Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lonely Hearts Killers

The Verdict

On August 18, 1949, after 44 days of testimony and a five-hour charge by Judge Pecora, the case went to the jury. They took a break for dinner and began deliberations at 9:45 p.m. Later that night, they came back and asked for a reading of Fernandez's confession. They also asked for a clarification on the term "premeditation." Some observers thought that Fernandez would take the weight of the case while Martha would be convicted on a lesser charge. But the jurors worked through the night with no sleep and by 8:30 a.m. the next morning it was over. Ironically, when the verdict was announced, there was almost no one in the courtroom. Thinking that the jury would continue deliberations in the morning, all the spectators went home for the night.

Daily News clipping, August 19, 1949
Daily News clipping, August 19, 1949

Almost immediately after the jury received the case on the night before, a vote was taken. The tally was already 11 to 1 for conviction. A single juror wondered if Martha was sane and if Fernandez had premeditated the murder of Mrs. Fay. After several hours of debate that juror gave in and voted for conviction. The jury of ten men and two women found Fernandez and Beck guilty of first-degree murder. The defendants displayed no emotion or surprise though the Daily News said "Mrs. Beck, as she did so many times during the trial, took on a brazen pose." There was no recommendation for mercy for either defendant and sentencing was set for the following Monday.

On August 22, Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez stood impassively as Judge Pecora sentenced them both to die in the electric chair on October 10 of that year. Within the hour, they were on their way to Sing Sing prison on the banks of the Hudson River. Martha became inmate #108594 and Fernandez became # 108595. Upon admission, Martha was asked routine questions.

Warrant of Execution for Martha Beck
Warrant of Execution for Martha Beck

"To what do you attribute your criminal act" the guard asked.

"Something I got into. I had no control," she replied. To the same question, Fernandez said, "An accident." They were processed, immediately separated and placed on Death Row. Ironically, Martha was assigned the same cell as murderess Ruth Snyder in 1927 and later occupied by the irrepressible Eva Coo in 1936. Both were executed. The cell consisted of a bunk, a sink and toilet. Her only companions would be the matrons on duty. Martha submitted a list of approved visitors that included her divorced husband, Alfred Beck, her brother and three sisters. She also included her son Anthony, now 4, and her daughter Carmen, 5 who she hadn't seen since January 1948 when she abandoned them at the Salvation Army office in Manhattan.

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