- Odd News
By Helen Pow
PUBLISHED: 10:13 EST, 7 August 2013 | UPDATED: 17:28 EST, 7 August 2013
A woman convicted of going on a killing spree with her boyfriend 55 years ago that left 11 people dead and whose story inspired the hit 1973 film 'Badlands' has been badly injured in a car crash in Michigan.
Caril Ann Clair, 70, of Stryker, Ohio, is in critical condition after the single-vehicle crash on Monday night that killed her 81-year-old husband, Frederick Clair, on northbound Interstate 69 in Calhoun County.
Over a month in late 1957 and 1958, when Clair, then named Fugate, was just 14, she and her 19-year-old boyfriend, Charlie Starkweather, terrorized Nebraska and Wyoming, killing Fugate's
mother, stepfather, two-year-old sister and eight others.
Fugate, who has maintained her innocence, was convicted and spent 18 years in prison before her release in 1976. Starkweather was executed in 1958.
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Wanted: Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate, pictured left in 1958, were wanted for questioning in a killing spree that eventually claimed 11 lives in Nebraska and Wyoming
Critically injured: Caril Clair, pictured left as a teen, and right, in 1993, was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo following Monday night's crash
The horrific rampage became the basis of the film 'Badlands' starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. In 1975, Spacek was nominated Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles at the BAFTA awards.
The film follows Kit Carruthers, a young garbage collector, played by Sheen, and his girlfriend Holly Sargis, played by Spacek, from Fort Dupree, South Dakota, who are on run after killing Holly's father because he disagreed with their relationship.
On their way towards the Badlands of Montana they leave a trail of dispassionate and seemingly random murders. The film received rave reviews at film festivals including The New York Film Festival.
Bruce Springsteen also sang about Starkweather and Miss Fugate on his 'Nebraska' album.
Fugate always maintained she was innocent but a jury found her guilty in the robbery and murder of a 17-year-old boy.
Scene: The fatal crash happened on Monday night on northbound Interstate 69 in Calhoun County, pictured
She was sentenced to life in prison and served 18 years before her sentence was commuted after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.
Fugate left prison in 1976 while Starkweather was executed.
The killings began in late 1957 with
the death of 21-year-old gas station attendant Robert Colvert, who was
robbed, abducted and shot to death. His body was left on a Nebraska
Two months later, Lincoln, Nebraska-area authorities found the bodies of Marion Bartlett, 57; and his 35-year-old wife, Velda, in an outbuilding.
Their two-year-old daughter, Betty
Jean, had been clubbed to death with the butt of a gun and her body
stuffed in a cardboard box.
Missing were Velda Bartlett's 14-year-old daughter by a previous marriage, Caril Fugate, and her boyfriend, Starkweather.
Movie: The real life story was turned into movie Badlands, pictured, featuring Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen
Film: The film 'Badlands' pictured, was a hit
Movie stars: Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen starred in the 1973 film 'Badlands' based on Fugate and her boyfriend
After leaving prison in 1976, Fugate went to live in Michigan with a family who befriended her after watching a television documentary, according to The Battle Creek Enquirer.
She worked in a hospital in Lansing for 20 years, before marrying Clair at age 63. She has been living in Ohio.
According to Cleveland attorney Linda Battisti, Fugate met her husband at a casino while she was working in Lansing.
The couple may have been traveling to the FireKeepers Casino near Battle Creek when they crashed, sheriff deputies said.
Clair was retired and at one point owned a grocery store and ran a radio station.
told the Battle Creek Enquirer that she has known Caril Clair for years
and called her 'resilient, courageous and a brave woman. I have always
said I have been humbled in her presence. She is incredibly funny and
very loving and very giving.'
Battisti said on Tuesday that she had just learned of the accident and, 'I am just devastated about this.'
Pop culture: Bruce Springsteen sang about Starkweather and Miss Fugate, pictured, on his 'Nebraska' album
In jail: Fugate, pictured, was convicted of murder and left prison in 1976
She said she has studied the case against her friend and believes she was innocent of the crimes.
'What a horrible miscarriage of justice that has been done to her. I have always believed in her,' Battisti said.
Starkweather was killed by electric chair in 1959. Members of his outraged family said Fugate should have also been sentenced to death because she was just as guilty.
Battisti said her friend had been approached numerous times over the years with book deals but she was waiting for the right person to come along, which turned out to be her.
'She told me that many people approached her and wanted to write a book about her. But she told me she knew God would send her the right person and that was me. We have developed a close friendship and my quest for many years is to show her innocence.'
Her book 'The 12th Victim' is in final editing stages and is co-authored by Lincoln attorney John Stevens Berry, the Enquirer reported.
Murderer: Charles Starkweather, known as the 'Red Dog' killer, was pictured let and right after the murders in 1957 and 1958
Innocent? A book about Fugate, pictured in 1973, is in its final stages and claims that the woman was innocent
'I believe she was completely innocent and this will show the whole world that she was,' Battisti told the newspaper.
Fugate's last public comments on the case came in 1996 on a radio show after she was denied a full pardon. Lincoln, Nebraska's The Journal Star, reported then that she said she had been forced to stay with Starkweather.
Omaha.com reported that she said at the time: 'When have I ever gotten a fair shake from Nebraska? I just thought that this time, someone would say, "Hey, wait a minute."'
'Badlands' was written and directed by Terence Malick and made an estimated $450,000 in box office sales following its 1973 release.
In 1993, five years after the United States National Film Registry was established, the film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as being 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.'
That same year, Fugate visited a school classroom to talk to students about avoiding dumb choices. She said her's at age 13 was believing Starkweather. 'I thought I was really hot stuff,' she said, according to Omaha.com. 'It was the biggest mistake I made in my life.'