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Charles E. CORLISS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: 1965 / 1990
Date of arrest: October 23, 1990
Date of birth: 1940
Victims profile: Donald Hammer / Kimberly Starkenburg, 23
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Montana/Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in Montana in 1966. Released on parole in 1983. Sentenced to 74 years and eight months in prison in Washington on June 17, 1991

Charles Corliss (Corliss) and an accomplice kidnapped and murdered Donald Hammer, a Montana businessman, in 1965.  Corliss was sentenced to imprisonment for life at the Montana State Prison (Prison) for the execution-style murder and to an additional ten-year sentence for the kidnapping, to be served consecutively to the life sentence.

While at the Prison, Corliss attempted to escape several times.  In one such attempt in 1968, he and other inmates tied up a Prison employee.  Corliss pled guilty to holding a person against his will and received a three-year deferred sentence. 

Corliss escaped from the Prison in 1974 and was apprehended nine days later at the home of his wife, Betty Corliss (Betty), in Deer Lodge, Montana.  He pled guilty to escape and received a five-year sentence to be served consecutively to his sentences for kidnapping and murder. 

Corliss also attempted suicide several times while incarcerated and was transferred from the Prison to the Warm Springs State Hospital (Warm Springs) in 1979 as a result of such a suicide attempt. 

Corliss was released from Warm Springs in 1983 on a furlough and subsequently was granted parole in 1985.  Corliss' parole carried with it the standard conditions and restrictions, including the prohibition against owning, possessing or being in control of any firearm or other deadly weapon.

From 1986 through the time period relevant here, David Robbins (Robbins) was Corliss' parole officer.  On April 13, 1990, Robbins authorized Corliss to travel to Bellevue, Washington, for a vacation and to look for employment.  Under the written two-week travel permit, Corliss was to reside with his brother-in-law in Bellevue. 

Robbins did not verify Corliss' living arrangement in Washington and, indeed, Corliss did not live with his brother-in-law during that time.  Nor did Robbins notify Washington authorities of Corliss' presence there, as is the standard procedure under such circumstances.

Robbins instructed Corliss to visit a parole officer while in Washington, but Corliss failed to do so.  After spending approximately two and a half months in Washington, Corliss sent Robbins a letter dated July 5, 1990, informing Robbins that he was unable to find a parole officer. 

Robbins did not take any action to ensure that Corliss comply with his instruction to report to a Washington parole officer.  At that time, Corliss' travel permit had been expired for approximately two months.

During the same time period, Corliss called Robbins from Washington and informed Robbins that he had a girlfriend, Tamera Farrington (Farrington), and that she had obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against him for allegedly putting sugar in her gas tank.  Corliss assured Robbins that it was all a misunderstanding. 

According to Robbins, Farrington then got on the telephone and reiterated that the TRO was the result of a misunderstanding; Farrington denies that she ever spoke with Robbins on the telephone.  Robbins did not make a record of his conversation with either Corliss or Farrington.

Robbins did not ask Corliss to send him a copy of the TRO or attempt to obtain a copy from Washington authorities.  The TRO was filed on July 5, 1990, and described a number of incidents in which Corliss had acted violently toward Farrington. 

Farrington alleged in the TRO that Corliss struck her on two occasions in March of 1990 and repeatedly hit her on two other occasions in April and May of 1990.  She stated that Corliss "threatened to kill [her] and described the places he could 'hide [her] body.'  He threatened [her] family, [and] friends. . . ." 

Farrington further alleged that, on July 1, 1990, Corliss backhanded her twice across the face, put sugar in her gas tank and threatened her life. 

Farrington sent Robbins a letter dated July 12, 1990, stating that "[t]his is to assure you that what [Corliss] is telling you is true."  She stated that she had no intention of filing charges against Corliss because she could not be sure he was the one who put sugar in her gas tank. 

Farrington did not mention the allegations contained in the TRO regarding Corliss' violence and threats against her or his threats against her family and friends. Farrington included her address and telephone number at work in the letter.  Robbins did not attempt to contact her regarding the TRO or her letter.

Corliss returned to Montana on July 13, 1990, and met with Robbins.  Robbins issued Corliss a thirty-day travel permit the same day which allowed Corliss to relocate his family to Washington.

Approximately two weeks later, Robbins received a telephone call from Corliss and his wife, Betty.  Corliss informed Robbins that Betty had learned of his affair with Farrington and had threatened him with a gun and a knife at their home. 

Betty denied threatening Corliss with the weapons.  She did express a great deal of anger about Robbins' failure to tell her about Corliss' affair prior to her quitting her job in Montana and relocating to Washington.

Corliss obtained a TRO against Betty on August 1, 1990, and sent a copy of the TRO to Robbins.  The TRO described an altercation between Corliss and Betty where Betty "went to a bedroom and took a .38 pistol and said she was going to kill [Corliss]."  Although possession of a firearm is a parole violation, Robbins did not investigate whether there was, in fact, a firearm in the Corliss residence.

Corliss contacted Robbins in early October and informed Robbins that he was reconciling with Betty and moving back into their home.  Robbins did not ask whether the .38 pistol Corliss had said was involved in the altercation with Betty was still located in the home.

In a letter to Robbins dated October 10, 1990, Corliss stated that Farrington was not going to "quietly go out of [his] life." Five days later, Corliss broke into Farrington's home while she was away and hid until her return. 

