AmericaCharles twice confessed to Richard about disposing of the bodies of young girls in the desert and both were kept secret, but everything changed when they both fell in love with the same girl.
Charles was born in 1942, to a poor single mother and was quickly adopted into a rich family just a day after he was born. Charles once tried to meet his biological mother but was chased away by her and shouted at him to never come back.
He was poorly educated but handsome, smart and excelled in sports. In 1960, he helped his high school reach the State Gymnastics Championships. Soon after, Charles was suspended for stealing school supplies. In the end, he dropped out of school.
Charles’s best friend is John Saunders – he had to go to reformatory many times because of his long list of bad achievements such as drinking, hitting people, stealing… moved in with Charles.
Charles’s adoptive parents indulged their son to the fullest but rarely really cared about his education. To make Charles less destructive, they bought a car and a large displacement motorcycle when he was 17 years old and let him live from place to place.
Charles is short, often stuffing rags and metal cans into his boots to appear taller. He also drew a large mole on his face and dyed his hair black to look more attractive and like his idol, singer Elvis Presley. Charles spends most of his time on the highway, dating girls and drinking.
Ready money, lack of attention from parents, encouraged by bad friends, Charles’s mood changes more and more negative and riotous. “Every sense of adventure I’ve been through, just one hasn’t,” Charles whispered to John Saunders about the murder plan.
Alleen Rowe is a 15-year-old schoolgirl who moved to Tucson a few months ago. She is in the same class as Mary, Charles’s girlfriend.
One of Alleen’s hobbies is walking in the desert, collecting oddly shaped stones. Blond hair, blue eyes and an admirable academic record, Alleen attracts the attention of many boys in the school, and both of them are fluffy.
On May 31, 1964, Charles tried to convince Alleen to go out with him to “match” John Saunders. Alleen refused due to many assignments but was attracted by new friends. She waited for her mother to go to work the night shift and then jumped into the car parked in front of the door, unaware that the two guys had already left a shovel in the trunk.
They drove out into the desert, drinking and chatting. At Charles’s suggestion, the four walked into the desert to find a place to sit and talk. After a while, Charles asked his girlfriend to go back to the car to get the radio and listen to music. When there were only 3 people left, Charles and John tried to abuse Alleen but she resisted fiercely and they hit her head with rocks.
When Mary returned, Charles lied that John had accidentally pushed Allen down, then the three of them dug in the sand and hid Alleen’s body. They agreed that if asked, they would say that they came to pick them up that night but did not meet them.
Returning home from a night shift, Alleen’s mother frantically searched for her son and called the police after days of no leads. Meanwhile, her father called his wife and told her that he dreamed of his daughter being murdered and hiding her body in the desert. Despite weeks of extensive searches, they found no body.
Charles, Mary, and John were also questioned, but their trickery did not raise suspicions from the police. Authorities quickly speculated that the girl had run away from home with some secret boyfriend and closed the case.
To temporarily hide, John Saunders then enlisted in the National Navy. Charles immediately found a replacement for John. Richie Bruns is Charles’s best friend – the taciturn, who just left the orphanage for a petty crime.
In July 1964, Charles noticed a blonde 16-year-old girl named Gretchen Fritz. During a follow-up home, Charles realizes that she lives in a luxurious mansion in the upper-class neighborhood. Her father was a doctor and a member of the board of directors of Union Bank. But Gretchen seemed to be the opposite of the pious atmosphere of this family, always rebellious and destructive, comfortable when playing with riotous boys.
This makes it even easier for Charles to approach and date. The only problem with this young lady’s relationship was that she and Richie Bruns didn’t like each other. Richie repeatedly advises you to quit, but Charles says he can’t because he “gave her a shocking secret”.
Charles confessed to Richie that he was the killer of Alleen. Charles also told this story to Gretchen and threatened that if she broke up, she would report it to the police. But Gretchen couldn’t do that.
On the evening of August 16, 1965, Gretchen left home at 7:30 p.m. with her 13-year-old sister to go see Tickle Me, New movie by Elvis Presley. The two girls never came home. The father hired a private detective to search.
Witnesses said that night they saw two girls who resembled the Gretchen sisters hitchhiking on their way to Nogales, a border city. They were picked up by a car heading towards Mexico. And in Mexico, many people said they saw the two girls getting on a bus to Hermosillo, a city 300 kilometers away.
A search into central Mexico continued for months with no further clues. Finally, like Alleen’s case, the police also gave up and listed them on the list of young girls running after the call of love, officially stopping the search.
Richie was the only one who found this “very familiar”, so he asked his friend. Charles confessed that night, he murdered two girls and transported the bodies to “somewhere the hell I don’t remember”. Richie advised burying the first thing, and that night they took the bodies out to the desert.
While Richie was still shocked by your crime, Charles quickly fell into a dozen new love affairs as if nothing had happened.
But then their friendship didn’t last. A new girl appears in the street, amusing Charles, openly flirting, but she also makes Richie secretly fall in love. Richie and the girl quickly became a couple.
Fearing that Charles would harm his loved one but also unable to reveal Charles’ crimes to his girlfriend, Richie sought to follow her everywhere to watch and protect from afar. So much so, her parents thought Richie was a harasser and called the police to arrest him.
Richie had to flee to Ohio, live with her grandmother, but couldn’t stop worrying about her girlfriend. In the end, he decided to report Charles and lead the police to the bodies of the Gretchen Fritz sisters. He thought it was time to confront the killer.
On November 10 of the same year, Charles was arrested at his home. Later, one officer flew to Connecticut to arrest John Saunders and another officer went to Texas to arrest Mary, Charles’ girlfriend in the first murder. The two pointed to the place where Alleen’s body was buried, but to no avail. It seems that a major sandstorm that year caused the skeleton to be displaced.
At the preliminary hearing, John Saunders pleaded guilty First degree murder, sentenced to life in prison, was pardoned after 7 years. Mary was agreed by the prosecutor’s office for a lesser charge of Concealing criminalssentenced to four years in prison, on condition that both men testify against Charles.
In February 1966, Charles appeared in court on three counts First degree murder, with three witnesses against him: his two best friends and his first love. He was sentenced to death. But because the state of Arizona abolished the death penalty while Charles waited for execution, the sentence changed to 50 years in prison.
But Charles’ disposition doesn’t seem to have changed much in prison. The strutting habit made the inmates itchy. After two unsuccessful attempts to escape, Charles was severely wounded by his friends and died on March 30, 1975.
But the story of Charles persists in popular culture. The brutal case inspired a 1966 short story and two films, Smooth Talk, 1985 and Dawn, year 2014.
Hai Thu (Follow ATI, Murderpedia, History, Tucson)