Serial Killer Couples: Madness Shared by Two

cute-feetThe 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.

Serial killer couples: Douglas ClarkAfter 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.

carol-bundyIn 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.

Serial Killer Couples: Fred and Rose WestIn 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.

Serial Killer Couples: FernandezUpon 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.

Serial Killer Couples: BeckTo 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.

Partners In Crime

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).

To learn more about our show and our impressive first guest, please visit Partners In Crime in the menu bar, or click here. After each show, I’ll post the replay and show details under the same tab.

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.

About Sue Coletta

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is the bestselling, award-winning author of psychological thrillers and mysteries. Sue’s short stories and flash fiction have appeared in OOTG Flash Fiction Offensive magazine and numerous anthologies, and her forensic articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly.

In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net. Sue’s the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project, and co-hosts the radio show “Partners in Crime” on Writestream Radio Network. As a way to help fellow crime writers, Sue created a team of crime experts (detectives, coroners, police captains, etc.) and founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter. She’s also a proud member of the Kill Zone (see details in full bio — menu bar).


  1. You sure find some demented people, Sue. Did you come across the Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka couple from the Toronto area in the 1990’s who video-taped murdering two teenage girls? They even raped and killed Homolka’s little sister.

    You’ve sure got a lot going on – best wishes for the radio program 🙂

    • I knew about them, yes. And I’d planned to include them and link to your post, Garry, but then I found something like thirty couples, and didn’t know where to draw the line. They were all so twisted! So I limited it to couples who killed numerous people.

      I’m crazy busy lately, but it’s all so exciting! Hope to have you on the show. *hint hint* 😀

  2. Wow, you have so much going on.

    First, those are all wretchedly sick couples, but I think the Wests have to take the prize for debauchery—with a capital D. Twisted, doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    Secondly, congrats on becoming a radio personality! Exciting times indeed. I’m sure the show will be a smashing success. It sounds like you’ve got some amazing things planned.

    And finally, congrats on the writing front too. I don’t know how you juggle it all, but you are certainly on the fast track and it is well deserved. Cheers all the way around!
    Mae Clair recently posted…Sundial by Sandra Cox .99c #TimeTravel #RRBCMy Profile

    • Thank you, Mae. I do have a lot going on, but it’s all good stuff, which makes it easier to handle. We’re so excited about the show! In truth, I’m also nervous. I’ve never hosted a radio show before, so it’s both incredible and nerve-wracking. LOL Thankfully, Kim is comfortable with public speaking. That makes one of us. 😀

  3. This is more of a question: when the FBI ask for a blod test to be performed on a corpse, does it have to be done within 24 hours? Are those details important in a novel?

    • Absolutely those details are important, Elizabeth. But I’m not sure I understand your question. Why would the FBI be asking for a blood test? Are you referring to getting a DNA sample? The Medical Examiner would perform that test. The results would come from the state lab and go to the lead detective or sheriff. The FBI don’t normally investigate homicides (like Criminal Minds and those types of show make it seem). In order to know if your character should be FBI or a local detective or sheriff, check out Crime Writer’s Boot Camp: Jurisdiction It’s a two-part post that I think you’ll find helpful. And no, it’s extremely unlikely that anyone would get blood results back in 24 hours.

  4. Wow, those are some sick and evil dudes and dudettes! That English couple takes the cake for me in these examples. How depraved can people get? Thanks for sharing this (I think!).
    E. Michael Helms recently posted…Tone plus Voice Make Mystery MagicMy Profile

  5. Thanks for sharing these stories of depraved serial killer partners. Who know what evil lurks in the minds of men and women? The Partners in Crime know!
    pauldaleanderson recently posted…Be Careful What You WishMy Profile

  6. You’ve been extremely busy, but that’s what the world requires these days. Wishing you all the best in the radio business. Exciting times for you.

  7. I find it absolutely fascinating, Sue, how couples can feed on one another’s madness, if I can put it that way. Sometimes it’s because one person psychologically dominates the other. But there are plenty of cases where that’s not the case. And it’s eerily fascinating. I’ve read some excellent crime fiction that hinges on that sort of relationship, too; it’s a context that can work very well for the genre, I think.

    Congratulations on your show!!!! I think it’s going to be fabulous! And of course, congratulations on your book success, too – well-deserved! I’m really happy for you on both counts.
    Margot Kinbergh recently posted…Please Don’t Leave Me*My Profile

    • You’ve worded it beautifully, Margot, “feed on one another’s madness.” In truth, I got so wrapped up in this post I originally had six couples, one more creepy than the next, but the post ended up way too long. I was really surprised how many I found, around thirty believe it or not.

      Thank you! We’re so excited for the show, and the fact that it might shine a light on cases that need it, makes it all the more rewarding.

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