Caril Ann Fugate was just 14 years old when she was arrested as an accomplice to her boyfriend, Charlie Starkweather, who allegedly killed eleven people in Nebraska in the late ’50s. Three of the victims were Fugate’s mother, stepfather, and 2-year old sister, and though Fugate claimed she was Starkweather’s hostage, many at the time said she should have died in the electric chair with him.
Fugate is now in critical condition after a horrific car accident in Michigan which claimed the life of her husband, 81-year old Frederick A. Clair, who was driving. Reports say Clair drifted off the road, crossed over two lanes of traffic and rolled into the median. Authorities say Fugate is expected to live.
The now-70 year old found her name synonymous with infamy after the murders–which were included in the worst killing spree Nebraska had ever seen–and was the subject of a film starring Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen called “Badlands”. She still maintains her innocence in the murders and says she was afraid for her own life at the hands of Starkweather, who was nineteen at the time of the killings. However, she did receive a life sentence for her role in the murder of a 17-year old victim, which was later reduced. She eventually served eighteen years in prison and was paroled in 1976.
“I told him I didn’t want to see him again but he came back,” she said. “I kept telling him to leave. I told him to leave and I didn’t ever want to see him again. Don’t you think that I, every day of my life, that I think to myself, ‘Why, dear God, didn’t he just kill me and be done with it?'”
Author John Stevens Berry, who is writing a book about Fugate called “The Twelfth Victim”, says he believes she didn’t get a fair trial.
“When you meet her and you see what she has done with her life, it’s amazing,” he said. “She’s an amazing human being. That she survived Starkweather was amazing. That she survived the legal, judicial and penal proceedings to which she was subjected was amazing. We know a great deal about her childhood and her upbringing and I’ve gone over her trial with a fine-tooth comb and have been astonished by the things we have found. She fulfilled her goal of getting involved in nursing, getting married and living a normal life.”