March 8, 1951
Ossining, New York
Raymond Martinez Fernandez (36) and Martha Beck (31), the Lonely Hearts Killers, are executed
While serving time for an unrelated crime, Fernandez supposedly learned about “voodoo and the occult,” to the point he believed he held some sort of control over women using witchcraft. He decided to use this newfound ability to swindle women out of money by placing newspaper advertisements in Lonely Hearts columns, defrauding them of their savings before disappearing. When he was apprehended, Fernandez had a circular with him with 18 ads checked off, with notations of money and property next to them.
One of his intended victims was Martha Beck, who surprised Fernandez by showing up on his doorstep, with her children in tow. Fernandez was very blunt that his new lover was welcome in his apartment but her children were not. Beck attempted to find an apartment for herself and her children but was unsuccessful. She decided to abandon her children, ages 3 and 4, to remain with Fernandez.
On January 4, 1948, Beck asked the local Salvation Army home for permission to stay the night with her children.“As soon as my son went to sleep,” Beck later testified in court, “with my daughter watching over him, I told my daughter I was going out to buy some candy. I walked out. I have never seen them since.” I could find no information of the fate of the children or their names.
With the children gone, Beck became a willing accomplice to Fernandez’s schemes and posed as his sister. One of their marks was 66-year-old Janet Fay. On or near January 4, 1949, Fay was hit in the head with a hammer, a scarf was put around her neck and tightened with the handle of the hammer, and buried in the cellar. The motive behind the murder was reported as an outburst of jealous rage on Beck’s part.
After Fay’s murder, the pair moved from New York to Michigan where Fernandez began his seduction of Delphine Downing, a 29-year-old widow. Downing became suspicious of the actual relationship between the “siblings,” especially by the jealous tendencies of Beck. On February 26, 1949, Downing became agitated and was given a large quantity of sleeping pills. She was then fatally shot with her late husband’s service revolver. Reportedly, Beck and Fernandez tried to comfort Downing’s 21-month-old daughter Rainell for a few days but, when they were unable to, they decided to “get rid of her” by drowning the toddler in a bathtub. Both mother and child were buried in the basement.
Beck and Fernandez decided to linger in the Downing home until suspicions grew regarding Delphine’s sudden disappearance. Police questioned the “siblings” who claimed the two were visiting family out of town. The explanation did not impress police and the pair were questioned, leading to a 73-page confession.
The highly-publicized trial ended with both defendants being convicted of Fay’s murder and sentenced to death. The couple were executed March 8, 1951, with Fernandez and Beck being the third and fourth, respectively, condemned prisoners to die in the electric chair that day.
Beck left a statement, prepared ahead of her execution:
“My last statement to my attorney is that I have sinned and society will know that I am paying this debt. The sin is great and so is the penalty. This is not the minute to speak of who is to blame. What is in the past must remain in the past. Only those tortured by love as I was can know what I mean. I was pictured as a fat, unfeeling woman. True I am fat. But if that were a crime, how many of my sex would be guilty? I am not without feeling. I am not stupid. I am not a moron. I am a woman who has had a great love and always will have. Prisons and the death house have only strengthened my love for Raymond. In the history of the world, how many crimes have been attributed to love? Here are my last words and my last thought: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I love Raymond.”
Raymond responded to this statement by saying,
“I am going to die like a man. What the hell does the public know about love? The news brought to me that Martha loves me is the best I’ve heard in years. Now I’m ready to die.”
“The Lonely Hearts Killers are executed.” History. Accessed: March 8, 2020. https://www.history.com/.amp/this-day-in-history/the-lonely-hearts-killers-are-executed
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