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Some people don't feel like they aren a whole person until they meet that certain special someone who "completes them". Whether you believe this or not? This can be the basis of the world's most successful marriages. Unfortunately the same can also be said for serial killers, especially those sadistic couples whose dark fantasties, morbid passions and murderous predelictions only come to the surface when they fall head-over-heels in love with a kindred spirit, who is willing to do anything to prove their love for each other... even going so far as to commit murder.
So, when we think of "couples who kill", we usually think of Myra Hindley & Ian Brady, Fred & Rose West and even Bonnie & Clyde, three of the most sadistic couples who have every existed (it could be argued), but they were not the first and they won't be the last. As a Valentine's Day treat, what follows is a list of "murderous lovers", so shocking are the stories that it's hard to simplify them, and so long is the list that I've barely touched the surface and had to split this list into a two-part blog, to be continued next week. Warning: contains graphic (& unromantic) details.
Alton Coleman and Debra Brown
Alton Coleman was a spree killer who brutally raped and murdered eight adults and children (some as young as 9 years old) across six states in the American Midwest, between May 29th and 13th July 1984, with the help of his accomplice Debra Brown.
Although Brown previously had no criminal record nor history of violence, she was complicit in all of the murders having (it is claimed) had a childhood head trauma which caused her to suffer from dependent personality disorder. Coleman received a death sentence in three states and was executed in Ohio on 26th April 2002 by lethal injection. Having been declared as “intellectually disabled”, Brown’s death sentence was commuted to a life sentence, which she is serving at the Dayton Correctional Institution (Ohio). Read more.
Charles Starkweather & Caril Fugate – “The Badlands Killers”
Charles Starkweather was 19 year old spree killer who – with his 14 year old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate – raped and murdered eleven people (mostly by a shotgun blast to the head), during a 60 day crime spree from 1st December 1957 to 29th January 1958. Starkweather’s first victim was Robert Colvert, a gas-station attendant who refused to sell Starkweather a stuffed animal on credit and later killed Velda & Marion Bartlett (Carol’s mother and step-father). Although Caril Ann was complicit in the killings, she would later claim in court that she was Starkweather’s hostage.
Starkweather was executed by electric chair on 25th June 1959 in Nebraska State Penitentiary. Caril Ann was sentenced to life imprisonment at Nebraska Correctional Center in Nebraska, and after 17 years was paroled. She currently lives in Hillsdale (Michigan) with her husband Fredrick, and until her recent retirement was an observer for the National Weather Service. Read more.
Carol M. Bundy and Doug Clark – “The Sunset Strip Killers”
Sadistic sweethearts Carol M Bundy and Doug Clark had a n odd relationship fuelled by dark fantasies, as Clark would often bring home young prostitutes for them both to have sex with, his ultimate goal being to kill a woman during sex and “feel her vaginal contractions during death”. Between 1st June and 26th August 1980, Bundy & Clark’s sick fantasies turned into a reality as Clark murdered 6 teenage prostitutes; forcing them to perform lewd sex acts, shooting them in the head, defiling their corpses and dumping their bodies, once taking a victim's head as a trophy.
Clark is reported to have said that if ever they were arrested, he would take the blame… but at his trail, he blamed Bundy for everything. Found guilty by the court, Doug Clark was sentenced to death on 15th February 1983 and – 33 years on – still sits on Death Row in San Quentin Prison (California) with Carol M Bundy receiving a life sentence having entered a plea bargain. She died in prison on 9th December 2003 from heart failure. Read more.
Charlene and Gerald Gallego – “The Love Slave Killers”
Between 11th September 1978 and 2nd November 1980, married couple Charlene & Gerald Gallego murdered 10 victims, some as young as 13 years old, across the states of California, Nevada and Oregon. Unable to be aroused during normal sex, Gerald (aided by Charlene) lured their terrified teenage victims into a van, where they were repeatedly raped, tortured and abused over the course of an evening or night, and then driven to a secluded spot, bludgeoned, shot in the head and their bodies dumped.
Best-friends Brenda Judd (14) & Sandra Colley (13) who were abducted together, weren’t discovered until four years later when a tractor unearthed their skeletal remains. In 1984, Gerald Gallego was sentenced to death in two states (Nevada & California) but died of rectal cancer on 18th July 2002 at Nevada State Prison. Charlene testified against him in exchange for a plea bargain and having served 16 years and 8 months of her sentence, Charlene Gallego was released from Nevada State Prison and moved to Fair Oaks (California) where she changed her name to Mary Martinez. She is now 60 years old. Read more.
Cynthia Coffman and James Gregory Marlow
Between 11th October & 12th November 1986, newly-weds Cynthia Coffman & James Marlow murdered 4 women who were withdrawing cash from an ATM. Each victim was robbed, abducted, strangled, sodomised and their bodies were dumped in a shallow grave, all whilst Cynthia & Gregory were high on methamphetamine.
