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A lonely hearts killer (or want-ad killer) is a criminal who commits murder by contacting a victim who has either posted advertisements to or answered.
Table of contents

He wrote to women in the club with great success. She was the youngest child of William Seabrook, a submissive man who abandoned his family when she was 10, and a dominant mother. As a child, she was shy and overweight, which was attributed to an unspecific glandular problem, and was bullied by other children.

She developed sexually and became interested in boys when she was only nine-years-old. This made her mother paranoid about leaving her alone with men, which contributed to her loneliness and sexual desire. At her trial, Beck claimed that she was raped once by her brother, but that her mother had blamed her and beat her for it.

She run away from home as a teenager, but returned later. In , she graduated as a nurse in Pensacola but had trouble finding work due to her appearance. After working in a funeral home washing and preparing the bodies for burial, she became depressed and moved to California, where she was hired in a hospital. Meanwhile, she engaged in casual sex with men that she met at bus stops. When she became pregnant, she asked the father to marry her, but he refused and committed suicide. Beck suffered a nervous collapse and returned to Pensacola, where she claimed that she had married a serviceman who was killed in action in the Pacific.


Beck was hired in the same Pensacola hospital where she gave birth to her first child, but she was fired for scandalous behavior on May 31, On December 13, she married a bus driver, Alfred Beck, but she filed for divorce after only six months and while being pregnant with a second child. On February 15, she began working at a residence for disabled children and was promoted to director in the Fall. Despite this professional success, she also became an alcoholic and a compulsive consumer of romantic novels and films. In November, an acquaintance played a prank on her by writing to the New York lonely hearts club in her name.

The lonely heart killers

After becoming her tenant, the two started a relationship and left for a vacation in Spain in October. On November 7, Thompson argued with Fernandez and threatened to return to the U. The next morning, she was found dead in her hotel room and the cause was identified as a heart attack triggered by gastroenteritis. Fernandez returned and showed Thompson's mother a forged will that named him as Thompson's only heir. Fernandez read Beck's letter to the lonely hearts club and wrote back, telling her that he intended to visit shortly before Christmas. After two days together, Fernandez realized that Beck was poorer than the letter claimed and returned to New York after making a excuse.

Beck wrote several romantic letters to Fernandez, to which he replied that she had misinterpreted him and that they should not meet again. In response, Beck wrote Fernandez that she was going to kill herself with an oven. The letter had the desired effect, and Fernandez invited Beck to New York. Although the residence conceded Beck a two-week leave, she later found that she had been fired without explanation.

Lonely Hearts Killers

On January 18, Beck surprised Fernandez by ringing the boarding house's door with her two children. When Fernandez said he could not have children in the house, she sent them to her mother and threw Thompson's mother out.

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In a last attempt to make her leave, Fernandez confessed that he was a con artist and that his life was based on ripping off women from lonely hearts clubs. However, Beck chose to stay and become his accomplice. And sometimes — nobody seems to know exactly how many times — Raymond and Martha killed together. Martha whose own sob story of ostracism and childhood neglect is really quite sad supplied much of the vengeful energy that impelled the murders.

the lonely hearts killers

One of their victims was a woman Beck attacked in a jealous rage when Fernandez actually slept with her. It carried them to Michigan, a non-death penalty state where they were arrested. There, they confessed in a ploy to draw a local sentence and avoid execution. That confession given in Michigan helped seal their fate in New York. Though separated from one another on death row but they kept up the treacly correspondence , Martha and Raymond were joined in death.

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  • My story is a love story. They buried both bodies in the basement and went to the movies. Shortly after they got back, they found the police at their door. » The Lonely Hearts killers, tortured by love

    Though arrested for the murders of Janet Fay as well as Downing and her daughter, Fernandez and Beck were only charged with the earlier murder. The reason for this was simple: New York, where Janet Fay had been killed, had the death penalty, while Michigan did not. After their arrest, Fernandez confessed to the killings and several more, on the understanding that they would not be extradited to New York. He would later attempt to retract his confession, claiming that he had done it only to protect Beck.

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    Convicted of the murder of Janet Fay—and suspected in more than a dozen other slayings—the two were executed on the same day. In spite of all that had happened, both went to the electric chair still professing their love for each other. In the late s, women answered personal ads thinking they would meet the man of their dreams.

    Instead, they met Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck.

    By Orrin Grey. Jane Thompson.