As a former weird theatre kid, I immediately fell in love with the movie musical Chicago when it was released in 2002. My theatre days are over but I will randomly bust out an impromptu version of “All That Jazz” from time to time. Apologies to my friends and family.
Now as an adult who writes about murder on the Internet, I get the tell the little-known true story behind my favorite musical.
The musical tells the story of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two murderesses in jail and on trial for killing their respective husband and lover in 1920s Chicago (which sounds super lit). Bathtub gin? Flapper dresses? Where do I sign up? The craft beer slugging Millennials in organic cotton t-shirts ain’t got nothing on the flappers of yesteryear.
The character of Roxie Hart, played by Renée Zellweger in the 2002 movie, is based on Beulah Annan, who like the character of Roxie was suspected of killing her lover.
There isn’t much information available about Annan but there are a few cool newspaper articles from her trial online.
Annan was born Beulah May Sheriff on November 18, 1899 in Owensboro, Kentucky. Watch out for lady Scorpios from Kentucky (AKA yours truly). She married her first husband as a teenager and soon left him for a man named Albert “Al” Annan. They moved to Chicago together and married on March 29, 1920.
Al started working as a mechanic and Beulah started working as a bookkeeper at a laundry mat. At the laundry mat, she met Harry Kalstedt and the two began an affair that naturally led to murder.
On April 3, 1924, Beulah murdered Harry in her home she shared with her husband while he was at work. She claimed that she shot him after they started drinking wine and argued. There was a gun on the bed and they both reached for it at the same time. If you’ve seen the movie or the musical, you’ll know the super catchy song about this incident.
Beulah beat Harry to the gun and fired. Let’s face it, someone named Beulah is bound to make it a gun over a Harry. After shooting him, she played the record of the foxtrot song “Hula Lou” on repeat, drank cocktails, and watched him die. Honestly, that is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever read.
After Harry died, she called her husband, Al and stated told him she killed a man who “tried to make love to her.”
She was arrested for the murder after she confessed. She then changed her story and said she shot him in self defense. Another version stated that she shot Harry after he told her he was breaking off their affair. At the trial, she changed her story yet again and said she was pregnant and that they both attempted to reach for the gun in her room and that she got to him first.
Beulah was acquitted for the murder. The day after the trial ended she left her long-suffering husband, Al after he spent of all his money on her legal defense. She stated, “I have left my husband. He is too slow.”
They divorced in 1927 and she married a boxer named Edward Harlib. The marriage only lasted three months and Beulah divorced him and was left with a $5,000 settlement. She then moved on to another man and died a year later at age 28 of tuberculosis at the Chicago Fresh Air Sanatorium.
Annan’s short tragic life not only inspired the 2002 movie musical but also was the basis for a 1927 silent film also called Chicago and for a 1942 film Roxie Hart.
And people think the fascination with true crime is new.
Both of these cases were sensationalized thanks in part to journalist Maurine Dallas Watkins who went on to write the stage play version of Chicago.
The real-life story of Belva Gaertner, a fellow member of Murderess’ Row was the inspiration behind the Chicago character Velma Kelly played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie musical.
Like Velma Kelly, Belva Gaertner was a Chicago cabaret singer accused of killing her lover, Walter Law. Gaertner was married three times total. Her second and third marriage was to William Gaertner, a wealthy business man twenty years older. After only five months, he annulled the marriage after he found out her first marriage not had been finalized. #1920sProblems
They married again and were separated by the time Belva was accused of murder. On March 11, 1924, Belva allegedly shot and killed Walter Law, a married man she’d been having an affair with. At the time of his death, Belva was 38 and Walter was 29.
Walter’s body was found in her car along with a gun and a bottle of gin. Belva was found at her apartment covered in blood. She was arrested for the murder and claimed that she and Walter had been drinking and partying at jazz clubs but couldn’t remember anything else.
At her murder trial, one of Walter Law’s co-workers stated that Belva was possessive and had threatened Law with a knife when he attempted to break off their relationship. Law also stated that he feared Belva would kill him someday.
