TEKONSHA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (Battle Creek Enquirer) - A woman critically injured in a Monday night traffic crash is linked to 10 Midwest murders more than 50 years ago.
Calhoun County Sheriff Department deputies identified the woman as Caril Ann Fugate Clair, 70, of Stryker, Ohio. She is a patient at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo and deputies said Tuesday afternoon she is expected to recover.
Fugate Clair was injured in a single-vehicle accident at 11:53 p.m. on northbound I-69 near Old 27 in Tekonsha Township. Her husband and the driver of the SUV, Frederick A. Clair, 81, was killed in the accident.
Deputies said the 1997 Ford Explorer went off the right side of the road and then Clair may have lost control and went back across the two lanes of traffic and rolled over several times in the median.
Fugate Clair was just 14 when she was arrested in connection with 10 murders, with her boyfriend, Charles Starkweather, in 1958 in Nebraska and Wyoming. The victims included her mother, stepfather and her 2-year-old sister. The spree is considered the deadliest in Nebraska history.
Her story inspired a song by Bruce Springsteen and the movie "Badlands."
Fugate Clair always maintained her innocence but a jury found her guilty in the robbery and murder of a 17-year-old boy.
She was sentenced to life in prison and served 18 years before her sentence was commuted after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.
Her sentence was changed to 30 to 50 years and she was paroled in 1976 and came to live in Michigan with a family who befriended her after watching a television documentary.
A Cleveland attorney and friend, Linda Battisti, has known Caril Fugate Clair for years and called her "resilient, courageous and a brave woman. I have always said I have been humbled in her presence. She is incredibly funny and very loving and very giving."
Battisti said Tuesday afternoon she had just learned of the accident and, "I am just devastated about this."
She has known Fugate Clair for many years and after studying the case believes she is innocent of the crimes.
"What a horrible miscarriage of justice that has been done to her. I have always believed in her. She told me that many people approached her and wanted to write a book about her. But she told me she knew God would send her the right person and that was me. We have developed a close friendship and my quest for many years is to show her innocence."
Starkweather, who was five years older than Fugate Clair, was executed in 1959 in the electric chair and many members of his family said the girl was just as guilty and should have had the same sentence.
Starkweather's father was once quoted as saying that Fugate Clair should have been sitting on his son's lap when he was executed and the family continues to believe she was a willing participant.
Fugate Clair's last public comments on the case came in 1996 on a radio show after she was denied a full pardon.
The Journal Star in Lincoln, Neb., reported in 2009 that she said then she was forced to stay with Starkweather.
After her parole she moved to Lansing and worked in a hospital for 20 years and at age 63 married and has been living in Ohio.
Battisti's book "The 12th Victim" is in final editing stages. It is co-authored by Lincoln attorney John Stevens Berry.
"I believe she was completely innocent and this will show the whole world that she was," Battisti said. "It was a gross miscarriage of justice."
Battisti said Fugate Clair met her husband at a casino while she was working in Lansing and the couple may have been traveling to the FireKeepers Casino near Battle Creek, according to sheriff deputies.
"He was retired and at one point owned a grocery store and ran a radio station, Battisti said.