of his family’s lack of status and the bullying he was subjected to. His resentment began to show in his teen years. He became a very able athlete and would fight any one who dared to make fun of him. He dropped out of high school when he was sixteen and began working low-paying jobs. These jobs cemented a belief in him that he would always be poor until he died. His own conviction of his doom and his poor way of solving it caused his prediction to come true.
When Charles Starkweather was 18-years-old, he met a 13-year-old girl named Caril Fugate. Caril and Charles began dating. Charles felt like Caril made his life better and Caril was impressed by Charles’ James Dean-esque clothing (he was a poor imitation of the famous actor) and cars. Thiers was the sort of relationship in which each individual nurtures the bad elements of the others personality. They made each other feel right by doing wrong.
Everything began going downhill for Charles (as we would see it) when he allowed Caril to drive his car and she hit another vehicle. Guy Starkweather’s name was on the car, so he was forced to pay for the damage to the vehicle Caril hit. When he confronted Charles about it, Charles got physical with his father. Guy kicked him out of the house and Charles was forced to find another place to stay. After living a somewhat vagrant lifestyle for a short time, Charles’ whole life changed.
In December of 1957, Charles Starkweather was denied credit at a gas station. He came back with a shotgun later, robbed the place and then killed the clerk a short distance from the station. Robert told Caril about the murder, but she told no one. On January 21, 1958, Charles went to Caril’s house. Her mother told him that she was not allowed to see Caril anymore. He left and then waited for Caril to get out of school. The two of them barged into the house later and began arguing with Caril’s mother and stepfather.
Charles had gone to the house with a rifle. During the scuffle that followed the argument, he shot and killed Caril’s parents and stabbed her two-year-old sister to death. The couple disposed of the bodies in the outhouse and the chicken coop before spending nearly a week in the house with a poorly spelled sign on the door that said everyone was sick with the flu. Everyone, including Guy Starkweather, assumed that Charles had done something bad. Unfortunately, by the time the bodies were found by the husband of Carol’s older sister, Caril and Charles were gone.
Starkweather had a family friend outside of town named August Meyer. On January 27, 1958, Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate arrived at the 72-year-old man’s house, where he lived alone. They killed him, stole some of his belongings and then hitched a ride with two teens- Carol King and Robert Jensen. They forced King and Jensen back to August’s house, where they killed them. Carol was shot and then stabbed in the stomach and pubic area. Her pants were pulled down. However, there was no evidence of sexual assault. Caril later said that Charles stabbed Carol while she sat in the car. Charles Starkweather claimed that Caril did it out of jealousy. They were both liars, so it is hard to tell what really happened.
After Caril and Charles killed the teenage couple, they stole their car and went back to Lincoln. They drove by Caril’s house, stupidly thinking that they could stay there. There were people at the house, so Charles and Caril stayed in the car for the night. The next morning, Starkweather decided to break into a house on the “rich” side of town. They wound up in the Ward house. After making Mrs. Ward make him breakfast, Charles killed her and assaulted on of her dogs. Mr. Ward came home later and Starkweather then killed him and the family maid. Caril and Charles then packed up the Wards’ car with goods stolen from their house and went back to Caril’s house. Not surprisingly, people were still there.
At this point, Charles Starkweather decided to drive west toward Washington State. On January 29, 1958, he noticed a man asleep in his car on the side of the road. Charles walked up with his gun and shot the man several times. He and Caril entered the car, but were unable to release the parking brake. A young man walked over to see if they needed help. Lucky for that helpful young man, a deputy sheriff pulled up. Caril jumped out of the car immediately and ran up to the man, yelling that Starkweather had just killed a man.
Charles somehow managed to get the car moving and took off without his beloved girlfriend. He was found and chased by police, who shot at him and broke one of the car’s windows. Charles immediately stopped. He was bleeding from scratches he received from the broken glass. The reason he stopped was that he thought he had been shot. After all this, Charles Starkweather was, according to one of the police who nabbed him, a “yellow son-of-a-b*%$@.”
Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate stood trial for murder separately. Both lied to authorities profusely. Caril claimed that Charles had kidnapped her and that the only reason she went with him is that he threatened to kill her family. Contradictory to that statement, she had confessed that she was present with Charles Starkweather when her family was murdered. Furthermore, her later statements and his showed that she had ample opportunity to run away.
Charles Starkweather was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. His sentence was carried out quickly. Caril Fugate was also found guilty of murder. She was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled in June of 1976.
Bardsley, Marilyn, Charles Starkweather & Caril Fugate, retrieved 9/6/10, trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/mass/starkweather/index-1.htm