Beyond Bonnie and Clyde: 10 Infamous Crime Spree Couples
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow weren't the first criminal couple, and Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Harper certainly won't be the last – from bank robbery and kidnapping to rape, murder and even cannibalism, some of the most shocking crime sprees have been pulled off by outlaw lovers. Whether motivated by a mundane need to pay the household bills, a twisted desire to prove their devotion, or nightmarish sexual perversions, these 10 notorious partners in crime give love a very bad name.
Joseph and Jenny Carrier
Rap Sheet: Robbed five banks in five states in October 2015
Crime History: They may look like your average rosy-cheeked suburban couple, but Joseph and Jenny Carrier, both 37, spent last fall on a bank robbery spree up and down the East Coast. Starting in Quincy, Massachusetts, the couple led authorities on a month-long hunt, robbing five banks in Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Florida. According to news reports, Joseph would usually go into the bank alone, quietly demand large bills and assert that he was armed – though a gun was never actually seen or found in his possession – while Jenny drove the getaway car. That car, a Buick SUV, was reportedly stolen from a car dealership where Jenny had been employed. They didn’t even make off with much loot – approximately $15,000 in total from all five robberies – but it was all to support a heroin addiction, which had already destroyed their finances and left them homeless. As one detective put it, "[The Carriers] are very troubled, very sick, feeding a habit. They weren’t doing this for thrills … They weren’t doing this for profit."
They were finally apprehended at the end of October 2015, after leading police on a 90MPH chase down I-95 near Philadelphia International Airport. And police discovered they weren’t alone – two adult Brussels Griffons and their five puppies were found in the backseat. Joseph was charged with five counts of felony bank robbery, while Jenny was accused of aiding and abetting her husband. According to court documents, both pleaded guilty in June, face up to 20 years for each count and agreed to pay restitutions to the banks they robbed.
Immanuel and Cara Lee Williams
Rap Sheet: Fifteen bank robberies in Florida and Alabama from December 2012 through November 2013.
Crime History: In late 2012, Immanuel and Cara Lee Williams of Tampa, Florida, found that they couldn't pay their bills. Immanuel had recently stopped working as a part-time postal employee, and Cara's position at a bank wasn't going to cover their rising debts at the local casino. So, married just six months with a baby soon on the way, the Williams' decided to supplement Cara's maternity pay by robbing banks.
Their first heist occurred on December 5, 2012, just 10 days before Williams gave birth. Altogether, the couple robbed 15 banks across Florida and Alabama. When Cara went back to work, the robberies slowed – though two more went down on days she called in sick. According to reports, Lee committed the bulk of the them, donning the tried and true wig-hat-glasses disguise, including a cap given to Seminole Casino regulars and a fake Afro. Williams was responsible for helping to stake out potential targets, writing the demand notes and driving the getaway car.
While their crimes were seemingly driven by financial need, the couple also embraced the romance of it; during the investigation, police found a note that Cara wrote to her husband which referred to their "Bonnie and Clyde moments." Cara and Immanuel pleaded guilty and are serving five and six years, respectively.
Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo
Rap Sheet: The Canadian couple was convicted of raping and killing three women between 1990 and 1992, while Bernardo committed at least 13 additional sexual assaults.
Crime History: Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, later known as "the Ken and Barbie Killers," met in 1987 and were wed in 1991, but Bernardo came into the relationship with a disturbing and lengthy history of sexual assault. From 1987 to 1990, Bernardo raped at least 13 women between the ages of 15 and 22 in a suburb of Toronto, and committed attempted rape of at least six other women, most of whom he stalked after they got off buses during the late evening. Bernardo wouldn’t be officially pinpointed as the "Scarborough Rapist" until 1993, when DNA evidence linked him to the crimes, but he was considered a suspect in November 1990 after police received two tips that Bernardo matched the composite given by one of victims. During his interview with police, Bernardo voluntarily gave samples for forensic testing, and charmed them into concluding that "he was far more credible" than the tipsters, who "might just be trying to collect the reward." He was released the following day, and the samples were simply set aside.
Homolka was physically and psychologically abused by Bernardo, but at the same time, she encouraged his sadistic sexual behavior. In late December 1990, Homolka helped Bernardo drug, rape and ultimately kill her 15-year-old sister Tammy in her parents’ basement; Karla later explained she wanted to give him the teen’s virginity as a Christmas present. Tammy choked on her own vomit while she was unconscious and later died at a local hospital, but the couple was able to convince family and the authorities that the teen’s death was accidental. A few weeks later, they filmed a notorious video called "The Fireside Chat," in which Homolka dressed up as Tammy, and she and Bernardo discuss their enjoyment of the crime before having sex on Tammy’s bed. They went on to abduct, rape and murder three more teenage girls, videotaping the torture of one and encasing another's dismembered body in cement.
