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Ray & Faye Copeland: Oldest Serial Killer Couple Featured in Discovery Series "Partner in Crime"

Ray & Faye Copeland: Oldest Serial Killer Couple Featured in Discovery Series "Partner in Crime"

Ray and Faye Copeland were a married couple moonlighting as a con artist duo. After years of being successful at scamming people, they soon resorted to serial murder with Faye acting as an accomplice. This ultimately led to their downfall and their eventual execution.

Who Are They?

Ray and Faye Copeland, a couple in the 1980s, are the senior-most criminals sentenced to punishment in the United States of America. They are 76 and 69 years, respectively. With years of frustration built up, they had all the madness in their heads to commit crimes irrespective of age. Now you know that senile people are not always the perfect examples of sanity.

The Ideal Crime couple, Ray and Faye Copeland, were the most unnoticed serial killers. For years together, they were unsuspected. They had a parallel life of a normal family with 5 children, in a typical country-side setting.

Their Childhood

Ray Copeland was born on December 30, 1914, in Oklahoma, US. He was born in a disturbed family of five, his parents Jess and Laney, with two siblings younger to him. The year 1914 rings a bell. It was the start of World War I. Like many families of those times, Ray's was much agitated. It was even more during The Great Depression. Their modern-day nomadic lifestyle took a heavy blow. This has affected Ray's mindset, and he started early with his frauds and thefts.

His first thefts were from his parents, who couldn't file charges against him. With time his scams grew. He was sent to jail several times in his life but still resorted to the same after returning.For one such accusation of stealing cattle and forgery of checks, he was convicted. The court made him serve a one-year jail sentence in 1936. Four years later, during a visit to a doctor's office, he met Faye Wilson, a charming 19-year-old girl.

She was one of the seven children of Rufus and Gladys Wilson from a tiny cabin-home in Arkansas. Six months of dating, and they soon got hitched. Young Ray happens to be quite a handsome lad, and even sooner, she became a mother. Little did she know that she had also become his "Partner in Crime." Now she changed her name to Faye Copeland. She was his faithful alliance, born on August 4th, 1921, in the state of Arkansas, US.

Their first child Everett. Second child a boy two years later named Billy Ray. Their only girl child Betty Lou another year later. Three children by the year 1944, four years into their marriage. The couple was working on being ideal, and so they didn't stop with three children. After two years, they welcomed their third son Alvia, followed by William Wane two years after.

Their Start

The main man, Ray Copeland, was always in and out of jails. Nothing has changed financially for him since his childhood. He kept doing what he knew best; the modern-nomadic family and a series of forgeries and thefts to run this. This man was now a noted fraudster in all the places they have moved to. The summer of 1966 shone a little brighter on this Copeland family. They could manage to purchase a 40-acre farm in the state of Missouri.

That was the end of their nomadic lifestyle. Copelands hoped that things would change for good from here, but they did otherwise. People around their little home always suspected Ray to be an abuser. Denied by the rest of the family. As his day job in a glove-manufacturing industry was not paying enough, he wanted more. Ray feared the attention to his criminal record.

So, he changed his fraudulent cattle selling tactics by selecting hitchhikers for forgery works. All the blames of check bounces, and forgery would fall on to these innocent people. He was soon sent to jail for two years when this cam was disclosed.Police had ever since had an eye on him owing to his track record of crimes. So, Ray started hiring extremely random people to work on his farmland, used them for all his required transactions, and killed them after.

No witnesses, no crime, no arrests, and the victims were not claimed by anyone- was Ray's plan.

On the other hand, Faye Copeland, too, was an accomplice to all his criminal activities. She said that she didn't know anything about the bodies and murders when the police questioned her. Over time, she admitted she knew them and that she pleaded with Ray to stop them all. All those years, she denied the abuse, but she changed her story at the court.

Victims, Killing Style And Target Group

In three years, i.e., from 1986 to 1989, there were 5 known killings. Four of them were killed in October to December and the two out of them in May and August. One unsuccessful murder attempt cost them their life. It was an ex-employee named Jack McCormick who soon caught up with Ray's actions. The murder attempt against him was the last straw. He alerted the police and authorized a search warrant.

Jack raised a complaint to a local crime helpline named the 'Crime Stoppers.' Police then raided the Copeland family's farmland for weeks. When the team brought in the bloodhounds, they found bodies buried. First, they found three, then in a nearby barn, they found two more and the numbers kept increasing.

After questioning and a thorough check-in their house, police found the murder weapon. In possession of Ray and Faye Copeland, it was a .22 caliber Marlin rifle. This bolt-action rifle was used at point-blank range. All the victims shot on the back of their heads, also known as a typical execution-style murder.

There were a total of 12 bodies unearthed, but only 5 of them were identified as they had public records. About seven of them were unknown because Ray Copeland spent months specifically choosing homeless and hobos for his dirty work. All through this Faye, the wife denied all knowledge.

Interesting Facts

Most of the murders happened during the months of winter in the US. Faye Copeland, pledging innocence, has conveniently stitched warm quilts for the man of the house Ray Copeland and their 5 kin. She gave them quilts made with the very clothes ripped off mercilessly from the deceased.

Faye denied all abuse allegations until then. But she pleaded for 'Battered Woman Syndrome' to avoid murder convictions in the court. The courts didn't follow her angle. On an interesting note, Ray too pleaded for 'Insanity.' Yes, the very first point I made of senile is not equal to sanity, was soon brushed off by the jury.

It took Ray and Faye Copeland 40 long years to figure out a new plan. That is to go unsuspected by the concept of serial killing for mere monetary transactions. Several skulls and scattered bones appeared when the farmland was dug up for bodies. Few were found in a nearby well too. The Copeland worker's register maintained by Faye had an 'X's. She marked them on the names of the dead workers, all written in her own handwriting.

Their Conviction And The Avents After It

Ray Copeland was the first one to get convicted. He was sentenced to death for murder in 1991 through lethal injection. Within two years of his imprisonment, Ray died of natural causes. However, Faye Copeland still denied knowledge of the murders. She played the 'abused wife and a mother of five children' trump card. Her death sentence by induced lethal injection was later changed to 5 continuous life sentences. Now without an option of parole.

Here come the fun facts. The social activist groups for women's rights claim that Faye is not a threat to the people anymore. They demand that she needs to be released. They also claim that she is a victim, and the evidence isn't enough for her conviction.

No one paid attention to these requests. Faye spent all her last years in jail. When she suffered a heart attack in the year 2002, she was partially paralyzed. The jury at that time granted medical parole. So, she was shifted to a nursing home in her hometown Missouri. It is where she wished she breathed her last in the year 2003, aged 82.

The Ideal Crime Couple was survived by five children and 12 Grandchildren. Their great-nephew Shawn Granger wrote a fiction-based comic book 'Family Bones' on the couple. A play-writer by the name David Wiltse wrote 'Temporary Help,' which was performed on the famous Broadway shows in the year 2004.

In the year 1999, The Discovery Channel aired an episode dedicated entirely to this couple. The channel named the episode "Partners in Crime" in the season "The New Detectives." Not only these, but there were many other adaptations in the following years.

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