Faye Copeland, a convicted killer who was once the oldest woman on death row in America, died of natural causes on Dec. 30 at a Missouri nursing home where she had been released on medical parole. She was 82.
In the late 1980s, Ray and Faye Copeland used drifters in a scheme to buy cattle with bad checks. The transients were then shot in the back of the head and buried in shallow graves near the Copeland farm, north of Kansas City.
At trial, Faye’s defense was that her husband had committed the killings without her knowledge, claiming she was both a bystander and a victim of battered woman syndrome. As evidence of her guilt, prosecutors presented a list, written in her hand, that included at least five of the victims’ names. She also stitched a quilt made from the clothing of the murdered men. In 1990, the jury found her guilty of five counts of first degree murder.
Copeland and her husband were sentenced to death by lethal injection. She was the oldest woman on death row until a federal court commuted her sentence in 1999 to life in prison. While awaiting execution, Ray Copeland died at the Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri in 1993. He was 73.