In February 1993, investigators in Toronto finally analyzed the blood Bernardo had given back in 1990, and found that Bernardo’s DNA matched the DNA of semen samples they had gathered from three of the rape victims. In February 1993, after being interrogated by the police, Homolka confessed and implicated her husband in the murders as well.
Homolka agreed to a 12-year plea bargain in exchange for cooperation, accusing Bernardo of as many as 30 other sexual assaults. Bernardo was ultimately sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, though in 1995 he was declared a "Dangerous Offender," making it unlikely that he will ever be released. Karla Homolka, meanwhile, was released from prison in July 2005, and since has remarried and had three children.
Gwendolyn Graham and Catherine May Wood
Rap Sheet: Five murders in January and February 1987.
Crime History: Known as "The Lethal Lovers," Graham and Wood both worked at a nursing home in 1986 and fell in love. In early 1987, according to Wood's account, Graham smothered an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease in order to "relieve tension." Over the next two months, in what Wood characterized as a sort of love ritual, they killed four more patients in a similar manner and the deaths were never considered suspicious.
The couple eventually broke up, but their crimes came to light in 1988 when Wood's ex-husband, whom she had told about the murders, went to police. Wood agreed to a plea bargain in exchange for her testimony against Graham, whom she characterized as the mastermind and perpetrator, while she was merely a lookout. Graham, meanwhile, claimed the opposite – that Wood was responsible and she was manipulated into being an accomplice. In the end, Graham was convicted of five counts of murder and sentenced to five life sentences without the possibility of parole. Wood pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. While Wood has been eligible for parole since 2005, she remains imprisoned in Tallahassee, Florida, with a release date of June 6, 2021. Graham is currently imprisoned in Michigan.
Lowell Cauffiel's 1992 book Forever and Five Days presents the theory that Wood was a manipulative psychopath who manipulated the prosecutor and jury, and was the actual mastermind behind the nursing home murders. In the book, he presents evidence that Wood planned the murders after discovering Graham with another woman, and involved Graham as a sort of insurance policy so that she could never leave her. When Graham left her anyway, Cauffiel's book claims, Wood was willing to sacrifice herself in order to get her revenge by going to police and implicating Graham as the mastermind.
Alton Coleman and Debra Brown
Rap Sheet: Eight murders, seven rapes, three kidnappings, and 14 armed robberies between May and July 1984.
Crime History: When Alton Coleman and Debra Brown met in 1983, Coleman, 28, had already been charged with numerous sex crimes and multiple robberies. Brown, on the other hand, was 21, and had lived a relatively quiet life up until that point; she had experienced severe head trauma as a child and was deemed borderline mentally disabled.
In early 1984, Coleman was indicted for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Illinois and went on the run, bringing Brown along with him. Instead of laying low, the pair went on a six-state crime spree and in just two months were wanted for 20 sexual assaults and eight murders, including four children, earning them a spot on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.
On May 29, the spree began with the kidnapping of Vernita Wheat, the nine-year-old daughter of a woman Coleman had befriended in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The little girl’s body was discovered on June 19, just a few blocks from Coleman’s grandmother’s apartment in Waukegan, Illinois. After "borrowing" a car from another trusting person he had befriended, Coleman and Brown headed to Gary, Indiana, where they kidnapped nine-year-old Annie and seven-year-old Tamika Turks. Tamika’s body was coincidentally found the same day as Wheat's, while Annie had been sexually assaulted by both criminals and survived.
From there they took off across the Midwest; from Michigan to Ohio to Kentucky, the couple burgled homes and killed, usually by strangulation. In Dayton, Ohio, they stayed with a reverend and his wife for a few days; their hosts were never harmed, and in fact drove Brown and Coleman to Cincinnati. But soon 15-year-old Tonnie Storey disappeared on her way to a class at her junior high school; her body was found eight days later – only this time, a conclusive link to the couple was left behind in the form of Coleman’s fingerprint, which would later prove to be essential evidence.
The FBI found the couple in Evanston, Illinois, and they were captured on July 20. By then, the couple had committed murder in six states, and were being pursued by authorities from each; Coleman ultimately received four death sentences across three states – a record number at the time – while Brown was sentenced to death in both Indiana and Ohio, though the latter was commuted to life in prison. Coleman was executed by lethal injection in Ohio in April 2002, while Brown serves out her life sentence in Ohio.
Carol M. Bundy and Doug Clark
Rap Sheet: Murdered seven people in 1980
Crime History: Carol M. Bundy and Doug Clark met at a bar in 1980 and moved into together almost immediately, and it wasn’t long before their affair took a twisted turn. Clark, a handsome man in his early 30s, starting bringing prostitutes home for threesomes. But when an 11-year-old neighbor caught his eye, Bundy – a homely divorcee five years Clarks senior – helped him lure the girl back to their apartment, where they coerced her into posing for photographs and playing sexual games. When the pedophilia got boring, Clark started sharing his fantasies of killing women during sex, and they started down the path to become the Sunset Strip Killers.