Belva used her notoriety and charm to sway the judge and jury during her trial. Like our girl Beulah, she was also acquitted of the murder. The judge claimed that Law could have killed himself. At the trial, she stated, “No woman can love a man enough to kill him. They aren’t worth it, because there are always plenty more. Walter was just a kid—29 and I’m 38. Why should I have worried whether he loved me or whether he left me? Gin and guns—either one is bad enough, but together they get you in a dickens of a mess, don’t they?”
Good Lord, Belva.
After her trial, Belva re-married William Gaertner. They were divorced again in 1926 after he claimed she was an abusive alcoholic. He also stated that she threatened to kill him after he found her with another man. The same year, she was convicted of driving drunk.
Belva lived the rest of her life traveling with her sister and living in Europe and California. She died at age 80 on May 14, 1965.
Good Lord. That was a wild ride. Jazz will kill you, kids. Stick with Black Metal.
I would like to point out now that I’m writing this while listening to the sound of sizzling meat in a skillet. I promise it’s chicken and not long pork.
The woman who served the other-other white meat was Australia’s, Katherine Knight. Knight now has the distinction of being the first woman in Australia sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Like many killers, Katherine had a troubled and violent upbringing. She was abused by both of her parents and claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Her mother would often discuss the details of her sex life with her daughter and told her about how much she hated men.
When Katherine started high school she became a loner and a bully. The only people she was close to were her twin sister and her uncle, Oscar Knight. When he committed suicide in 1969 when Katherine was only 17, she became very distraught.
During high school, Katharine assaulted a male classmate and attacked a teacher. She was also known to fly into terrifying rages. When she wasn’t assaulting educators and other classmates, Katherine was a model student although she claimed that she never learned to read and write.
She dropped out of high school at age 15 and started working in a clothing factory. A year later, Knight started working at what she called her “dream job” at a slaughterhouse. She was promoted and given her very own set of butcher knives! Unlike presumably all other slaughterhouse employees, she took these knives home and hung them over her bed so “they would always be handy if I needed them.” Knight continued sleeping with the knives above her bed until her arrest.
Katherine found her first love and husband, David Kallett. When they married in 1974 Knight’s own mother told him: “You better watch this one or she’ll fucking kill you.” I doubt that’s on too many Hallmark cards.
His mother-in-law’s theory luckily didn’t come to pass (at least not for him) but his new life tried to strangle him on their wedding night. Katherine later recalled this was because he would only have sex with her a measly three times and fell asleep.
Unsurprisingly, their marriage didn’t last long. On one occasion, when Knight was pregnant with their daughter, Melissa Ann, she hit him in the head with a frying pan and fractured his skull. Soon after Melissa Ann was born, Kallett left him for another woman.
The day after he left her, Knight was seen throwing a baby stroller back and forth down the street. She was admitted to a mental health facility and treated for postpartum depression. Knight stayed in the hospital for several weeks and was quickly readmitted after she dumped her daughter on a train, stole an ax, and threaten to kill several people. Melissa Ann was rescued shortly before the train departed.
Kallett and Knight reconciled and had another daughter in 1980 before breaking up in 1984. Two years later Knight met another man, David Saunders. They also had a violent and volatile relationship.
On another occasion, Knight slit the throat of a baby dingo in front of Saunders and said she’d do the same to him if she ever caught him cheating on her. She would also frequently throw him out of her apartment. When she became pregnant with their daughter, Saunders bought a house which Knight decorated with animals skins, skulls, horns, rusty traps, old boots, leather, and machetes.
Knight also hit him in the face with an iron and stabbed him in the stomach with a pair of scissors. She also cut up all of his clothes. Saunders left her and when into hiding. He returned several months later to see their daughter. This prompted Knight to go to the police where she claimed he was the violent one. She was issued an Apprehended Violence Order against him (similar to an Emergency Protective Order in the U.S.).
Knight had another relationship with a man named John Chillingworth. The two had a son named Eric. After three years, Knight left him for John Price.
