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Old 10-17-2004, 08:09 PM
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The Lonely Heart Killers

“I’m no average killer!” Raymond Martinez Fernandez told Michigan cops on the day he was arrested. The slim, smartly dressed, balding man sat in the wooden chair between two detectives as he told a tawdry story of sex, lies and murder. He wiped his sweating forehead every few minutes with a white handkerchief supplied by his co-conspirator and obese sex slave, who looked on with wide-eyed admiration and love. For several hours he described their journey through a maze of deception and betrayal that ended with the deaths of as many as 17 women. “I have a way with women, a power over them,” he said. That power, he claimed, was achieved by the practice of voodoo.

Raymond Martinez Fernandez, 34, was born in Hawaii of Spanish parents. His rotund girlfriend, Martha Jule Beck, 29, who weighed well over 200 pounds, lovingly brushed his thinning hair back on his head as he told police how they killed their last victims in the town of Byron Center, Michigan on the night of February 28, 1949. Later, when the victim’s two-year-old daughter refused to stop crying over the loss of her mother, Martha drowned her in a tub of dirty water while Raymond looked on. After the murders, they decided to go to the movies where they munched on popcorn and drank a gallon of soda.

The day-by-day revelations about this bizarre couple had New York City’s press working overtime to keep up with the story that seemed too sleazy even by tabloid standards. Martha’s enormous size was the subject of never-ending speculation by the press who estimated her weight to be anywhere from 200 to over 300 pounds. This constant ridicule caused Martha to write a series of tearful, angry letters from prison to the media complaining of the unfair treatment she received from columnists like Walter Winchell and newspapers like The Daily News and the New York Mirror.

“I’m still a human, feeling every blow inside, even though I have the ability to hide my feelings and laugh,” she said, “But that doesn’t say my heart isn’t breaking from the insults and humiliation of being talked about as I am. O yes, I wear a cloak of laughter.”

Fernandez and Beck came to be known as the “lonely hearts killers” in the nation’s press. Their murder trial took place during the scorching hot summer of 1949 in Bronx Criminal Court where the salacious testimony of “abnormal sexual practices” caused a near riot among spectators. The Latino Lothario and the plump, love-sick girlfriend who killed lonely, sex-starved women was a story weirder and more intriguing than anything out of the trashiest pulp magazines of the 1940s.

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