Remembering The Legacy Of "Badlands" Killers Starkweather and Fugate

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Fifty-seven years ago this week, Americans were gripped by either terror or fascination (depending on where they lived) with Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate — teen lovers on a murderous crime spree that cut across the Midwest.

The duo's first crimes occurred January 21, 1958, when the 19-year-old Starkweather shot and killed his 14-year-old girlfriend's disapproving stepfather and mother, and, even more horribly, strangled her toddler half-sister. But that wasn't even Starkweather's first brush with murder; in December 1957, the James Dean wannabe had shot a gas station attendent after stealing $100 from the till (reportedly, because the man wouldn't give him credit to buy a gift for his lady love).


After taking care of Fugate's family, the pair set out across Nebraska, robbing and killing virtually everyone they encountered along the way: a farmer and a teenage couple on Jan. 27; a wealthy businessman, his wife, and their maid on Jan. 28; and a traveling salesman on Jan 29, after which Starkweather and Fugate were apprehended in Wyoming. Though both were convicted of murder, only Starkweather met his end by execution (in 1959). Fugate was sentenced to life, despite her efforts to paint herself as a naive, unwilling accomplice. She was paroled in 1976 and currently lives in Michigan.

The road trip from hell resonated with the media then, and it continues to infiltrate pop culture in slightly (and not-so-slightly) romanticized ways, inspiring Terence Malick's Badlands, Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, and the Bruce Springsteen song "Nebraska," among others.


Photo via Fox News.