Knight and Price had been having an affair for some time while he was married and she was still with Chillingworth. Price had three children with his ex-wife, two of which lives with him. Price was well aware of Knight’s violent history but continued their relationship and let her move into his house.
They soon had a fight brought on by Price’s refusal to marry her. Knight then made a video of several items Price had stolen from his work. Knight took the video to his boss and he was fired.
A few months later, Price rekindled their relationship but didn’t allow her to move back into his house. After their relationship started again, the ill-fated lovers started fighting even more. Price’s friends said they would no longer have anything to do with him if he continued seeing Knight. Price was well liked in their small community and many were shocked when he became romantically involved with Knight.
Their relationship finally came to a head in February 2000 when Knight stabbed him in the chest. On February 29, Knight obtained a restraining order against her. Later that day, Price told his co-workers that if he didn’t come to work the next day it was because Knight had killed him. He also feared she would kill his children as well.
After work on the night of February 29, Price went over to his neighbor’s house and drank for several hours. When he returned home, he found Knight there. The couple had sex and Price soon fell asleep. He would never wake up.
The next morning, his neighbors called the police when they noticed his car still in the driveway. The police were called and arrived at 8:00 a.m. There they found a gruesome sight.
Warning: this is graphic.
Knight was found unconscious after taking a bottle of pills. Evidence showed that Knight stabbed Price 37 times while he was sleeping and that he tried to get away and bled out in the hallway where he died. What was left of Price’s body was found posed with his arm wrapped around a 2-liter bottle. She then skinned him and hung his skin on a meat hook in the living room. Price was decapitated and his head was found in a pot still hot on the stove. Knight cooked other parts of his body with baked potato, pumpkin, beetroot, courgette, cabbage, yellow squash, and gravy.
The police found two place settings at the dining room table with place cards with the names of Price’s children. Another meal and some of the cooked human meat were found discarded in the backyard. Police believed that Knight might have attempted to eat it. Price’s body also had a note attached to it which read: “Time got you back Johathon for rapping [raping] my douter [daughter]. You to Beck [Price’s daughter] for Ross – for Little John [his son]. Now play with little Johns dick John Price.”
When Knight woke up from her pill-induced coma, she claimed to have no memory of committing the crime. The accusation that Price had raped Knight’s daughter was never proven.
Knight was arrested and attempted to plead guilty to manslaughter. Her plea was rejected and changed to not guilty of the murder or Price. Her lawyers attempted to use a plea of amnesia and insanity. Several psychiatrists diagnosed Knight with borderline personality disorder and was declared fit to stand trial.
Before the trial began, the judge offered selected jury members to be excused due to the graphic crime scene photos. Knight was obviously found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Knight has continually refused to believe that she killed Price and still claims she doesn’t remember killing, dismembering, and cooking him.
In 2006, Knight attempted to appeal her life sentence and failed. Knight is currently serving her sentence in the Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre in New South Wales.
This serial killing duo should probably be more talked about than it is. I recently read about this one a few years ago, and it has stuck with me since. Carol Bundy (no relation to Ted) and Doug Clark, known as the Sunset Strip Killers went on a killing spree in the summer of 1980, resulting in the death of at least 9 people.
Carol Bundy had a troubled childhood, and was seemingly destined for a life of crime. She was abused by her family and married to a 56 year-old man. By the time the killings began, she’d been married and divorced 3 times and had two young sons. Before the killings, Bundy had an affair with Jack Murray, her apartment complex manager and a country singer. Bundy even tried to bribe Murray’s wife to leave him. She also became obsessed with Murray, having elaborate fantasies about their life together.
Doug Clark was the son of a U.S. Naval officer who lived a life of privilege. He attended a Swiss boarding school as a child and traveled the world with his family. Clark showed signs of psychopathic behavior from a young age. He would often lie to his parents, and as a teenager, he would record himself having sex with girls and show the footage to his friends. Clark joined the Air Force in 1967. After he was discharged, Clark drifted and worked as a mechanic, all while calling himself “the king of one-night stands”. He moved to Los Angeles and met Carol Bundy in 1980.
