February 28th, 1949. Wyoming Township, MI. Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck were returning from a nice evening out, enjoying a movie with refreshments; popcorn and soda. One could easily imagine the couple smiling, throwing an arm around one another when the wind picks up or recalling a favorite scene from the film. The pair would make it home but within a few hours be alarmed at an early morning knock at the door. It was the local police. You see their “home” was not actually theirs, it was the home of 41-year-old Delphine Downing and her 2-year-old child Rainelle. A welfare check was called on the family by neighbors and authorities soon discovered something sinister was afoot. Police would discover the two buried in shallow graves in the basement, both meeting violent ends. Raymond and Martha were quickly arrested and escorted to the police station where they were interviewed. A confession was eventually made and police soon found out that this was not the first time the pair had committed crimes together.
Raymond Fernandez was born on December 17th, 1914 in Hawaii to Spanish parents. Raymond remained in the states as a child, moving from Hawaii to Connecticut. As an adult he would go to Spain where he served in WWII, married and had multiple children. Raymond would grow tired of his life in Spain and leave his family for the states once more. While on this voyage he sustained a traumatic head injury when a steel hatch fell on the top of his skull, causing brain damage. He remained hospitalized for sometime but would eventually be discharged. Those close to Raymond claimed he had changed after this event and to back the claim up, Raymond began committing crimes immediately. He was arrested for stealing clothes and served a year in prison. He was exposed to the voodoo religion while incarcerated and believed the religion gave him immense power over women, making him irresistible.
Martha Beck was born on May 6th, 1920 in Milton, Florida. Martha came from a strict upbringing and suffered teasing due to her weight and appearance. She developed early and claimed her brother had molested her. When telling her mother, she was beaten. This led to things becoming even stricter within the house. Martha simply endured the hard times and when able, moved to the opposite end of the country to California. While there she held a number of odd jobs while she studied to become a nurse. She excelled in her studies and once finished, found a job as a nurse on a military base. While there she began seeing some of the officers. Soon Martha became pregnant. When alerting the father, the man attempted to kill himself rather then marry Martha. This notion threw Martha into a dark mindset and she decided to move back to Florida to have the child.
Back in Florida she claimed the father was fighting overseas but died in battle. Shortly after her first child, Martha became pregnant again. This time the father married Martha but the marriage only lasted 6-months. Now unemployed and a mother of 2 Martha was starting to get desperate. She felt unwanted and longed for a husband who would love her. She began to obsess over romance novels and magazines. At a certain point, it became so difficult for her to meet new people she decided to start writing to lonely hearts ads. She failed to mention she had two children. A few weeks after starting Martha got a response from Raymond Fernandez who over the past few years had taken up conning women via personal ads. Often times the woman would not report the crime out of fear or embarrassment. Just weeks prior, Fernandez had gone on a cruise with an unsuspecting Jane Thompson to Spain. Raymond, Jane and Raymond’s estranged wife traveled through the country until one morning, Jane was found dead. It was a sudden death but an autopsy was not performed. Many believe she was Raymond’s first victim as he went on to forge a will, claiming ownership of her property and money.
Raymond saw Martha as the perfect next target, thinking a nurse would have some money saved or some property. The two went back and forth for weeks, Raymond asking for a lock of Martha’s hair, Martha happily obliging. Martha found this romantic, but Raymond only used it as part of his Voodoo ritual. In December of 1947, the two would finally meet when Raymond decided to pay Martha a visit. He was shocked at the children and maintained that he loved her regardless, despite leaving early and suddenly. He tried letting her go gently but she remained persistent, threatening to kill herself if he left her. With little choice Raymond continued his correspondence with Martha.
Martha bragged and insisted she would be married soon until she was suddenly fired from her job. Martha saw this as a blessing in disguise because now nothing was keeping her in Florida. Shortly after her dismissal, she packed up her kids and belongings, showing up unexpectedly at Raymond’s front door.
This was trying for Raymond and he finally came clean with her. He told her about his con game, luring and preying on lonely women. To most this would be abhorrent, but Martha refused to leave his side. In fact she wanted to help him any way she could. The first thing Raymond had Martha due to test her loyalty was to get rid of her kids. She soon abandoned them, dropping the two off at a Salvation Army. Martha passed Raymond’s first test, he knew she would be loyal. Over the next few months the pair would convince women to let them move in or move in to the couple’s apartment, Martha disguising herself as Raymond’s sister. The pair would go from city to city, state to state, looking for any potential targets. While doing so continuously perusing the lonely hearts section of various magazines.
During their crime wave, one of the victims would be Myrtle Young. Raymond married Myrtle in 1948 with his “sister” present. She never left them alone, for fear they would consumate the relationship. Myrtle had enough and grew angry but Raymond calmed her with a number of sleeping pills, knocking her out, causing her eventual overdose. It is said the pair carried her on to a bus bound to her home of Arkansas and arrived still unconscious. She was admitted into a hospital where she died a few days later. The next victim would be 66-year-old Janet Fay in January of 1949. Again Martha tried her best to ensure the two did not have sex but one night caught them in bed naked. Martha flew into a blind rage and began striking Janet with a ball-peen hammer multiple times. A scarf was used as a tourniquet, wound tightly around the neck. Raymond leapt into action, cleaning the room and disposing of the body. The pair bought a trunk and dumped the body inside, leaving it at Raymond’s actual sister’s home for a few days. After retrieving the trunk, they buried the body in the basement of a home and covered it with cement. Afterwards the couple did their best to deplete all of Janet Fay’s savings and sent fake letters to her family.
The two were going broke fast. Neither of them had savings or actual jobs and needed a new target. Raymond happened upon a woman in Michigan, Delphine Downing. The killers were invited to stay with her in late February 1949. After a few days, Delphine grew suspicious of their intentions and became loud. Raymond decided again to dose her with sleeping pills and she soon knocked out. This caused panic within her young daughter Rainelle. This caused Martha to panic and begin choking the young child. The child survived but large red marks were clearly visible on her neck. Raymond knew if the mother saw these she would call police so they decided something had to be done. He went to Delphine and shot her point blank in the head. They would linger in the home a few more days before killing the young Rainelle, drowning her in a tub filled with dirty water. The two were buried in the basement side by side. After killing the child, the pair were arrested the next day, but not before taking in a movie
Raymond quickly confessed to all of his crimes, initially claiming a body count of 17 but would eventually claim that was false. He felt safe in Michigan because there was no death penalty but failed to realize how easily he could be tied to the death of Janet Fay in New York. They were soon extradited to New York and put on trial for Janet Fay’s death. From the beginning the “Lonely Hearts Killers” case was highly publicized due to the sex and the appearance of Martha Beck. Both took the stand and argued why they should be given life but the jury would not be swayed, on August 22, 1949, both were sentenced to death by electric chair.
Raymond’s last meal was an onion omelet, french fries, chocolate and a Cuban cigar. His last words would be, "I wanna shout it out; I love Martha! What do the public know about love?" Martha’s last meal was fried chicken, french fries, and salad. Her last words were, "My story is a love story. But only those tortured by love can know what I mean. I am not unfeeling, stupid or moronic. I am a woman who had a great love and always will have it. Imprisonment in the Death House has only strengthened my feeling for Raymond." Both were executed on March 8th, 1951. The end of the “Lonely Hearts Killers”.