Childhood & Early Life
Raymond Martinez Fernandez was born in Hawaii, on December 17, 1914, to Spanish parents. He grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His father was a handyman and treated him badly. He did not allow Raymond to go to school and made him do menial work.
As 16, Raymond and two of his friends stole two chickens. The other boys' families bailed them out, but Raymond’s father refused to do so. As a result, he remained in prison for 2 months.
They then moved to Spain in 1932. There, his father became the mayor of Órgiva, a town in Granada. At 20, Raymond moved to Gibraltar, where he became an ice-cream seller. He also worked on his uncle’s farm and soon got married to a woman named Encarnacion Robles. He also had four children with her.
He then worked as a merchant marine during World War II. He also worked for British intelligence agencies. He then set sail to the United States in December 1945, to look for a job. While on his way to the United States, he met with an accident on the ship, in which a steel hatch fell on his head (near Curaçao). As a result, his skull was fractured. He spent 3 months in hospital. His frontal lobe was affected by the injury. This probably caused his perverse social and sexual behavior later in life.
Raymond had also spent a year in a Tallahassee, Florida prison for stealing clothes. He then began to believe in voodoo and black magic, after being introduced to the concepts by a Haitian prison mate.
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After being released in 1946, he learned the art of seduction through voodoo and later stated that such practices had given him the charm to woo women. Raymond soon began writing scores of letters to women he found in a lonely hearts club named ‘Mother Dinene's Friendly Club.’
He would gain their trust, steal their money, and then vanish. The victims were mostly embarrassed to report him to the police. Thus, he continued to remain at large.
He soon faked a relationship with Jane Lucilla Thompson, a divorced cook, and ended up getting married to her. Thompson was later found dead in her hotel room in Spain (possibly killed by Raymond on November 8, 1947). She had apparently died of unknown causes. Raymond then forged her will and took over her apartment and belongings.
In 1947, Raymond found Martha Beck, an overweight nurse in Pensacola, Florida, through a lonely hearts club. They first met in December 1947, in Florida. She then went to New York to visit him.
Raymond later wanted to cut ties with her. However, Martha was fired from her job and had then left her two children at the ‘Salvation Army’ to be with Raymond. Raymond thus allowed her to stay with him.
He then told her about his plans of conning women. He also told her how he had married some of them. He then revealed that his wife and children stayed in Spain, a fact he had hidden earlier.
Martha was in love with him and thus, ignoring his flaws, decided to be his accomplice. She would often pose as his sister or sister-in-law. The two would then steal money and loot the homes of the victims. However, Martha often grew jealous of the women, especially when Raymond would have sex with them.
Raymond then married school teacher Esther Henne and brought her to New York. Martha posed as his sister-in-law. They conned her, but she escaped on February 28, 1948, before they could kill her. Raymond and Martha then went to Greene Forrest, Arkansas, where they met club member Myrtle Young. Raymond got married to Myrtle in Cook County, Illinois.
The couple, accompanied by Martha, went to Chicago for the honeymoon. Soon, the couple got into an argument, and Myrtle wanted Martha to leave. It is believed that Raymond then poisoned Myrtle (on August 18, 1948) and placed her in a bus to Arkansas, after looting her. Myrtle later died of a brain hemorrhage at a hospital.
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They then went to Albany, New York, where Raymond posed as "Charles Martin" and met Janet Fay. Martha posed as his sister, and they said they had lost their wallets. Soon, Fay agreed to Raymond’s marriage proposal. The trio went to an apartment in Long Island, and Fay withdrew a lot of money for them.
It is believed that on January 3, 1949, Martha killed Fay with a hammer either during an argument or after finding her in bed with Raymond. She was then strangled. They buried her in cement in the basement of a rented house in Queens.
They then targeted Delphine Downing, a young widow from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who stayed with her 2-year-old daughter, Rainelle. Martha was again introduced again as Raymond's sister-in-law.
On February 28, 1949, they gave Delphine some sleeping pills. After she fell unconscious, Raymond shot her with her former husband's revolver. Delphine was then buried in cement inside the house's basement. They did not know what to do with her daughter, as she refused to eat. In order to ensure there were no suspicions, they killed her by drowning her in a basin on March 1. They buried her in cement too. However, the same day, a few alert neighbors informed the police about Delphine’s disappearance. The murderer couple was arrested soon after.
The Trial & Executions
Though Raymond and Martha confessed to their crimes, their versions differed a little. Michigan had done away with the death penalty in the 19th century. Thus, the State extradited the killer duo to New York.
There, they were charged with the first-degree murder of Janet Fay. Soon, they pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. They denied committing the 17 murders that they were accused of, and Raymond even denied his confession later, saying he had confessed just to protect Martha.
However, following a 44-day trial, they were convicted and were sentenced to death. The case was sensationalized by the media, with details of the couple’s sexual perversion. They were eventually executed in the electric chair on March 8, 1951, by Joseph Francel, in the ‘Sing Sing Prison.’
While he was in jail, Raymond had apparently told the doctors that he had "sincere affection" and "a great consideration" for Martha but was not sure if he loved her. The doctors told Martha that Raymond had never loved her and that he had syphilis. This caused her a lot of trauma.
However, 2 hours prior to their execution, Raymond sent her a message, saying "I would like to yell to the world the love I feel for you.” Martha requested the police to shut down lonely hearts clubs, as they were mostly fraudulent businesses.