With very little evidence, Police hoped for a bit of luck, and it came when their third victim’s chequebook was found in a dumpster near Laguna Niguel, hidden inside a fast-food takeaway bag, which contained bank statements bearing the names Cynthia Coffman and James Marlow. Besotted with each other, Cynthia & Gregory married on 30th July 1986, barely months before the murders, and as a mark of her love, Cynthia had tattooed on her buttock “Property of The Folsom Wolf” (Gregory’s nickname). But upon visiting Cynthia during the trial, her lawyer asked if there was anything she wanted, she replied “Yeah! Find someone who can help me lose this damn tattoo!”. Both Cynthia & Gregory are on Death Row in San Bernardino (California) with Cynthia Coffman being the first woman to receive a death sentence in the state since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977. Read more.
David and Catherine Birnie – “The Moorhouse Murderers”
Between 6th October and 5th November 1986, married couple David & Catherine Birnie of 3 Moorhouse Street in Willagee (a suburb of Perth, Western Australia) murdered four young women - Mary Neilson (22), Susannah Candy (15), Noelene Patterson (31), Denise Brown (21) - and attempted to kill Kate Moir (17), many in their own home. Fuelled by sick fantasies, the Birnie’s would abduct, gag, chain to a bed and rape their victims, then drive them to a secluded spot, where their terrified victim would be strangled, stabbed and buried in a shallow grave.
Their victims were not known to them, they were merely strangers who were either hitchhiking, stranded, waiting for a bus or were replying to an advert for a set of tyres. Luckily, following her abduction and rape, 17 year old Kate Moir escaped and called the Police. David & Catherine Birnie were sentenced to four life terms. One day before his trial having raped a fellow inmate, David Birnie committed suicide by hanging in his cell at Casuarina Prison on 7th October 2005 at 1.33am. Catherine Birnie is imprisoned in Bandyup Women's Prison; her 2007 and 2010 application for parole was rejected, with Jim McGinty (Attorney General of Western Australia) marking her papers as “never to be released”. Her case is up for review in 2019. Read more.
Delfina and María de Jesús González – “Las Poquianchis”
Following the arrest of Josefina Gutiérrez, a known kidnapper of young girls in Guanajuato on 14th January 1964, Police arrested Delfina and María de Jesús González, two sisters from Guanajuato (north-central Mexico) who ran a large-scale prostitution ring known as Rancho el Angel near the city of San Francisco del Rincón. Inside the brothel they found the rotting corpses of 80 women, 11 men and numerous fetuses.
From the early 1950’s onwards, Delfine & Maria had advertised for housemaids, but had abducted those who applied for the job, injected them heroin till they sustained a heavy drug-addiction and forced them into prostitution. When their prisoners/prostitutes became too ill, too unwilling, lost their looks, or were so badly damaged internally from being repeatedly raped, Defline & Maria murdered and dumped their bodies. Along with any unwanted babies, and any male customer who they felt was a suitable target for robbery. Both were sentenced to 40 years; Delfina died in Irapuato prison on 17th October 1968 when a workmen doing repairs above her cell “accidentally” dropped a bucket of cement on her head. Maria was subsequently freed in the mid-1990’s having completed her sentence, and vanished into obscurity. Read more.
Gwendolyn Graham & Cathy Wood – “The Lethal Lovers”
in January & February 1987, two nurses aides - Gwendolyn Graham and Catherine May Wood – at Alpine Manor (Walker, Michigan) suffocated five vulnerable elderly patients, aged 65 to 97 years old, who all had Alzheimer's disease. Their victims were not murdered out of malice or for financial gain, but as part of a twisted love-bond between the two lesbian lovers, who chose their victims based on whether their first initial would spell “M-U-R-D-E-and finally - R)”.
Ultimately the couple broke up, and Catherine Wood’s ex-husband went to the Police having been told about the murders which Wood blamed entirely on Graham. On 4th & 5th December 1988, both women were arrested and charged with two of the five murders (as three of their victims had already been cremated). On 3rd November 1989, Graham convicted of five counts of murder and given five life sentences at Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility (Michigan). Wood – who testified against Graham – received a lesser sentence of second degree murder and is due for release from Federal Correctional Institution (Tallahassee, Florida) on 6th June 2021. The Alpine Manor nursing home – unsurprisingly - went out of business. Read more.
Part Two of Killer Couples is available here next Wednesday 25th January
If you "enjoyed" this blog post, why not take a peek at; Serial Killers & Murderers Who Were Never Caught, London's Deadliest & Often Forgotten Disasters, Are More Serial KIllers Born During a Full Moon, Killer's Birthdays / Star Signs, Serial Killers Who Were On TV, Celebrities Who Have Killed, London's Railway of Death, Serial Killers as Kids and the World's Weirdest Death Rituals
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten quirky & unusual things to do in London” and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totalling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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