All about Faye and Ray Copeland
There isn’t as much to know about Faye Copeland herself as there is to know about both Ray and Faye Copeland. Ray and Faye Copeland were husband and wife and they soon became the eldest people to have ever been sentenced to death in the United States of America. Another attribute that Faye had gained was that after her sentence was commuted down to life in prison, she became the oldest woman on death row. The Copeland’s were originally sentenced to death for killing five drifters and have been accused of killing at least 7 others, although there were no bodies found.
The Livestock Scheme
One of the major motivators in life is money and that was no different for Ray and Faye Copeland. They had come up with this grand scheme that would allow them to acquire a significant amount of livestock for their farm in Missouri. They determined that if they were to gather drifters, they could get them to auction on livestock with bad checks. After they had acquired the cattle, Ray and Faye would kill them as they were no longer of any use to the couple. Their method of killing was a single shot to the back of the head.
How They Were Caught
Jake McCormick was a worker on the Copeland farm for a few months. In August of 1989, he placed a call to the Nebraska Crime Stoppers after he had run from the farm. He stated that he had seen incidents that made him fear for his life and that as soon as Ray Copeland had realized that McCormick was starting to get weary of the illegal activities, he tried to kill him. At the conclusion of the conversation, McCormick said that he had seen human bones around the farm and although the Nebraska authorities were skeptical, they still notified the Missouri detectives. Thanks to McCormick’s frantic phone call, the Sherriff’s office in Missouri took the tip extremely seriously and they then descended on the farm with 40 officers, a slew of backhoes, and more bloodhounds than one could count on two hands. Unfortunately at first they could not find any bodies to back up McCormick’s phone call. Luckily on October 17th, 1989 investigators found three bodies in a barn that Ray Copeland was known to frequently use throughout his life. Each of the bodies were buried in their own graves and they were later identified as 21 year old Paul Jason Cowart, 27 year old John W. Freeman, and 27 year old Jimmie Dale Harvey. All three of the men were found dead with a gunshot wound to the back of their heads.
The week after the first three bodies were found, investigators continued to examine the barn that Copeland was known to use. They found a body wrapped in plastic that was hidden beneath the floor of the barn. Again, there was evidence of a single gunshot wound to the back of the head and he was later identified as Wayne Warner. The search didn’t stop there as investigators continued their search to the home of Ray and Faye Copeland. They found a .22 caliber Marlin bolt-action rifle and ballistics matched that gun to the gun used in the murders. They also found a quilt that Faye had made from the clothing off of the murdered men. Investigators searched the grounds one more time and found another body close to where Warner was found. His name was Dennis Murphy, 27 years old. Once again, his death was confirmed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.
November 1st, 1990 Faye Copeland was held on trial at the age of 69 years. According to various reports from local newspapers, Faye had said that she didn’t know that her husband was a murderer. Ray was known to have a past filled with abuse and fraud and although it may have had a significant toll in their relationship, Faye was convicted of 4 counts of murder and 1 count of manslaughter. The investigators had found a notepad on the farm that had a list of the people who worked on the farm for the Copeland’s. The murdered drifters’ names were all on the note pad as well but they had giant x’s next to their name as did 7 other people who are still not accounted for. When Faye was sentenced to lethal injection, the verdict had reached her husband and his response was “Well, those things happen to some you know.” He then never asked about Faye Copeland again.
Faye in Prison
During the month of August in 2002, Faye Copeland suffered from a stroke. The after effects left her partially paralyzed and she was unable to speak. After word of this reached the Governor, Governor Holden allowed Faye to have a medical parole considering that her one wish was that she wouldn’t die in prison. She was granted parole and was sent to a nursing home in her hometown. On December 30th, 2003 Faye died at the Morningside Center nursing home at the age of 82 years old. The Livingston County coroner came to the conclusion that the death was of natural causes. 10 years prior, Ray died in prison of natural causes while he waited to be executed.
Faye and Ray Copeland have gone down in history as two of the oldest and most notorious convicted murderers in the history of the United States of America. Faye, who claimed to have no recollection of the murders, had been placed at the scene by various amounts of forensic evidence and Ray, who didn’t deny anything, was given an early death rather than having to live out his time on death row. The couple tried to trick the system by getting drifters to bid at livestock auctions with faulty cheques so that they could acquire a reasonable amount of cattle for their farm. Little did the drifters know that once their use was null and void, they would be murdered by a single shot to the back of the skull. Ray and Faye Copeland may have changed the face of murder forever with their immense and gruesome offences.
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