The woman who was involved in a famous string of murders that inspired the movies Natural Born Killers and Badlands was denied a full pardon on Tuesday despite some of the victims’ families’ claims that she deserves it.
Caril Ann Clair, who went by Caril Ann Fugate at the time, was 14 in November 1957 when she accompanied her boyfriend, 19-year-old Charlie Starkweather, on a two month killing spree that left 11 people dead.
Caril was convicted in just one of the deaths and later had her life sentence reduced. She was released from prison in 1976 but now wants a full pardon, claiming she too was a victim of Starkweather and that he took her captive, forcing her to take part. Starkweather was executed by electric chair in 1959.
Clair was charged in only one of the killings, and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Her sentence was later reduced and she was paroled in 1976.
In her pardon request, Clair, who now lives in Hillsdale, Michigan, said the Nebraska Board of Pardons has a chance to right a historical wrong.
But on Tuesday, the Nebraska Parole Board turned her down, saying she was guilty of the crime she was convicted of.
Clair was 14 when she accompanied her 19-year-old boyfriend, Charlie Starkweather (left, together before the killings), on a bloody journey that left 11 people dead. Starkweather is seen in jail in 1958
Caril Ann Clair, who went by Caril Ann Fugate at the time, was 14 in November 1957 when she accompanied her boyfriend, 19-year-old Charlie Starkweather, on a two month killing spree that left 11 people dead. She is shown, left, in the 50s, and right, in the last known photograph of her taken in 2006, after she was released from prison having served her sentence
In her appeal, she asked the parole board to ‘relieve the burden’ of her guilt by pardoning her.
‘The idea that posterity has been made to believe that I knew about and/or witnessed the death of my beloved family and left with Starkweather willingly on a murder spree is too much for me to bear anymore,’ Clair wrote in her 2017 application, which the board is scheduled to consider.
‘Receiving a pardon may somehow alleviate this terrible burden.’
The families of the victims are torn over whether or not she is innocent.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announcing the decision to turn down the request on Tuesday. He said it was not the state’s job to alleviate her of her guilt
Liz Ward, whose grandparents C. Lauer Ward and Clara Ward, said she deserves to be pardoned.
She says she has reviewed all the trial evidence and that she believes Caril is telling the truth.
‘Carole Fugate is not guilty. I’ve been through the archives.
‘I’ve read every piece of paper. I’ve read the trial transcripts, all thousand pages of them.
‘Why we are inclined to believe his story while the girl’s is swallowed,’ she told KEVTV.
David Ellis, however, whose cousin Carol King, 16, and her boyfriend, Robert Jensen, 17, were also killed, did not want to see her pardoned.
‘She’s guilty. I think she was guilty of the murders and I don’t think a pardon is appropriate.
Liz Ward, whose grandparents C. Lauer Ward and Clara Ward, said she deserved to be pardoned. She was disappointed with the decision
David Ellis, whose cousin Carol King, 16, and her boyfriend, Robert Jensen, 17, were also killed, did not want to see her pardoned. He is shown with Paulette Neemann, another of King’s relatives
‘It’s left a scar on me. Sixty-one years has gone by.
‘I can’t forget it. Nebraska can’t forget it. She’s trying to forget it… she’s had 61 years to get her story straight,’ he said. They both attended the hearing.
In her request, Clair said a pardon would represent only a formal forgiveness of her crime, which she says she committed in mortal fear.
‘When I was 14 years old, I was abducted and held captive by Charlie Starkweather.
‘I was terrified and did whatever he wanted me to,’ wrote Clair, who acknowledged that she was present when one of the victims was shot and that she did hold the money taken from him.
‘I lived in constant fear for my family’s safety. Because I loved them with all my heart,’ Clair wrote.
Clair (pictured in prison in September 1973) acknowledged that she was present when one of the victims was shot and that she did hold the money taken from him
Clair admitted taking $4 from Robert Jensen’s (left) wallet just before he and his girlfriend, Carol King (right), were shot to death. Starkweather then left their bodies in a storm cellar
The infamous saga, inspired the 1982 Springsteen song Nebraska and the 1973 film Badlands starring Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. It also inspired movie Natural Born Killers, starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis.
The spree began in November 1957 when Starkweather robbed and shot dead 21-year-old gas station attendant, Robert Colvert, in Lincoln. His body was later discovered on a country road.
At the time of his death, Colvert had been recently been discharged from the US Navy.
On January 21, 1958, authorities say Starkweather went to Clair’s house and killed her three family members after her mother and stepfather told him to stay away.
Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers
Starkweather said Clair was home the entire time, but she said she wasn’t and that when she got home, he met her with a gun and told her that her family was being held hostage and wouldn’t be killed if she obeyed him.
Her boyfriend killed her stepfather Marion Bartlett, 57 and his 35-year-old wife Velda. Their bodies were found in an outbuilding.
Their two-year-old daughter, Betty Jean, had been clubbed to death with the butt of a gun and her body stuffed in a cardboard box.
The two then went on the run, and Starkweather killed seven more people as they made their way to Wyoming.
Their first stop was to the home of August Meyer, Starkweather’s friend.
Starkweather shot and killed Meyer in his stables before beating the man’s dog to death.
That same night, 17-year-old Robert Jensen and his girlfriend, Carol King, 16, became the next victims.
Clair admitted taking $4 from Jensen’s wallet just before he and King were shot to death. Starkweather then left their bodies in a storm cellar.
One of the main factors in Clair’s conviction was that she was holding a shotgun at the time.
Authorities also said Starkweather brutally raped King before killing her.
One of the main factors in her conviction was that she was holding a shotgun at the time.
Starkweather then stole Jensen’s car and drove back to Lincoln, Nebraska.
He selected the home of C Lauer Ward, 48, as their sanctuary, killing the local businessman, his wife, Clara, 46, and their maid Lillian Fencil, 51.
Starkweather then used Ward’s Packard to drive head to Washington state, but they never made it that far.
Instead, they stopped in Douglas, Wyoming, which is nearly 470 miles west of Lincoln, to ditch the Packard.
After ditching the vehicle, they came across Merle Collison, 37, who was napping along the highway in his car.
Collison became the last victim. He was shot dead while sitting in his car.
Starkweather and Clair were arrested the same day. Though 11 people were killed, Starkweather only went to trial for the murder of Collison.