Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The True Story of Ray and Faye Copeland

No Deal

Barn, location of some bodies
Barn, location of some bodies
 

The following week, investigators searched another barn Ray was known to use.   More than a dozen deputies and volunteers spent several hours removing 2,000 bales of hay, which was stacked ceiling high. Investigators discovered a body wrapped in black plastic beneath the barn floor.  The victim had also been killed by a single gunshot to the back of the head.  He was later identified as Wayne Warner, age unknown.

Marlin bolt-action rifle
Marlin bolt-action rifle
 

During a search of Rays home, investigators seized a .22 caliber Marlin bolt-action rifle.  According to the Kansas City Star, ballistics tests later revealed it was the weapon used in each murder.  Investigators also discovered a handwritten list of farm helpers in Fayes writing.  Twelve of the names had scrawled X's by them.  Five of those men turned up dead, and investigators suspected that the others, who turned out to be missing, were also dead.  In addition, they also found a quilt, which Faye had made from the clothing of the murdered men.

Dennis Murphy, victim
Dennis Murphy, victim
As the search began to wind down, investigators made one final discovery.   While examining an old well close to where Warners body was found, they discovered the body of another man.  He was later identified as 27-year-old Dennis Murphy.  As with the others, his death resulted from a single bullet to the back of the head.
Prosecutors were quick to offer Faye Copeland a deal -- if she were to tell investigators where more bodies might be found, they would only charge her with conspiracy to commit murder and she would serve a few months in jail for her cooperation.  Regardless, Faye claimed to have no knowledge of any of the murders.  Both Ray and Faye Copeland were arraigned on 5 counts of first-degree murder.

Wayne Warner
Wayne Warner
Prosecutors did not want to take any chances and Ray was taken to a state mental hospital for evaluation.   The last thing the state wanted was an insanity defense.  The public defenders office knew it would be hard to defend the couple together, so they filed for a motion to have the cases tried separately.  No one knew for certain which direction the trial would take, but everyone suspected Faye would have a better chance on her own.  The prosecution was playing hardball and rather than life in prison, they were seeking the death penalty in both cases.

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