Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lonely Hearts Killers

A Practical Joke

A few months later she met a Pensacola bus driver named Alfred Beck and Martha became pregnant again. Alfred, perhaps feeling guilty about the pregnancy, reluctantly married her in late 1944. Six months later, they were divorced. Martha had lost her job the year before and now found herself alone once again, this time with two small kids and no income. She fell into a fantasy world of romance novels and afternoon movies, like Confidential Agent and Gaslight, which featured her favorite leading man of the day, Charles Boyer. She read "true confession" type magazines and dreamt of the man who would save her from her loneliness and desperation. In early 1946, she finally secured a job at a Pensacola Hospital for children.

Martha was actually a very good nurse. She took her job and responsibilities very seriously. "I chose this profession," she wrote, "without thought of self and want to prepare myself for this profession, not for material gains but for the purpose of aiding humanity and rendering service to others." Unable to be happy in the social side of her life, Martha put everything she had into her work. Before the year was out, she received a promotion and eventually became nurse superintendent of the hospital. But still, she was depressed and yearned for the day when she could have a man all to herself, a man that would give her sexual fulfillment, companionship and, above all, the kind of love she read about for years in the hundreds of magazines that lay strewn all over her apartment.

As the result of a practical joke played by a co-worker, Martha received an ad in the mail to join a lonely-hearts club. When she read the ad, she broke down into bitter tears. "How could I forget that day?" she later said. But in an act of defiance, Martha placed an ad in "Mother Dinene's Family Club for Lonely Hearts." She had to fill out a form describing herself and send it in for publication. But she conveniently left out the fact that she weighed near 250 pounds and already had two kids. The ad was published and Martha breathlessly awaited her Prince Charming. Each day, when she returned home from work, she anxiously checked the mailbox, searching for the letter that would sweep her away from the pain of loneliness.

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