The story ends with Raymond Fernandez.
When we last checked in on the pair, Raymond and his lover, Martha Beck, had moved in together. Raymond had confessed his scam; he regularly lured women he’d found through lonely hearts ads back to his place where he robbed them. But he’d not yet advanced to killing. That wouldn’t come until Martha entered the picture. Women who met Raymond and his “sister” first began disappearing in 1949.
It’s possible their first murders were accidental, the work of criminals who didn’t really know what they were doing. Of course, that doesn’t excuse them. When you start off with malicious intent, anything that happens in its aftermath is yours to own.
It’s not clear why the two escalated their “game” but there’s some speculation that Martha had grown jealous of these women coming, ostensibly, to court Raymond. Maybe that jealousy is what took things to a new, dangerous level as Martha frantically searched for any proof Raymond was being unfaithful to her. It didn’t take her long to find it.
One day, Martha found Janet Fey in bed with Raymond and beat her head in with a hammer.
It wasn’t long before New York could no longer contain the pair’s deadly combination of opportunism and malice. Raymond found an unlucky lonely heart in Michigan and went to live with her. Of course he brought his sister.
According to Mark Gado in his book, Death Row Women: Murder, Justice, and the New York Press, Delphine Downing grew suspicious of the pair’s relationship. Delphine, a widow with a young daughter, grew upset and Raymond gave her sleeping pills to quiet her, but this only upset her daughter, who began to cry. What followed were a set of wholly preventable and deadly mistakes:
Beck choked Delpine’s daughter as she was crying, though she didn’t kill her. The pair feared that Delphine would react badly to the bruises on her daughter’s neck, so they decided the best solution was to kill her before she could make a fuss. Meanwhile, the child continued to cry for days. It was too much for Beck’s and Fernandez’s nerves and they drowned her.
Still, a house is a house. The two stayed in Delphine’s home until the police showed up one day.
It’s not clear why Fernandez felt so cocky. Maybe it was bluster, but not only did he not offer resistance to a search of the house, he egged officers on. Of course the bodies were found. And, as criminals sometimes do, the couple had thought ahead, but with flawed logic. They knew Michigan had no death penalty, so with so much evidence against them they readily confessed. But they didn’t think about extradition and were soon sent home to New York to face trial for murder.
They were convicted and sentenced to death. They were executed by electric chair the same day, March 8, 1951—barely five years after they’d answered one another’s lonely hearts ads. Still, it must have been true love.
Raymond’s last words were “I wanna shout it out; I love Martha! What do the public know about love?”