A twisted ‘love story’ in the cemetery

Published on February 22, 2013 with No Comments

Numerous business leaders, educators, police officers and other community heroes are buried at Milton Benevolent Cemetery. They spent their lives improving Milton.

But one gravestone holds a much darker story.

Martha Seabrook Beck was born in Milton in 1920 and buried in the cemetery, in an unmarked grave, after she was executed in Sing Sing Prison in 1951 for murder. It was one of four killings in which she allegedly was involved after she and a con man teamed up to dupe unsuspecting women out of their money.

It’s a tale that was made into movies; even now the Internet is full of accounts of her and her accomplice, Raymond Fernandez, who were frequently featured in the tabloid press. Tony LoBianco and Shirley Stoler starred in a 1970 movie based on them, “The Honeymoon Killers;” other movies and TV episodes adapted the story as well.

Beck’s childhood was hard. She grew up in a broken family and her life was made worse by a condition which left her morbidly obese and the victim of much bullying.

Still, she graduated at the top of her class at nursing school. But she had two children by two men who soon abandoned her.

Beck, a fan of romance magazines and movie stars like the elegant Charles Boyer, joined “lonely heart societies” in which men and women exchanged letters.

In 1947, she came under the spell of a New York resident, Raymond Fernandez, who wrote to women and made all sorts of promises, only to dump them after getting their money.

He visited Beck in Milton and promptly returned to New York after he realized she had no money.

Beck, however, followed him to New York and joined him in his con games. When Fernandez went to visit lonely women, Beck accompanied him and posed as his sister until they extracted money and fled.

The scheme began to unravel in 1948 and the duo turned violent, as various on-line accounts report.

When an Arkansas woman realized she had been duped by Fernandez, Beck forced her to swallow a large amount of barbituates and put her on a bus to Little Rock, her hometown. But the woman died.

In Albany, N.Y., Beck allegedly used a hammer to smash in the head of a widow, killing her.

Beck and Fernandez were arrested in Grand Rapids, Mich. in 1949, after they killed a woman and her 2-year-old child.

They went on trial in New York, where they were convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair. They were executed in 1951. Beck held her head high when she went to the electric chair; Fernandez collapsed, distraught at his fate.

Beck was buried in Milton Benevolent Cemetery, and legend has it that she was interred very early one morning lest anyone object.

She left behind no apologies for the killing spree. In a statement she made in the death house, Beck said, “What does it matter who is to blame? My story is a love story … But only those tortured with love can understand what I mean … In the history of the world, how many crimes have been attributed to love

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