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.
Happy Monday, readers!
Brenda Spencer is one of the first school shooters in U.S.history. On Monday, January 29, 1979, sixteen-year-old Spencer began shooting students from her front porch across the street from Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. She lived with her father across the street from the school. Brenda had a rough home life and was subjected to physical and sexual abuse. She also suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies. She had a negative view of police and mentioned wanting to kill an officer. Later, she claimed to have started shooting at the school to commit suicide by cop. She has since claimed to feel responsible for modern-day school shootings.
After barricading herself for seven hours, Brenda relented and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 1980. She killed the school’s principal and custodian.She also injuried eight children and one police officer.
When asked why she committed the crime, Brenda’s answer was simply, “I don’t like Mondays.”
Spencer’s parole has been rejected three times. She is currently housed in the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.
Fun fact: Manson Family killers Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten are also in the same prison. Susan Atkins was an inmate at the same facility until she was transferred in 2008.
The precise definitions of serial, mass, and spree murders are a common misconception among those not versed in the technical terminology. Once I mentioned how James Holmes, the Aurora theatre shooter was not a serial killer and got a confused look. I don’t remember who I said this too. Without trying to sound like a know it all, I explained the difference. I probably did come across as a know it all *blushing, embarrassed emoji*.
Here’s a quick breakdown…
-The FBI defines a serial homicide offender as having committed 3 or more homicides over a period of time.
-Killings occur at separate events and places.
-Experiences a “cooling off” phase between crimes, unlike mass and spree homicides. This phase varies between 3 months to several years.
The “cooling off period” is one of the most important and defining characteristics of serial murders. This is what separates serial killings from spree and mass killings and is potentially what makes serial killings so difficult to solve because of the period of inactivity.
-All crimes have the same or a similar modus operandi. This includes weapons used, type of victim (sex, age, physical characteristics), and similar crime scene.
-Motives include revenge, sexual gratification, power/control, anger, criminal enterprise, and financial gain.
-Potential causes of serial homicide offending: mental illness (sociopathic and antisocial personality disorders), abuse, sexual dysfunction, past criminal behavior, biological, social, and environmental influences.
Before the term serial killer was coined in the 1970s, they were referred to as mass murderers. Now, the term has a different meaning and sadly something we are all too familiar with.
-Four or more murders at a single event at one time. Can include more than one assailant. Event lasts from a few minutes to several hours.
-Assailant usually commits suicide, is shot by police, or easily surrenders.
-Motivations include anger, frustration, mental illness, religion, gang activity, and cult associations.
-The offender usually commits a mass murder in order to complete a “mission”.
-The “mission” the mass homicide offender is carried out or “completed” based on one of the motives.
-Mass homicide offenders easily surrender due to the fact they view their killings as the completion of their “mission”.
-Victims can be random, family members, or members of a certain group, religion, ethnicity, or sex.
I explained this in my last post about Charles Manson and how the Manson Murders are actually spree killings instead of serial killings. Spree killings are completed at two or more locations with almost no time in between. However, killings that last for several days, hence the word spree, are still considered spree killings. Those who engage in spree killings are often motivated by rage and revenge. They often tend to target someone who betrayed them such as a former lover, boss, classmate, etc.
Fox, J. A., & Levin, J. (1998). Multiple homicide: Patterns of serial and mass murder. Crime and Justice, 407-455.
Oh, Charlie, ol’ buddy ol’ pal. You are by far one of the most notorious criminals of all time. You are probably on more lists and countdowns than any other person ever in the history of Internet lists about criminals and serial killers.
The only problem is he’s not a serial killer.
Yep, the most famous sociopath in the world is not the thing we often associate sociopath with. True crime aficionados know our buddy Charlie is anything but a serial killer. For some reason, the rest of the world can’t comprehend this. It makes sense to categorize him into the realm of serial killers, which has been a misconception for years.
If he isn’t a serial killer, then what is he?
Manson was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, which legally is just as good as actually committing the murder. What Manson actually did was a murder by proxy a.k.a proxy murder. This is where an individual commits a murder at someone else’s instruction.
Another important detail is that the Manson Murders were not serial killings either, instead they are technically classified as spree killings. The key difference between serial and spree killings is the “cooling-off period.”
Serial killings have a period of inactivity between killings in order to re-live the crime until they feel the need to do it again. Spree killings take place in two or more locations with almost no time lapsed between murders. It’s like Rumspringa for psychos. The Manson killings take place in a two-day span in two different locations, which does classify them as spree killings.