Bundy and Clark met a bar in L.A. where Jack Murray would often perform. After spending a short time together, Bundy and Clark moved in together and soon discovered one another’s dark sexual fantasies. They had a very volatile and abusive relationship rooted in jealousy. Clark had a habit of seeking out divorced women with self esteem issues and essentially becoming a mooch, which is what he did to Carol Bundy.
This is where it gets super gross, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Clark started bringing sex workers back to their house for a threesome. He then lured an eleven year-old girl back to their house where he took sexually explicit photos of her. He also started talking about wanting to kill a girl during sex and convinced Bundy to buy them matching pistols. Clark claimed he wanted to feel vaginal contractions of a woman during death spasms. WTF.
In June 1980, Clark admitted to Bundy that he killed two teenage girls, Gina Narano and Cynthia Chandler, who he picked up on the Sunset Strip. He forced them to perform oral sex on him, shot them in the head, raped their dead bodies in a garage, and dumped them on the Ventura Freeway. They were found the next day. Bundy, growing apprehension, called the police claiming to have knowledge about the murdered girls, but refused to give them Clark’s name.
Twelve days later, Clark killed two more sex workers in the same fashion, Karen Jones and Exxie Wilson. This time, Bundy didn’t call the police. Clark kept Wilson’s head in the refrigerator. Bundy put makeup on the head, placed the head in a wooden box, and dumped it in an alley. It was found the next day. Clark had also killed another sex worker who was found three weeks after Exxie Wilson and Karen Jones were killed, making her her the first known victim. While all of this was happening, Clark was having a sexual relationship with the eleven year-old girl who lived next door, who be bribed with money and gifts to keep their relationship secret from everyone but Bundy.
A month later, Clark and Bundy went to go see Jack Murray after his performance at a local bar. Bundy hinted at what she and Clark had been doing. Murray threatened to call the police. Bundy later claimed she’d been joking and in exchange for not reporting them, Bundy offered him sex. Jack said he would only if there was another woman. Warning! Again, it gets more disgusting. Bundy brought the eleven year-old neighbor with her for the encounter. Apparently, all these people are scumbag pedophiles. Bundy refused to let Murray have sex with the girl, she believed that was only for Clark. It was then she decided Murray had to die.
Bundy psyched herself up to kill Jack Murray as a way to prove her devotion to Clark, as well as prove she was smart enough to kill on her own as Clark often berated her intelligence. On August 3, 1980, Bundy went back to the bar where Murray was performing again. She lured him into her van with the promise of sex with her and the neighbor girl. She shot and decapitated Murray in the back of her van. She took the head home with her in a plastic bag, believing the bullets in his head would lead back to her.
On August 20, Bundy broke down and confessed to a co-worker who called the police. Bundy, a nurse, had escaped from the hospital where she worked and was on the way to Clark’s work at the Jergen’s factory. When she arrived, she told Clark she was turning herself in. She offered him all her money so he could get away. Bundy and Clark had already been questioned in Murray’s murder, and Clark had given an alibi for Bundy. When Bundy left the factory, Clark called the police and recanted his statement about the alibi. Bundy soon called the police herself and turned them both in.
During questioning, Bundy confessed to the crimes and claimed to have enjoyed killing Jack Murray. Clark, on the other hand, was smug, arrogant and tried to claim Bundy was crazy, that they had never had a romantic relationship.He also claimed Jack Murray and Bundy had been committing the murders all along and that Bundy was trying to frame him. However, there was already too much evidence linking them together.
They were both found guilty of the murders. Doug Clark was charged with seven murders total and sentenced to death. He is still currently on death row in California. Carol Bundy testified against Clark in exchange for a shorter sentence. She received twenty-five years to life. She died in prison in 2003.
Doug Clark still claims his innocence and is still blaming the murders on Bundy and Jack Murray. He also denies ever having a romantic involvement with Bundy and believes DNA evidence will soon exonerate him. Good luck with that, buddy.
Look for a post about serial killer collectables, aka murderabilia soon!
In researching this, I couldn’t find any information about the eleven year-old girl. I can only hope she is living a good life now and is mentally healthy.
