The French term “folie á deux” means “a madness shared by two.” That certainly seems to fit serial killer couples, especially those where one partner transmits their psychosis to the other. However, in many cases, neither partner exhibited any psychopathic tendencies until they met their partner, and it was their shared fantasy that drove them to venture into the unthinkable, the sinister, the unimaginable horror of murder and mayhem.
Let’s look at both types.
Honestly, I found so many serial killer couples, it was hard to choose just a few. But we can always broach this subject again in a future post. Besides, I wanted to leave room for two special announcements.
Serial Killer Couples #1: Sunset Strip Killers
Other than growing up as military brat, Douglas Daniel Clark’s childhood wasn’t all that remarkable. He claimed to have lived in thirty-seven countries, but many kids travel with their military parents and don’t turn into serial killers.
After being discharged from the Air Force, Clark worked numerous jobs but his real passion lied with being “the king of the one-night stand.” It was in one of the numerous bars he frequented that he met Carol Bundy, who had plenty of twisted fantasies of her own.
The two moved in together and shortly after, Clark started bringing home prostitutes for them to play with. Then Clark took an interest in their eleven-year-old neighbor. Bundy lured the girl into sexual games and posing for pornography. When pedophilia got old, Clark confessed that he’d like to kill a women during sex so he could “feel her vaginal muscles contract during the death spasms.” He even persuaded Bundy to buy the guns.
In June 1980, the murderous rampage began.
Clark came home and told Bundy that he’d murdered two prostitutes from the Sunset Strip. He ordered them to perform fellatio and then shot them in the head and took their bodies to a garage where he enjoyed necrophilia before dumping the corpses near the Ventura Freeway. Initially, this confession was too much for Bundy to handle, so she called the police using only her first name “Carol.” However, when pressed about details of the crimes she refused to ID Clark as the killer.
Twelve days later, Clark killed again and this time, Bundy remained silent. Similar to his first two victims, he lured them from the Sunset Strip, forced them to perform sex acts, shot them in the head and dumped their bodies in plain sight. The only difference was this time, he kept one of his victim’s head, which he brought home and stuck in the refrigerator. In a bizarre twist of events, Bundy applied makeup to the disembodied face before Clark used it in his next round of necrophilia.
Two days later, the couple washed the head, stuffed it inside a box, and dumped it in an alleyway.
A month passed before he struck again.
In the meantime, Bundy remained infatuated with a singer named John Murray, whom she’d met before Clark. She went to his show and after a few drinks, she ran her mouth about her and Clark’s criminal activities.
Alarmed by the confession, Murray threatened to call the police, so Bundy lured him to his van with the promise of sex and shot him. She also decapitated him. However, she wasn’t half the expert killer Clark was, leaving several clues behind, including the spent casings. Plus, several witnesses reported seeing her leave the bar with Murray. This pressure caused her to confess to co-workers, who promptly called the police.
When authorities arrived, Bundy gave a full accounting of her and Clark’s crimes.
In 1983, Bundy was charged with two murders: Murray’s and an unidentified victim she admitted killing. Clark was charged with seven murders. At trial, he dismissed his attorney for showing up drunk several times, then acted as his own defense counsel and tried to blame Bundy for everything, saying he was duped. The jury didn’t believe him; they sentenced him to death. He remains on California’s death row.
Bundy, however, cut a deal in return for her testimony. She received a life sentence and died on December 9, 2003 from heart failure at age sixty-one.
There seems to be some controversy surrounding Clark’s conviction, though.
Serial Killer Couples #2: The Wests
25 Cromwell Street in Britain became the house of horrors when Fred West and his wife, Rosemary, spent years coaxing young girls to their home to satisfy their sick desires to rape and torture. Once they’d had their fill, they murdered the girls, burying their bodies in the basement or in the garden out back—aka The Garden of Death.
In this case, Fred West had already murdered and raped at least two women when he met his wife Rosemary. But she was no saint, either. Left on her own while Fred did a short stint in jail, she murdered his teenage daughter from a previous marriage.
Together the couple had four children.
At Fred’s request, Rose worked from home as a prostitute. He enjoyed watching through a peephole, just as Rose enjoyed watching Fred rape and torture. Rose’s father was no better, as he made regular visits to the home to have sex with his daughter while Fred watched.
As if that wasn’t twisted enough, the couple even raped their eldest daughter, Heather. After repeated sexual abuse, Heather fled the home. But she made the mistake of seeking help from the wrong person, and the parents found out. They murdered her, too, and buried her body under the patio as the remaining children looked on. Repeated threats ensured their silence or they’d “end up under the patio like Heather.”
They never counted on one of the children telling.
The threats, and the fact that Heather had disappeared, sparked the interest of police. But it wasn’t until Fred filmed himself raping another daughter that the Wests’ crimes came to light.
In all, ten female corpses were found on the property. Unfortunately, Fred hanged himself in his cell before trial. Rose, however, still lives behind bars.
