Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Starkweather & Caril Fugate

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Lillian Fencl
Lillian Fencl

Despite his poverty, Charlie was very familiar with the best part of town from his garbage collecting days. He chose the large home of C. Lauer Ward, a forty-seven-year-old close friend of the governor and president of the Capital Bridge and Capital Steel companies.

That morning, Clara Ward, the industrialist's socially-prominent wife, and Lillian Fencl, their hard-of hearing fifty-one-year-old maid, were home, as were their Chesapeake Bay retriever, Queenie, and their small poodle, Suzy.

When Lillian Fencl answered the door, Charlie pointed his gun at her. Caril stayed in the car. He ordered Lillian to lock up Queenie in the basement. Recognizing that the maid had a hearing problem, he wrote her notes to make himself understood. He told her to keep making breakfast for Mrs. Ward.

When Clara Ward came into the kitchen, Charlie assured her that nothing bad would happen. Clara was calm and agreed to cooperate. Charlie had Caril come into the house where Mrs. Ward had fixed some coffee for her. Then Caril went into the library and fell asleep.

Clara Ward
Clara Ward

Charlie ordered Clara Ward to fix him some pancakes and serve them to him in the library. When she did so, he changed his mind and had her fix him waffles instead. Still, Mrs. Ward kept her cool and was gracious to Charlie all the while.

He exulted in his accomplishment one of the wealthiest residents of Lincoln was waiting on him, the former garbageman.

Around 1 p.m., Clara Ward asked permission to go upstairs and change her shoes. After a few minutes, Charlie went upstairs to see what was keeping her. He claimed that she had armed herself with a .22, shot at him and missed. Charlie threw a knife at her and struck her in the back. He stabbed her repeatedly in the neck and chest.

As he dragged Clara's body into the bedroom, Suzy started barking at him, so he broke her neck with the butt end of the gun.

After killing Clara Ward, Starkweather called his father and told his father to tell Bob Von Busch that he was going to kill him for interfering with Charlie's relationship with Caril.

Then he sat down to write a letter that was addressed to "the law only." It was a twisted illiterate tirade, confession and attempt at self-justification. "I and Caril are sorry for what has happen, cause I have hurt every body cause of it and so has caril. But I'n saying one thing every body than cane out there was luckie there not dead even caril's sister."

Later, the two of them loaded the Ward's black 1956 Packard with food and prepared to escape in style. They ransacked the house, taking anything that looked valuable.

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