Nebraska, Wyoming, and the Charley Starkweather Murders Part 3

About the murderer Charley Starkweather and his journey through Nebraska and Wyoming, history of the trial and verdict.


The Accused: Charles Starkweather, 3rd oldest of 7 children, was myopic, slightly bowlegged, and had a minor speech defect. He grew up poor in Lincoln, Nebr., and he died at the age of 20. He was thrown out of grade school for habitual fighting. He had acquired a reputation for being a good knife-fighter in junior high school.

He just got fired from his job as a helper on a garbage truck. He'd lean out of the cab of the truck to perfect strangers and start yelling, "Go to hell!"--Barbara Starkweather

He used to pose like James Dean. He'd stand there with a cigarette hanging out from the front of his mouth. You know, with the lips apart so the teeth would show.--LaVeta Starkweather

Even as a little kid things would build up in him 'til he'd go berserk. I don't think he would have stopped at shooting me.--Guy Starkweather

I'm sorry it had to be you, Charley, but I hope you're dead.--Michael Lydon, journalist

. . . if we'd've been left alone we wouldn't've hurt anybody.--Charles Starkweather

The Trial: Charley Starkweather was extradited back home to Nebraska for trial and that was just fine with him. ". . . Wyoming has a gas chamber and I don't like the smell of gas."

On the night of his arrest, from a cell in the tiny Douglas jail, Charley had written a letter to the world at large, but addressed it to his father: "But dad i'm not sorry for what i did cause for the 1st time me and caril had more fun, she help me a lot, but if she comes back dont hate her she had not a thing to do with the killing, all we wanted to do is get out of town." And he remained the cool and unrepentant killer through the trial, a spectator, at times, more fascinated by the strident prosecution and its no-nonsense "He's just a cold-blooded killer and nothing more!" than with his time gradually running out. As for his lawyers with their incessant prattle about a plea of insanity--Charley blocked every attempt they made to have him declared insane.

A peculiar dialogue was established during the trial between Charley and James Reinhardt, Nebraskan criminologist. Charley would describe his dreams or reminisce, Reinhardt would work toward a definitive label. His final verdict for this young man, so obviously on his way to the electric chair: "schizophrenic paranoid with an obsessive death wish."

The End: Charles Starkweather went to the electric chair on June 25, 1959. It took him 4 minutes to die.

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