In June 1980, Clark picked up two teenage girls on the Sunset Strip, killing them and raping their corpses before disposing of the bodies. He told Bundy about the murders, and though she was spooked enough to call the police, she never revealed Clark's identity. Two weeks later, Clark killed two prostitutes and brought one's head home as a trophy. This time Bundy played makeup artist, grooming the severed head before Clark indulged in even more necrophilia.
Clark wasn’t the only man in Bundy's life, as she had an ongoing flirtation with a local singer named John Murray. At some point, Bundy let slip some details of her twisted nighttime activities and became concerned that Murray would go to police. So she lured Murray back to his van after a show one night, shot him in the head and then decapitated him. But Bundy ended up breaking down and confessing to coworkers, who called the police. She immediately came clean about killing Murray – and told the cops everything about the women she and Clark had killed that summer.
Clark was charged with six murders and Bundy was charged with two. Though Clark tried to pin everything on his girlfriend at trial, Bundy took a plea deal in exchange for her testimony against Clark. Bundy’s testimony proved to be essential to getting a conviction and Clark was sentenced to death row, where he remains. Bundy was sentenced to life in prison and died in 2003 from heart failure.
Suzan and Michael “Bear” Carson
Rap Sheet: Murdered three people between 1981 and 1983
Crime History: When they first met in the late 1970s, James Clifford Carson and Suzan Barnes Carson were seemingly just a couple of divorced parents who fell in love and liked to dabble in drugs and mysticism. They married, spent some time traveling around Europe, and came home having changed their names to Michael and Suzan Bear, self-described pacifist "vegetarian Moslem warriors." While the Carsons' lifestyle maybe seemed harmless on paper, their increasing bizarre behavior caused them to become estranged from friends and family.
Their hodgepodge of new age (Suzan believed she could see the future) and fundamentalist ("homosexuality and abortion are causes for death," they once said) beliefs, exacerbated a drug-induced paranoia, informed the couple's strange moral code. They were on a mission from God to exterminate anyone they believed to be a witch – or anyone who simply got in the way – earning them the nickname the "San Francisco Witch Killers."
In March 1981, while living in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, the Carsons killed their 22-year-old actress roommate Keryn Barnes, bludgeoning her skull with a frying pan, stabbing her 13 times and then hiding her body in the basement. They fled the Bay Area before the body was found, and while they were initially considered suspects by police, law enforcement never put much effort into finding them. (Suzan later confessed to the murder, showing no remorse as she explained that Barnes was a witch and had to be killed.)
After laying low in Oregon until the following spring, the Bears moved to Humboldt County, California, to work on a marijuana farm, developing a reputation for their ramblings about anarchist revolution and impending nuclear war. There, Michael ended up fatally shooting a fellow worker, Clark Stephens, after an ongoing dispute, and burned the body in a nearby woods. Two weeks later, Stephens' charred remains and ID were found and the Bears were at the top of the suspect list, but once again, they were long gone.
Finally, in March 1983, two years after their witch hunt began, the couple was hitchhiking near Bakersfield and accepted a ride from Jon Charles Hellyar. Shortly into the car trip, Suzan became convinced that he was a witch as well, and a struggle broke out in the car as they were driving down the highway in the Los Angeles suburbs. Pulling over, all three exiting the vehicle, the skirmish escalated, and Suzan stabbed Hellya before Michael took aim and fired, killing the 30-year-old in full view of other drivers.
After a high speed chase with the LAPD, the couple was finally in handcuffs. They were convicted of all three murders over two trials, and were sentenced to serve upwards of 50 years to life behind bars – in separate prisons, of course. Investigators believe the couple could be connected to nearly a dozen other murders across the U.S. and in Europe, and reportedly kept a kill list of celebrity witches, like then President Ronald Reagan and talk show host Johnny Carson. They have never expressed any remorse for their crimes.
Henry Lucas and Ottis Toole
Rap Sheet: Toole was convicted of six murders and Lucas was convicted of 11, but the lovers confessed to hundreds more (separately and together), as well as arson and cannibalism.
Crime History: Exactly how many people Henry Lucas and Ottis Toole murdered is a subject of debate. Lucas had been raised by an abusive mother who forced him to copulate with dead animals. He stabbed her to death in 1960, and had been in and out of jail when he and Toole, a cannibal with a fifth-grade education, met at a soup kitchen in 1976. They soon began a sexual relationship. Together they established the standard for psychopathic serial killer behavior, abducting, raping, and murdering as they drifted around the country. Their exploits would inspire the 1986 classic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
In 1983, Toole was imprisoned for arson in Florida and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Lucas was arrested two months later for possession of a deadly weapon, and soon began boasting about the murderous rampage he and Toole had supposedly committed during their relationship. At first, Toole denied any involvement, but later corroborated Lucas's claims.
