Ray and Faye Copeland - Their Retirement Years:
Serial killers share similar backgrounds and often begin their killing spree when they are young adults. However, for Ray and Faye Copeland, their lust for killing came with their retirement years. Why this couple, both in their 70s, went from being loving grandparents to serial killers, who used the clothing of their victims to make a warm winter quilt to snuggle under, is both morbid and perplexing. Here is their story.
The Copeland Investigation:
In October 1989, Missouri police received a tip that a human skull and bones could be found on farmland owned by an elderly couple, Ray and Faye Copeland. Ray Copeland's last known stint with the law involved a livestock scam, so as police questioned Ray inside his farmhouse about the scam, authorities searched the property. It did not take them long to find five decomposing bodies buried in shallow graves around the farm.
The Mystery 'X' Mark:
The autopsy report determined that each man had been shot in the back of the head at close range. A register with names of the transient farmhands who had worked for the Copelands helped police identify the bodies. Twelve of the names, including the five victims found, had a crude 'X' in Faye's handwriting, marked by the name.
More Disturbing Evidence:
Authorities found a .22-calibre Marlin bolt-action rifle inside the Copeland home, which balistics tests proved to be the same weapon as the one used in the murders. The most disturbing piece of evidence, besides the scattered bones and rifle, was a handmade quilt Faye Copeland made out of the dead victim's clothing. The Copeland's were quickly charged with five murders, identified as Paul Jason Cowart, John W Freeman, Jimmie Dale Harvey, Wayne Warner and Dennis Murphy.
Faye Insisted Knowing Nothing About Murders:
Faye Copeland claimed to know nothing about the murders and stuck to her story even after being offered a deal to change her murder charges to conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for information about the remaining seven missing men listed in her register. Although a conspiracy charge would have meant her spending less than a year in prison, compared to the possibility of receiving the death sentence, Faye continued to insist she knew nothing about the murders.
Ray Attempts an Insanity Plea:
Ray first tried to plead insanity, but eventually gave up and tried to work out a plea agreement with authorites. The authorities were not willing to go along and the first-degree murder charges remanined intact.
During Faye Copeland's trial, her attorney tried to prove that Faye was another one of Ray's victims and that she suffered from Battered Women Syndrome. There was little doubt that Faye had indeed been a battered wife, but that not was enough for the jury to excuse her cold murderous actions. The jury found Faye Copeland guilty of murder and she was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Soon after, Ray was also found guilty and sentenced to death.
The Oldest Couple Sentenced to Death:
The Copeland's made their mark in history for being the oldest couple to be sentenced to death, however, neither were executed. Ray died in 1993 on Death Row. Faye's sentence was commuted to life in prison. In 2002 Faye was released from prison because of her declining health and she died in a nursing home on December 2003, at age 83.
The Copeland Killings by T. Miller