Carol Bundy’s behavior is baffling, even to a true crime weirdo. Roy Hazelwood, the famed FBI profiler who taught us everything we know about Forensic Psychology, has a study and theory on female accomplices, mainly to sex offenders. Hazelwood’s study claims these women suffer from low self-esteem and are focused on pleasing their male partners who are the instigators in the crimes.
Hazelwood developed a theory which includes the following processes that turned these women into accomplices:
- Identification: Identifying a vulnerable, easily-controlled person
- Seduction: Getting the woman to fall in love.
- Reshaping the woman’s sexual norms: Introducing her to sexual images and acts that may offend or frighten her, but which she must do to please the man and keep him involved.
- Social isolation: Cutting her off from family and friends.
- Punishment: Physical, verbal, and sexual, which further erodes the woman’s self-esteem and ability to act on her own.
Thanks for sticking around and reading that (if you didn’t, I don’t blame you). Here’s a basket of smooshy-faced puppies to cheer you up.
Lovebirds Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck make up the killing duo dubbed the Lonely Hearts Killers. From 1947-1949, they are believed to have killed at least 17 women by answering lonely hearts, which was like Tinder but somehow even creepier (at least in this case).
It should be noted that in the forgettable 2006 movie about the killings, Beck is played by the always hot Salma Hayek. Go figure.
Fernandez was born in Hawaii to Spanish parents in 1914. He served in WWII in both the Spanish and British militaries. He had a wife and four children in Spain, which he abandoned during the war. After serving in the military, he decided to return to America. While on a ship, he fell injuring his frontal lobe. This injury is said to have affected his behavior, which led to the murders, a common occurrence in killers.
After spending some time in the hospital, he was arrested for stealing clothing and spent some time in jail. His cell mate thought him about voodoo and black magic, which Fernandez believed he could use to charm and manipulate women.
Martha Beck was a teen runaway from Florida. She became a single mother and worked as a nurse and a mortician’s assistant. The father of her daughter refused to marry her and she told everyone she was a war widow. Eventually, she married a bus driver from Pensacola, had a son, and was divorced six months later. Beck became enamored with romantic novels and movies. In 1947, she placed a lonely hearts ad, which was answered by Fernandez.
Beck and Fernandez soon fell in love, prompting Beck to abandon her children for him. He took this as a sign of love, and confided in Beck about his crimes. At this point, he had been robbing various women who answered his ads. Beck moved from Florida to New York to be with Fernandez. She posed as his sister when the women who answered the ads would come over, as to make them feel more comfortable.
They were only tried for 3 murders, all of which were committed in 1949. The first was Janet Fay, 66 who became engaged to Fernandez and lived with he and Beck. Beck attacked Fay with a hammer when she saw her in bed with Fernandez. Fay didn’t die immediately, so Fernandez strangled her with a scarf. When Fay’s family started looking for her, the killers fled to a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
There, they met and lived with a young widow named Delphine Downing and her two year-old daughter. On February 26, 1949, Fernandez drugged Downing with some sleeping pills. When her daughter started crying, Beck choked her, but didn’t kill her. Beck realized she might become suspicious of bruises on her daughter. Fernandez shot Downing while she was unconscious. Beck then drowned the daughter in a sink.
Beck and Fernandez were arrested on March 1, 1949. They were extradited to New York, as Michigan had no death penalty. Fernandez confessed and then retracted his statement. Police suspected them of 17 total murders, but were only tried for the murder of Janet Fay as the prosecutors wanted to pursue the death penalty (why they were extradited to NY).
Both were executed by the electric chair on March 8, 1951, professing their love for one another until the end.
The three name curse strikes again with Karla Faye Tucker, known for being the first women executed in the U.S. since 1984 (she was eventually executed in 1998), and the first in Texas since 1863. Tucker played the “I’m a murderer and turn to Jesus in prison and publicly talk about it to gain sympathy” card for all it was worth. Which, is a big change from the woman who claimed to have multiple orgasms from killing. This ignited a media fire storm that prompted many to protest her impending execution. Several days before her execution, George W. Bush, the then-governor of Texas blocked the final appeal.
