Caril Ann Fugate was critically injured as a result of an auto accident in Michigan on Monday night. The driver, her 81-year-old husband Frederick Clair, was killed in the single car accident.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Clair lost control of his 1997 Ford Explorer, crossed two lanes of traffic, and rolled over multiple times.
Caril Ann Fugate, now known as Caril Fugate Clair, got famous at age 14 when she joined up with James Dean-influenced 19-year-old spree killer Charles Starkweather.
Three of their 11 victims were Fugate’s mother, stepfather, and 2-year-old baby sister.
Starkweather got the electric chair. Fugate got 18 years and was released in 1976. She has spent much of the rest of her life claiming that she was a hostage.
The Starkweather-Fugate killing spree took place in Nebraska. And emotions are still raw. The news that Fugate might be dying — at one point she was reported dead by a Michigan news station — sparked a detailed retrospective on her life at the Omaha news website.
“When have I ever gotten a fair shake from Nebraska?” they quoted her as saying after she was denied a 1996 pardon request.
She thinks she should have walked. But a lot of people have a different opinion.
A Columbus Telegram report said that Charles Starkweather’s family thought Fugate should have been fried “sitting on Charlie’s lap” when he was executed in 1959.
The story has had enduring impact on pop culture. Terrence Malick directed the 1973 film classic Badlands about the deadly teens. A very young-looking Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek played the Starkweather and Fugate inspired leads.
Of course, the critically acclaimed movie changed names and took some liberties with the truth. Sheen’s character is a decade older than Spacek’s. In a voice-over we also learn that the Spacek character essentially gets away with her role in the crime.
The Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate killing spree also inspired Bruce Springsteen’s song Nebraska.
[1973 Warner Bros. publicity still from Badlands]