Serial killers can start anytime. They have been children, teens, adults, and even the elderly. Today’s killer couple are considered the oldest serial killing couple ever. Today we learn about Ray and Faye Copeland.
Ray was born in 1914 in Oklahoma. His family moved often to survive during the Great Depression. Not much is known about Ray’s family life when he was young, he had a younger brother and sister, and Ray was a rather spoiled child. He began a life of petty crimes, forging checks, and stealing cattle. When he was caught, he served a year in jail.
When released, he had met Faye Wilson and married her in 1940. They too had several children, and found that they had to move often due to Ray’s criminal history. During their moves, Ray would also serve several jail sentences until he came up with a plan to make his illegal money-making more undetected.
Faye Della Wilson was born in 1921 in Harrison, Arkansas. Faye’s family were very poor, but they raised 7 children in a dirt floor cabin. At 19, she met Ray at a doctor’s office and within six months they were married. They would eventually have five children together.
Following a similar pattern that he had grown up with, Ray moved his family often, and often was arrested and jailed. However he and Faye would purchase a small farm in Missouri and settle there. But Ray had cooked up a plan to make money easier, and illegally.
Due to his history of fraud, Ray was not allowed to buy or sell cattle. Ray decided to hire transients, hitchhikers, and hobos to work on his farm and help with the cattle transactions. The young man working for Ray, would purchase the cattle writing a bad check from Ray’s book, and signing it, and then they would sell the cattle before the check bounced. Ray would claim innocence, and say the checks were forged. Since his accomplices were all transient workers, they were never around when police investigated.
The plan was not an original concept, Ray was successful at getting away with it dozens of times. However one of the victims exposed Ray and he was soon arrested and served two years in jail.
Upon his release from jail, Ray modified his scam, and had the workers open an account in their name and write a check from their account. After the scam was complete, key witnesses would soon disappear. Ray chose to murder them, and then bury the body on the farm.
This plan was working for Ray, until 1989 when a former employee, Jack McCormick, called authorities and told them he had seen human bones on the Copeland Farm. He also stated that Ray had attempted to kill him.
Officials searched the property and they found three bodies on the farm in a weeks search. The following week, they searched another barn owned by Ray and Faye, and discovered two more bodies. The Copeland’s were arrested.
Attempting to get Faye to testify against Ray, they offered her a deal. She would need to reveal the locations of more bodies and she would only be charged with conspiracy to commit murder, and would be out of jail after a few months. Faye declined the deal and stated she was unaware of the killings. They were both charged with five counts of first degree murder.
In 1990, 69 year old Faye was tried. She claimed Ray did the murders and she was a victim of battered woman syndrome. They evidence against her was solid and she was found guilty of all five charges. She was sentenced to death by lethal injection for four of he counts and life without parole for the fifth.
In March of 1991, 76 year old Ray went on trial. He also was found guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Two years later, Ray died from natural causes while awaiting execution.
August of 1999, Faye’s death sentence was overturned because the evidence of her involvement wasn’t enough to warrant such a sentence. She was still serving life in prison for the other murder conviction. People who supported Faye and wanted her released, continued to petition for her freedom; then governor Roger Wilson was planning to grant that.
Faye was paroled weeks after suffering a stroke and was released to a nursing home in her home town of Harrison, Arkansas. In December of 2003 she passed away at the age of 82.
Ray and Faye Copeland are suspected of having more victims than those they were tried for:
- Dennis K. Murphy of Normal, Illinois; killed October 17, 1986
- Wayne Warner of Bloomington, Illinois; killed Nov 19, 1986
- Jimmy Dale Harvey, 27 of Springfield, Missouri; killed October 25, 1988
- John W. Freeman, 27 of Boonville, Indiana; killed December 8, 1988
- Paul J. Cowart, 20 of Dardanelle, Arkansas; killed May 3 or 4, 1989
- Jack McCormick, 57, Ray attempted to kill; August 20, 1989
To all their victims and their families, I hope they all have closure and peace.
What are your thoughts on this case? Do you think Faye was as guilty as her husband?
Stay curious, make good choices, be safe