Born into a troubled home in Houston, Texas, Tucker started smoking cigarettes at age 8 and by age 12 was already into drugs and sex. After her parents divorced, her mother became a rock groupie. Tucker married a local mechanic when she was 16 and was divorced soon after.
In her early twenties, Tucker started hanging out with a rough group of bikers. Some friends introduced her to a man named Danny Garrett. They started dating soon after. On June 3, 1983 at 3 a.m., after a night of drinking and doing drugs,Tucker, Garrett, and a friend, James Leibrant entered the home of Jerry Dean with the intent to steal his Harley Davidson. Dean was the estranged husband of Tucker’s best friend, whom she disliked.
Tucker went into the bedroom where Dean was sleeping. She sat on him while Garrett and Leibrant searched the house. Dean grabbed Tucker which led to Garrett hitting him in the head with a hammer he found on the floor. The blow caused Dean’s neck to become unhinged and distorted his breathing. Tucker was fed up and irritated with his ragged breathing, found a pickaxe (presumably at Dean’s home), and hit him in the throat with it. She later said took the ax to his neck to “stop him from making that noise”. Dean them finished him off with a hammer to the chest.
Garrett left the bedroom and went to finish loading up the motorcycle. It was then Tucker discovered a woman, Deborah Thornton, who had been with Dean the previous day. She’d been hiding in the room the while Dean was murdered. She was also killed by Tucker with a pickaxe to the heart.
In September 1983, Garrett and Tucker were tried and convicted for the two murders. Both were sentenced to death. Garret died in prison in 1993. While behind bars, Tucker became a born-again Christian. She married the prison paster in 1995. Between 1984-1992, several appeals and a retrial were requested unsuccessfully. Tucker tried to get her death sentenced overturned because she was on drugs at the time of the murder.
On February 3, 1998, after eating a last meal of a banana, peach, and a garden salad with ranch, Tucker was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas.
While Tucker’s death sentence was not overturned, her execution brought about a huge capital punishment debate. Many blamed a pre-poncho battling Dubya for her death. He was criticized for allowing a woman to be executed. And not just a woman, one who was reformed and born-again. Since the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States, only 16 women (11%) have been executed. 6 out of 11 have all been executed in Texas. The last was Kelly Gissendaner in 2015 in Georgia.
Continuing on with female killers, today’s post focuses on a killing spree which happened in my current city, where I’ve lived since 2010. Upon further researching this case, I learned one of the victims was murdered right down the street from my house.
On April 23, 1986, lovers LaFonda Fay Foster, 22 and Tina Marie Powell, 27 went on a violent murder spree leaving five people dead. Having three names also seems to breed murder. It started around 4:00 p.m.that day when Virginia Kearns called Lexington Police complaining of two drunk women who wouldn’t leave her apartment. When the police arrived, they also found Mrs. Kearns drunk. After questioning Foster and Powell, police determined them to be coherent and left. It should be noted now that both Foster and Powell were drinking and high on cocaine during all the events written below.
With the police gone, Foster and Powell headed to a party at a neighboring apartment where Foster tried to sell a knife she had with her. While they were at the party, Virginia Kearns left and went to a nearby drug store. Foster and Powell threatened her again and followed her to the drug store. The three women then returned to the Kearns apartment where they demanded money from Virginia’s husband, Carlos. He said he’d have to write them a check, which he did.
I’m not sure why this happened, but I’m guessing there were drugs involved. Based on the court deposition, it sounds as if this was a hostage situation. It’s an odd situation and doesn’t add up with other spree killings, considering the victims weren’t random. It also seemed as if The Kearns’ knew Foster and Powell. Otherwise, why would they get into a car with them? Carlos Kearns wrote Foster a check for $25. At the same time, two friends of Carlos’, Roger Keene and Theodore Sweet showed up at the apartment.
Foster then drove The Kearns’, Keene, Sweet, and The Kearns’ housekeeper, Trudy Harrell to a bait shop where she cashed the check. Foster and Powell claimed they were raising money to buy a gram of cocaine. Foster then drove the group to the home of a man named Lester Luttrell, presumably to get some money. Luttrell got into an argument with Foster. Foster shot a bullet into his house and drove away.
