Valentine’s Day Special: The Lonely Hearts Killers

Valentines Day Special: The Lonely Hearts Killers

If you’re a realist, like myself, Valentine’s Day is a capitalist ploy that forces your hand to make you buy things for people you care about (or don’t), and if you opt out the consequence is you’re a bad, unloving, heartless human being. It’s stressful picking out what box of chocolates says, “I love you,” or “We’re just friends,” or “please give me a raise,” and it’s even worse deciphering the quid pro quo of gifts from unexpected senders, you may find yourself thinking, “Oh goodness, what does this carnation from so-so mean, what do they want from me? Now I have to get something for them. Great.” And so, chaotic capitalism ensues. To distract from the inevitable depression of your wallet and soul, and to remind you things could always be much much worse, let’s delve into a true crime case of seduction, murder, and love (or capitalism), “The Lonely Hearts Killers.”
The Lonely Hearts Killers, aka Martha Beck (29) and Raymond Martinez Fernandez (34), met when Martha placed a classified ad for the Lonely Hearts in 1947. Before Tinder and Hinge, and OurTime, there were Lonely Hearts ads in newspapers looking for a spouse, a date, or a one-night stand. Raymond served in the navy and British Intelligence Services, where from an accident on the ship, he fractured his skull, damaging his frontal lobe, which affects impulse control and behavior. After being imprisoned for theft, his cellmate exposed him to the belief of black magic, which he would later claim explained his “irresistible qualities” that gave him “power” over women. 

Martha had two children, from two previous relationships, and lived in Florida and California, and worked a number of odd jobs. Fernandez, who lived in New York, made trips back and forth to visit Martha in Florida. When she was fired from her job at Pensacola Hospital for Children, she moved in with Fernandez in New York, leaving her children behind, sending them to the Salvation Army. Fernandez confessed he had been scamming women using the lonely hearts ads to rob them, and Martha was all in. 

He continued to answer the ads, and Martha now posed as his sister, adding to his credibility when he met clients. Their first victim, Pennsylvanian Esther Henne, was robbed after refusing to hand over her pension and life insurance to Fernandez. In August 1947, they met Myrtle Young in Illinois.  Martha and Fernandez, gave her an overdose, then set her on a bus, to Little Rock, Arkansas. She died a day after the bus’s arrival. 

The couple would only be convicted for one murder, that of 66 year-old widower Janet Fay.

The couple would only be convicted for one murder, that of 66 year-old widower Janet Fay. Fernandez scammed Janet into engagement in January 1949, and Janet moved into his Long Island apartment, where he stayed with Martha. When Martha caught Janet and Fernandez in bed together, she brutally struck Janet in the head with a hammer. Fernandez then strangled Janet. Fernandez and Martha cleaned the scene, Martha claimed to be in a sort of “trance,” she wrapped the body in towels, but in a closet, and fell asleep. The next day they bought a large bin, and stuffed her body inside. They convinced Fernandez’s actual sister to store the trunk in her basement, not knowing what was in it. Fifteen  days later Fernandez retrieved the trunk and buried it in the yard of a rented house, and covered the grave with cement. For the next week, they sent letters to Janet’s family, claiming to have a good time with life, but they made one vital mistake, they used a typewriter to type the letters. Janet didn’t have a typewriter and couldn’t type; her family notified the police. 

Martha and Fernandez fled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Delphine Downing (41), was waiting for them. Delphine knew Fernandez as Charles Martin, whom she’d been corresponding with for weeks through Lonely Hearts, a businessman who wanted a family. After they met in late January 1949, Martha grew increasingly jealous of their intimacy over the month. But Delphine’s attraction to Fernandez was short lived, Fernandez flaunted a head of hair, which she found out was a toupee. 

Martha convinced Delphine to take sleeping pills to calm her down. Delphine’s baby began to cry sensing her mother’s change in demeanor. Martha then choked the baby into unconsciousness, and Fernandez shot and buried Delphine, all while Ranielle was a few feet away. After a few days of Ranielle crying, Martha drowned the baby in an act of monstrous rage. 

In February 1949, Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez were arrested after the neighbors called the police. Fernandez confessed to the three murders early on, and denied the 17 other murders the police attributed to them, and both Martha and Fernandz were sentenced to the death penalty for the first degree murder of Janet Fay. Martha had the audacity to exclaim she was afraid of the electric chair, and in a glorious act of karma, she was executed via electric chair along with Raymond on March 8, 1951 at Sing Sing Prison, New York.