After being convicted of multiple slayings, Toole confessed to many more – including the 1981 murder of Adam Walsh, son of John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" – and died in jail of cirrhosis in 1996. Lucas, meanwhile, confessed to hundreds of murders, and was eventually convicted of 11 homicides, including the death of Frieda Powell, Toole's young niece, and 82-year-old Kate Rich. He was also convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of an unidentified woman, dubbed "Orange Socks" because that was all the clothing that was found on her body when it was discovered. By 1986 he'd helped to clear 213 unsolved cases.
But that year the Texas Attorney General's office compared Lucas's claims to verified reports on his whereabouts at the time, and found enough contradictions to make Attorney General call his confessions a hoax. Toole died in prison in 2001, taking any chance of learning the true extent of his crimes with him.
Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate
Rap Sheet: Eleven murders in total for Starkweather, with Fugate serving as accomplice for 10 of them.
Crime History: In January 1958, in Lincoln, Nebraska, 15-year-old Caril Fugate arrived home to discover that her boyfriend of two years, 20-year-old Charles Starkweather – who styled himself like a wannabe James Dean – had killed her mother, stepfather and baby half sister. The disposed of the bodies and stayed in the house for several days. When neighbors began to grow suspicious of the absent family, they fled and went on a violent road trip across the state, committing a string of robberies and seven additional murders before their arrest. What contributed to the terror was the seeming randomness of the victims, who were young and old, male and female, rich and poor, acquaintances and strangers.
Depending on who you believe, Fugate either willingly participated in the murders or was Starkweather's hostage, doing what he told her out of fear that he would kill her next. After the murders of Fugate’s family members, the couple headed to 70-year-old August Meyer’s home in Bennet, Nebraska, where Starkweather fatally shot the old man and then savagely beat his dog to death. (Fugate would later claim Starkweather’s brutality convinced her that the only way to survive was to obey.) Later that night, Robert Jensen, 17, and his girlfriend Carol King, 16, offered the couple a ride; after raping King, Starkweather fatally shot both teens and left their bodies in a storm cellar.
The pair returned to Lincoln, Neb., killing three, then headed to Wyoming. There, Starkweather shot and killed Merle Collison, who had pulled over to take a nap off the side of the road, stuffing his body beneath the dashboard. However, before they had a chance to take off, another driver pulled over thinking they were in need of help; after spotting Collison's lifeless body, Starkweather pulled out his shotgun and he and the man struggled. Thankfully, a deputy sheriff happened to show up just in time, prompting Starkweather to jump in the vehicle and flee the scene, leaving Fugate behind. Police set up a roadblock and were ready for Starkweather when he tried to blow through a nearby town, reportedly going 100 mph. After an exchange of gunfire with police, he finally surrendered.
Starkweather admitted to committing the majority (but not all) of the murders, while Fugate claimed she was innocent and had been held hostage, but the jury didn't buy it. Starkweather was actually only tried for a single murder, but he was sentenced to death and executed in June 1959. Fugate was convicted for her role in the spree killings and served 17 years in prison before she was released in 1976. Their crime spree inspired the movie Natural Born Killers and Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska."
Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez
Rap Sheet: Believed to have murdered as many as 20 women between 1947 and 1949, each was convicted of three murders.
Crime History: Much has been made about the dangers of online dating, but things weren’t really any safer when singles searched for love through "lonely heart" newspaper ads. In 1947, Raymond Fernandez, a deadbeat dad and thief who fancied himself a ladies man, responded to Martha Beck’s ad, and quickly had the single mother of two under his spell. Leaving her children with the Salvation Army, Beck, 27, moved in with Fernandez, 33, in New York. With Beck posing as Fernandez's sister-in-law, they combed the personal ads to find women to seduce, rob and, eventually, murder older women – leading to their nickname the "Lonely Hearts Killers." They were caught in 1949, after killing a young widow named Delphine Downing and her two-year-old daughter, Rainelle, in Michigan, whose disappearance prompted neighbors to call the police.
While Beck and Fernandez boasted about killing as many as 20 women, who they are said to have found through classified ads just as they marked their robbery victims, there was only enough evidence to charge them for three murders. One was Janet Fay in New York – who Fernandez had seduced and invited to move in with them, leading Beck to allegedly kill her in a jealous rage – and the others, Delphine and Rachelle Downing in Michigan. But because Michigan did not have the death penalty, they were extradited back to NY, where they stood trial and were convicted for the one murder, and sentenced to death. On May 8, 1951, both were executed by electrocution. Beck's last words included: "What does it matter who is to blame? My story is a Love Story…but only those tortured with love, can understand what I mean.… In the History of the World, how many crimes have been attributed to Love?"