Four hours after this all began, Foster drove to a field where she and Powell made the five victims get out the car and lie face down in the grass. They then shot and stabbed Trudy Harrell, Carlos, and Virgina Kearns. Only Trudy Harrell died at the scene after being ran over by the car. Her body became lodged underneath the car and was dragged 225 feet. She was shot in the back of the head, stabbed five times in her face and chest, and her throat was cut.
The Kearns’ were forced back into the car. Sweet and Keene were not injured. Foster drove to a nearby bar, where she (again, presumably) knew the manager. She asked him for the some bullets, and he gave her four .22 calibers. He noticed the occupants in the back seat and blood on the driver’s side door.
After receiving the bullets, Foster took the group to a loading dock behind a paint store where she and Powell killed Virgina Kearns. She too, was shot, stabbed, and ran over. After killing Kearns, Foster went back to the bar and asked for more bullets. She was denied and drove to her father’s home in search of more bullets. Mr. Foster did not have any. While Foster was with her father, Carlos Kearns, Keene, and Sweet begged Tina Powell to help them. She claimed she couldn’t because Foster had the car keys and that she believed she could help them more by staying. This ties back to Powell’s defense, saying that Foster overpowered her and that she acted out of fear.
Foster left her father’s house and went to another bar. A witness claimed she asked her for some cash to buy cocaine, as well as some bullets. The witness saw Foster’s car and asked about the blood and occupants in the back. Foster told the witness she was going “to shoot them, too”, meaning Kearns, Keene, and Sweet. I believe it’s safe to assume at this point, the police had been alerted. The witness described Foster as having been drinking, but was in control of herself. Failing to get more money and bullets, Foster drove the remaining victims to another field (this is the one by my house). She killed the three men in the same manner as the women. Only this time, the car was set on fire. Roger Keene was found pinned underneath the car.
Foster and Powell, then walked to a nearby hospital. Powell called for a taxi and Foster went to wash the blood off. A nurse called the police after seeing them. The police were already at the hospital for unrelated reasons. They were arrested for public intoxication and taken to the Fayette County Detention Center, which on a lighter note has some FANTASTIC GOOGLE REVIEWS.
While Powell was being booked, Foster when to the bathroom where she flushed her bloody shoelaces and socks. She also exchanged sweatpants with another inmate. The police were already suspicious, and after obtaining Foster’s bloodied pants from the other inmate, they were able to link evidence back to the murders. While in jail, Foster bragged to fellow inmates about committing the crimes and admitted to destroying evidence.
During the trial, Foster tried to plead insanity. A psychiatrist found her to be sane, but “extremely emotionally disturbed”. Foster also had a long criminal record, including prostitution, burglary, and various drug offenses. Powell also had a criminal record, but it wasn’t as long or violent as Foster’s.
Both women were charged with five counts of murder. A year after the murders occurred, Foster was sentenced to death. Powell was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years. In 1991, Foster’s sentence was dropped to life without parole. In 2011, Powell was denied parole and must serve 10 more years. Foster is currently housed in the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women a.k.a PeeWee Valley Prison near Louisville, KY. Powell is on the other side of the state in the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex.
More men tend to be spree killers than women, which is why this case is so interesting. Female spree killers are more often than not a part of a team. Men tend to kill for pleasure or thrill, while women are more likely to kill for some sort of gain, which is why women are more likely to be serial killers than spree or mass killers.
I need a nap. That’s enough spree killing for one day.
Probably the best nickname ever.
This is a new one for me. I found Bloody Babs while I was researching another murder. The case of Bloody Babs (Barbara Graham) was highly sensationalized by the press, as many female murderers are. This was also because she was the third woman executed in the gas chambers in California. How could I not write about someone named Bloody Babs? This story is a classic, sensationalized murder filled with scandal, intrigue, and made the female perpetrator into a femme fatal in the media. It’s not surprising the story was put on film in the 1958 movie I Want To Live! The movie strongly implies Barbara was innocent, which we will soon learn she was anything but. Even after she was sentenced to death, many still believed she was innocent.
