Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez
Lonely Hearts Killers/Honeymoon Killers
Martha Seabrook was born in 1920, and had already grown prodigiously fat by the age of thirteen when she was raped by her brother. This unpleasant experience may account for her appetite for the bizarre in sex and her longing for a life of romance. It may also have been at the root of her increasingly callous view of her fellow human beings. Martha trained as a nurse and worked as an undertaker's assistant before being appointed superintendent of a home for crippled children at Pensacola, Florida. Her marriage to Alfred Beck in 1944 quickly ended iD divorce, as had two previous marriages.
Martha Mother: Julia Seabrook
Raymond Fernandez, six years Martha's senior, was born in Hawaii
of Spanish parents, brought up in Connecticut, and had lived for some time in
Spain where he had married and fathered four children all of whom he had long
since abandoned. During the Second World War Fernandez had served - briefly but
apparently with some distinction - with the British Intelligence Service, though
a head injury sustained iD 1945 seems to have unhinged an already none too
stable personality. He began to study black magic and claimed to have an
irresistible power over women. Whatever the reason, Raymond Fernandez is thought
to have inveigled his way into more than one hundred women's hearts, homes and
bank accounts over the next couple of years and swindled them all.
Each of the victims had been selected from notices in newspaper 'Lonely Hearts Clubs'; which is how, towards the end of 1947, Ray met Martha Beck, and together they added murder to fraud and deceit.
Ray and Martha in court, again in court with attorney Rosenberg
Their problem arose from Martha's fanatical demands on Raymond's
fidelity, going to extreme and often burlesque lengths to ensure that he did not
consummate any of the other lonely-hearts liaisons into which he entered. On one
occasion Martha insisted on sleeping with one of the victims herself to make
sure there was no nocturnal fun and games. A born philanderer, Fernandez proved
a difficult consort to control and following his frequent falls from grace,
became the focus of Martha's violent temper.
In December 1948, Raymond Fernandez made the acquaintance of a sixty-six-year-old widow from New York named Janet Fay. Having plundered her savings via promises of marriage, Raymond invited Mrs Fay to the Long Island apartment which he shared with his 'sister', and strangled and bludgeoned her to death. The body was later buried.
Victims Henne and Thompson
Mrs Delphine Downing, a young widow with a two-year-old daughter was the next victim, only weeks after the disposal of Mrs Fay. Delphlne Downlng took Fernandez as her lover - much to Martha's annoyance - and moved into the Downing home in Michigan with her child. After robbing her of what money and possessions they could, Beck and Fernandez forced sleeping pills down Mrs Downing's throat and shot the unconscious woman through the head; to stop the child crying, Beck drowned her in the bath. Despite careful burial of the bodies in the cellar under a new covering of cement, suspicious neighbours reported Delphine and little Rainelle Downing's disappearance to the police.
News Story, Death Warrant and Ray's Last Meal Request
Arrested for the Michigan murders, Beck and Fernandez were extradited to New York when it was realised that Michigan could not implement the death penalty Both prisoners confessed to the Fay and Downing murders, but stubbornly denied the string of seventeen other deaths of which they were suspected. The trial became a cause celebre not so much on account of the murders themselves, but because of Martha Beck's regular dispatches from gaol to the press detailing her and Raymond's sexual exploits. Despite serious doubts as to Raymond Fernandez state of mind, the 'Lonely Hearts Killers' were judged sane and guilty. Still expressing undying love for each other, Beck and Fernandez were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison on 8 March 1951.
Martha, Ray, Martha, Ray