I should have shot you both, 19-year-old Charles Starkweather told the officers who arrested him on January 29th, 1958.
Youve killed ten people, one of them replied. Isnt that enough?
Ten? Thats all you know. Ive killed eleven, Starkweather smirked, revealing that his slaying spree had begun on DECEMBER 1st, 1957, when he shot a Lincoln, Nebraska, filling station attendant.
He became a serial killer seven weeks later, on January 21st, 1958, while he was at the Lincoln home of his 14-year-old girl friend Caril Ann Fugate, awaiting her return from school. He was toying with his .22 hunting rifle, irritating Carils mother Velda Bartlett.
I got into an argument with Mrs. Bartlett, he was later to say, and she slapped me twice. Naturally, I hit her back. The argument was about me dating Caril Ann. When the old man [Caril Anns stepfather Marion Bartlett] took her side and came at me, I shot them both. Then I cut them up a little.
When Caril Ann came home her two-year-old half-sister began to scream, so he choked the baby to death. Then he and Caril Ann stuck a notice on the door. It said: Every Body is Sick with Flu.
Police went to the house four days later, and when Caril Ann came to the door they told her: Your brother-in-law Robert Von Busch called headquarters and reported that you wouldnt let him or your sister in the house. Is everything all right?
My brother-in-law is a real worry-wart, Caril Ann replied impatiently. I wouldnt let him in because everybody here is down with Asian flu. The doctor told me not to let anyone in.
The officers left, satisfied that there was no cause for alarm. But it wasnt long before they were back again, this time in response to a complaint from Velda Bartletts mother. She too had been refused admission to the house by Caril Ann.
The officers knocks on the door went unanswered, so they climbed in through an unlocked window and found nobody at home and no sign of anything suspicious.
They must have gone shopping, said Veldas mother. I guess I got too excited.
Caril Anns brother-in-law, however, wasnt so easily satisfied. Later the same day he went to the house with Charles Starkweathers 21-year-old brother Rodney. The place still seemed to be empty, and Rodney suggested, Lets take a look in the chicken-house. Bartletts always working down there when he has an odd moment.
Entering the shed, they found Marion Bartletts frozen corpse lying on the floor. Police arrived to find he had several bullet wounds in his head. He had also been gashed repeatedly. In another shed the officers found the babys body in a cardboard box. Her throat had been slashed. Velda Bartletts corpse was wrapped in a dirty quilt. Like her husband, she had knife wounds and bullet holes in the head.
There was no sign of Caril Ann. Two hours earlier, detectives were told, she had been seen with Charles Starkweather. The couple were getting into his car, and they had two suitcases.
Launching a hunt, the police described Starkweather as short, red-haired, bow-legged, pigeon-toed and bespectacled. Nevertheless, he was said to be a formidable knife-fighter and a crack shot despite his poor eyesight. He had been working as a refuse collector, and his habits included shouting obscenities at strangers.
The hunt for the two fugitives ended on January 29th, after Charles Starkweather had killed seven more victims as the pair fled across country, leaving a trail of mayhem in their wake. When police finally caught up with them and Starkweather surrendered, Caril Ann claimed she had been his unwilling hostage. I was too scared to try to get away, she insisted. But the police had evidence that she had passed up several opportunities to leave Starkweather, and both were charged with first-degree murder.
The more I looked at people, Starkweather said, the more I hated them because I knowed there wasnt any place for me with the kind of people I knowed. They were a bunch of goddamned sons of bitches looking for somebody to make fun of.
He was convicted, sentenced to death, and executed on July 25th, 1959. Caril Ann Fugate was jailed for life, and paroled 19 years later.