Girlfriend of Killer Who Inspired Springsteen’s “Nebraska” Seeks Pardon

Caril Ann Clair says Charles Starkweather forced her along on his killing spree by threatening her family

Caril Ann Fugate, Now Caril Ann Clair, Seeks Pardon
Caril Ann Fugate pictured in 1973.
Denver Post via Getty

Caril Ann Clair — known then as Caril Ann Fugate — was just 14 when her boyfriend, Charles Starkweather, brought her along on a trip through Nebraska and Wyoming where he went on a killing spree immortalized in Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” as well as the movies Badlands and Natural Born Killers.

Now 76, she is seeking a pardon, claiming she was an unwilling participant, according to The Washington Post.

Starkweather killed 11 people, including Clair’s family, and was eventually executed for his crimes. In 1958, Clair was convicted of first-degree murder as his accomplice, and she served 17 years of a life sentence. She’s now asking for a full pardon, claiming Starkweather manipulated her and forced her along by threatening her family.

“The idea that posterity has been made to believe that I knew about and/or witnessed the death of my beloved family and left with Starkweather willingly on a murder spree is too much for me to bear anymore,” she writes in her pardon application. “Receiving a pardon may somehow alleviate this terrible burden.”

Clair claims she was “terrified and did whatever he wanted me to, as he told me his gang had my family held hostage and they would be murdered if I didn’t do what he said.”

Liza Ward, the granddaughter of two of Starkweather’s victims, wrote a letter of support for Clair, saying, “Even if one were to remain unconvinced of Caril Fugate’s outright innocence in the murder of Robert Jensen, perhaps one might find her not culpable, and by doing so thereby travel to a place in which she is found deserving of this pardon. I very much hope that Caril Ann Fugate departs this earth with some measure of peace in knowing that her side of the story has been heard and honored.”

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