The Lonely Hearts Killers
The Love Story Ends
Although executions were still a reality at Sing Sing, the number of executions had diminished greatly in the previous few years. There were only three in 1950, down from 14 in 1949 and a high of 21 executions in 1936. After several failed appeals, their execution date was set for March 8, 1951. Martha would be the 6th female executed in the state of New York during the 20th century. As time ran out for the Lonely Hearts Killers, they reconciled and wrote letters to each other declaring their love once more.
Preparations for the event required weeks of activity by the prison staff. Witnesses for the Beck and Fernandez executions totaled at least 52 people, an unusually high number. They included nine judges, numerous police officials from Michigan, New York and Long Island, press representatives from the Detroit News, the New York Journal American, the World Telegram, the New York Daily News, the New York Mirror, New York's El Diario, the Pensacola Daily Times and many others. Prison officials were unusually accommodating to the media.
On March 8, her last morning, Martha ate "a good breakfast, ham, eggs and coffee and took a shower," according to a Death Row log kept by Matron Evans. "Martha ate fair dinner. Laundry sent out, returned and checked," she wrote. Martha preferred to spend her last day with Matron Evans but became angry when she discovered that another matron would be on duty from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Martha wrote her last angry letter that afternoon in which she said, "I do not appreciate it one bit, but I am glad that no member of my family will know how hurt and misled my last day was. It hurts me deeply to realize that I have been wrong in thinking that there could be "good" in a state paid employee. Martha Jule # 108594."
According to Martha's written instructions, her last meal consisted of "Fried chicken, no wings, French frys (sic), lettuce and tomato salad." Fernandez ordered an onion omelet, French fries, chocolate and a Cuban cigar. He was especially nervous and confided to prison guards that he may not hold up under the pressure. As the hour grew near, Martha sent Fernandez a note professing her undying love.
"The news brought to me that Martha loves me is the best I've had in years. Now I'm ready to die!" he said. "So tonight I'll die like a man!"
At 11:00 p.m. the procedure began. First, two other convicts, John King, 22, and Richard Power, 22, from Queens, New York were taken from their cells and marched over to the pale green death chamber. They were executed for the senseless murder of an airline clerk in 1950. After their deaths, Fernandez was removed from his cell and taken to the same cold, barren room. It was tradition at Sing Sing that the weakest should go first. "I want to shout it out. I love Martha! What do the public know about love?" he said. Fernandez was a broken man, panic-stricken and paralyzed with fear. He had to be carried into the chair.
Minutes later, Martha was brought into the dreaded room on her own volition, escorted by the matrons. She sat down into the creaking chair carefully and had to wriggle her large frame into the seat. She was able to squeeze into position with difficulty as the teary matrons applied the straps to her body. Her mouth formed the words "So long!" but no sound escaped her lips. At 11:24 p.m. she was dead. It was the first quadruple execution since 1947. The executioner, Joseph Francel of Cairo, New York, was paid $150 per person for his expertise.
Before she was led from her cell, Martha had this final statement for the press. "What does it matter who is to blame?" she said. "My story is a love story, but only those tortured with love can understand what I mean. I was pictured as a fat unfeeling woman...I am not unfeeling, stupid or moronic...in the history of the world how many crimes have been attributed to love?"