Ray and Faye Copeland: The Oldest Serial Killers
Written by Tim Nash
Crime - Serial Killers
Sadly, in 20th century crime, the rise of serial killers has reached new heights. Like many crimes, serial killers are celebrated in movies like Natural Born Killers and Silence of the Lambs. It could be these movies encourage the mind of potential serial killers to take action. When a serial killer is apprehended, there seems to be a profile that they fit. That is one of the reasons that the story of Ray and Faye Copeland is so unusual.
Because this is not a story of someone who took to killing in their youth or even middle age years. The Copelands developed their appetite for killing when they were elderly making them the oldest serial killers on record.
It must have been quite a shock to the family when Ray and Faye Copeland were found out to have killed a number of farm hands on their Missouri farm. It was an anonymous tip in October of 1989 that there were human remains on the Copeland farm that broke the case wide open. Ray Copeland had only had a small amount of trouble with the law before over a livestock dispute. But unlike many serial killers, the Copelands were not careful. When the police went in, they found five victims of their murderous spree buried in shallow graves around the property.
The case was not hard to crack because the weapon for each murder was the same. All of the victims had a single gunshot wound in the back of the head from a .22-calibre Marlin bolt-action rifle. The weapon was found inside the home of the Copelands and ballistics confirmed it was the same gun used to kill the men. While it was peculiar that these grandparents took to killing so far along in life, there was another twist. Inside the home was found a quilt that was made from the clothing of the deceased men. It was almost as though the Copelands were trying to commemorate the killings by including the clothing of each man in that quilt.
The police had plenty of evidence to charge the two with multiple murders. At first, Faye Copeland tried to plea that she didn't know anything about the murders. But the quilt she had been working on with their clothing was telling evidence. Also in the farm ledger book, there was a list of men who had worked on the farm. Each of the men who were killed had an X next to his name in Faye's handwriting.
Ray also tried to find a way around the law by pleading insanity rather than deny he committed the murders. But the plea did not stand up in court. Both Ray and Faye Copeland were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. But neither were actually executed. Ray died on death row and Faye had her sentence downgraded to life in prison. In that the Copelands committed their serial murders so late in life, they were destined to serve short terms. But their crime spree did give them that one significant distinction as the oldest serial killers on record.