Serial Killer Couples #3: The Lonely Hearts Killers
After serving in Spain’s Merchant Marine and then British Intelligence during World War II, Raymond Fernandez—originally from Hawaii—travelled to America. Shortly after boarding the ship, a steel hatch fell on him, fracturing his skull in the worse possible area. The frontal lobe injury could indeed be the mitigating factor in his subsequent criminal behavior.
Upon his release from the hospital, Fernandez got arrested for stealing clothes. During his one-year prison stint, he claimed his cellmate taught him voodoo and black magic, which gave him irresistible power and charm over women.
Unemployed, obese, and the single mother of two young children, Martha Jule Beck (born Martha Jule Seabrook) escaped into a fantasy world, surrounding herself with romance magazines, novels, and endless hours of romantic movies (see why crime fiction is the safer option?). In 1946, she found employment at the Pensacola Hospital for Children. One year later, she placed a lonely hearts ad in the local newspaper.
Raymond Martinez Fernandez answered the ad.
After visiting her for a short period, Fernandez returned to New York. Martha told everyone they were to be married and began planning the non-existent wedding. Her fantasy world led to her being fired from the Children’s hospital, so she abandoned her children and showed up on Fernandez’s doorstep, a move he misread as unconditional love.
Within two years, 1947-1949, the couple murdered as many as twenty women. But it was the final three that would seal their fate.
During this time, women answered personal ads in the hopes of meeting the man of their dreams. Instead, they met Fernandez and Beck.
To give him an air of respectability, Beck posed as Fernandez’s sister. Obviously their victims felt safer with a woman in the home, so they agreed to stay with the couple. Another rouse they used was for Beck to convince some of the victims that she lived alone and her “brother” was only visiting. However, her hair-trigger jealously ensured Fernandez never consummated the relationship with potential wives. If he was able to sneak behind Beck’s back and have sex with the women, Beck snapped, subjecting both parties to her violent temper.
In 1949, Janet Fay, age 66, got engaged to Fernandez and moved into his Long Island apartment. When Beck caught her in bed with Fernandez, she crushed her skull with a hammer. Fernandez joined in, too, strangling Fay to death. Once Fay’s family began asking questions about her disappearance, the couple fled to Michigan, where they met and roomed with Delphine Downing, a young widow with a two-year-old daughter.
On February 28, 1949, Fernandez gave Downing sleeping pills to calm her down after she’d gotten upset over something. What it was, isn’t clear. Witnessing her mother’s resulting stupor caused Downing’s daughter to cry, which instantly enraged Beck, who choked the child. In turn, Fernandez believed Downing would ask questions if she saw her daughter’s bruised neck, so he shot Downing while she was still unconscious from the drugs.
The couple remained in Downing’s home for several days, but the young girl’s constant tears were too much for Beck to handle, so she drowned the child in a basin of water. Both Fernandez and Beck buried the bodies in the basement. Suspicious neighbors reported the Downings’ disappearances, which led police to their door on March 1, 1949, resulting in their arrest.
Both were convicted to die by the electric chair on March 8, 1951.
Imprisonment in Sing Sing didn’t lessen their undying connection. Separately, they each professed their love for one another before the executioner flipped the switch.
“I wanna shout it out; I love Martha! What do the public know about love?” ~ Raymond Fernandez
“My story is a love story. But only those tortured by love can know what I mean […] Imprisonment in the Death House has only strengthened my feeling for Raymond.” ~ Martha Beck.
Now for the exciting news. Kim McGath and I are hosting a new blog radio show called “Partners In Crime.” Our show debuts on Writestream Radio Network October 18, 2016 from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. EDT. Join us every third Tuesday of the month, same time (EDT/EST), same place. The first hour is dedicated to true crime. During each show we’ll discuss either an unsolved case or a case where the Innocence Project is involved. Our mission is to help bring the victims’ families closure.
We’ll also offer listeners the chance to ask our special law enforcement guest questions about procedures, forensics, or the law, like we do with #ACrimeChat on Twitter. The second hour is dedicated to our love of crime fiction. We’ll interview authors, talk writing, and even share crime puzzles. Be the first to call in with the correct answer and win a prize (I’ll post the call-in number as soon as it’s available).
October is even more exciting with the release of the paperback and hardcover editions of MARRED and Wings of Mayhem, as well as the dark fiction anthology, RUN (releases 10/31/16 — look for my 10K-word story, BLACK-OUT) . We’re waiting for the second round of proofs for MARRED now. Perfect timing, too; I’m almost done with the sequel, CLEAVED (I’ve changed the title three times, but I’m sticking with this one). For Wings of Mayhem fans, Blessed Mayhem is nearing completion, as well. Hence, why I haven’t been around much lately.
To celebrate the release, my publishers put both Kindle versions on sale for 99c, but the sale only lasts for another day or two.