Barbara Graham was born Barbara Ford in Oakland, California on June 26, 1923 to a teenaged unwed mother (sadly, a hallmark trait of later offending). Her mother was sent to reform school and Barbara was raised by extended relatives. As a teen herself, Barbara was sent to the same reform school her mother had been in.
She was released from reform school in 1939 and married Henry Kielhamer, a member of the Coast Guard. She enrolled in business college in 1940 and had two sons by 1942, the same year she and Henry divorced and he was awarded custody of their sons. She was married two more times, both ending in divorce. For the next several years, Barbara became what was called a “seagull”, a prostitute who worked around naval bases. At age 22, she started working at a San Fransisco brothel. Here, she met various career criminals and was soon involved in drugs and gambling. She served five years in prison for perjury after providing a false alibi for two of her criminal friends.
After her prison sentence, Barbara moved to Nevada and worked in a hospital and as a waitress. She soon moved to Los Angeles, where she married a bartender, Henry Graham and had another son.
This is when things really get murdery for Babs…
Henry Graham was a career criminal and a drug addict. Sounds like a real catch. During her marriage, Barbara met Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins, Graham’s criminal buddies. As if this story couldn’t get any more sordid, Barbara and Emmett Perkins started having an affair. Perkins told Barbara about a supposedly wealthy widow he knew, Mabel Monohan. The three conspired a robbery.
On March 9, 1953, Barbara along with Santo, Perkins, and two of their “associates”, John True and Baxter Shorter carried out their plan. Barbara gained entrance into Monohan’s home by asking to use the phone. When the door was opened, the men burst in, demanding money and jewels. Mabel Monohan was a bad ass and refused to give them anything. Barbara then pistol whipped her and the rest of the gang suffocated her with a pillow. They got away empty-handed, but later learned they had missed $15,000 worth of jewels and cash.
They were soon arrested for the crime. John True testified against them in exchange for immunity. Baxter Shorter also confessed and named Barbara, Perkins, and Santo. On April 14, 1953, a month after the crime, Shorter was kidnapped and presumably murdered. Barbara insisted throughout the whole ordeal she was innocent, which True claimed she was not. It was during this time, the press coverage of the crime grew and Barbara earned the nickname “Bloody Babs”.
Her claim of innocence was soon proven false. While she was in jail awaiting trial, she offered $25,000 to a fellow inmate, Donna Prow for a friend to provide an alibi for her. Supposedly, Prow and Barbara had an intimate relationship while in prison. This was after Barbara had served prison time for the same crime. Unbeknownst to her, Prow was essentially working as an informant with an undercover cop in exchange for a shortened sentence of her own vehicular manslaughter charges. The inmate agreed. The undercover officer posed as the “friend” and initiated a conversation with Barbara in which she confessed to the crime. The officer recorded the conversation. Prow was released early for her cooperation.
Barbara, Santo, and Perkins were all sentenced to death for robbery and murder. Santo and Perkins were also found responsible for a 1952 quadruple murder in Pulmas County, California. All three appealed their sentences, and none were granted.Barbara was transferred from the California Institution for Women to death row at San Quentin. On June 3, 1953 Barbara was supposed to be executed at 10:00 a.m. The execution was stayed by the Governor of California until 11:30 a.m. Graham protested,”Why do they torture me? I was ready to go at ten o’clock.” Santo and Perkins were executed the same day.
In 1960, Barbara Graham’s execution inspired California lawmakers to vote on suspend death penalty in the state. The bill failed to pass and was introduced due to the stay on her execution. This case is also believed to have sparked the anti-death penalty movement. Executions of women are met with controversy, as many believe women are not capable of violent acts. If you’ve seen the news (or read this blog), you’ll know this is entirely not true. The Chivalry Thesis states female offenders are treated more leniently for violence than their male counterparts, yet are more deceitful in their crimes. Barbara Graham, as well as many others, proves this wrong.