Farrington arrived home with three friends--Kimberly Starkenburg (Kimberly), April McCarty (April) and Brenda Mahoni (Brenda).  Farrington, April and Brenda went directly inside while Kimberly remained outside.  Brenda opened a bedroom door and Corliss stepped out and held an "old revolver" to Brenda's face.

He made April and Brenda kneel on the floor next to each other.  He hit Farrington, knocking her to the floor, and then stepped outside, grabbed Kimberly by the arm and dragged her inside. Corliss made Kimberly kneel on the floor beside April and Brenda.

Farrington got up and ran out the front door.  Corliss fired a shot at her, but missed.  Corliss then returned to where the three women were kneeling.  He shot Kimberly first and then shot April and Brenda.  April and Brenda fell to the floor after being shot; Kimberly remained kneeling.  Corliss shot Kimberly a second time and she fell to the floor.  He then fled out the front door.

April went to Kimberly's aid, trying to get her to speak. April could hear gurgling noises coming from Kimberly which sounded "like she was trying to breathe, catch her breath."  April then tried to go out the back door for help.  Corliss was hiding in the back yard and, when April opened the door, he shot her a second time. 

Farrington arrived with the police approximately fifteen to twenty minutes later.  Kimberly died as a result of her gunshot wounds.  April and Brenda survived; April has a .38 caliber bullet lodged near her spine.


Corliss Arrested

The man wanted for the execution-style slaying of a woman in Fall City last week was arrested today in Cody, Wyo. He is awaiting extradition to King County.

Police said Charles Corliss, 50, was arrested by Cody police after a friend of Corliss told them the fugitive was staying at a local motel.

Corliss was arrested without incident at the Buckaroo Motel at 10 a.m. He is wanted for killing Kimberly Starkenburg, 23, of Seattle, and wounding two other women after he forced them to kneel before him in his former girlfriend's Fall City home.

Shortly before 10 a.m., Corliss went into the motel office to make a phone call. When he stepped out of the office, six officers from the Park County sheriff's office and Cody Police Department arrested him. Cody is about 50 miles east of Yellowstone Park.

"He raised his hands immediately and said, I'm not going to give you any trouble,''' said Cody Police Sgt. Mike Hanson. "En route to headquarters, we had to keep assuring him that we weren't going to hurt him.''

Corliss had been staying at the motel for two or three days, Hanson said, adding that officers suspected all along that Corliss might be coming to the area.

Last summer, he lived here with his girlfriend, Tamera Ferrington, before the two moved to Fall City, Hanson said. Corliss also was living with his wife and son in Kent.

Corliss, who arrived in Cody on Saturday, had met up with a friend who rented him a cabin here last year, Hanson said. That man had been bringing him food and supplies for the past several days.

Corliss told his friend he was being wrongly accused of the shooting incident in Washington but that he would turn himself in today. When Corliss hadn't turned himself in by this morning, the friend called police, said King County Police spokesman Tony Burtt.


Charles Corliss Found Guilty

A Kent construction worker today was found guilty of a Fall City shooting spree in which one woman died, two others were seriously wounded and his ex-girlfriend was assaulted last fall.

Charles E. Corliss was convicted of first-degree murder in the Oct. 15 death of Kimberly Starkenburg, 23, of West Seattle, two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the gunning down of Brenda Mhoni, 24, and April Williams, 21, and one count of second-degree assault in the attempted shooting of Tamara Farrington, 31.

The King County Superior Court jury deliberated just under nine hours.

Corliss showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Betty Corliss, the defendant's wife, sobbed even before all the counts were announced. Overcome, she was helped from the courtroom by a male friend and left without comment.

The Corliss' son, Charles E. Corliss Jr., 18, hugged his mother and sobbed in the hallway.

Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Baird said the standard sentencing range for Corliss, 51, would be about 60 to 81 years in prison. Corliss also faces punishment over accusations he violated parole in Montana.

Corliss was on parole from a Montana homicide at the time of the attacks.

Baird argued that Corliss was consumed with hatred for his ex-lover, Farrington, after being spurned, and devised an elaborate scheme to distance himself from the shootings.

In his closing arguments, Baird said, "This case demonstrates just how far domestic violence can go. It can escalate and spread outside the relationship and into the community.

"In this case three innocent women were victims," Baird said. "The woman who died was someone the defendant had never met. The defendant was so consumed with hated for his ex-girlfriend that he tried to execute three of her acquaintances when she escaped from the cottage."

Baird described Corliss as having written letters to his wife, Betty, while on the lam saying he was "describing a burning desire to kill."

Corliss, formerly of Montana, had denied he was the gunman in the execution-style slaying of Starkenburg in the cottage he formerly shared with Farrington. He testified he left the cottage before the shootings.

He blamed the attacks on drug dealers seeking revenge against Farrington for what he said was an unpaid narcotics deal. He maintained he was set up to be the triggerman because he knew too much about a mystery figure he said Farrington killed.

Lois Starkenburg, mother of the slain woman, in a tearful statement after the verdict called Corliss "a lily-livered coward. I wish they could hang him.

"I hope he has to walk the rest of his life looking over his shoulder," the mother added.

Starkenburg said Kim was a loving daughter who always helped people.

"She was helping someone when she died," she said. Kim Starkenburg was helping Brenda Mhoni move in with Farrington, using Starkenburg's truck.

The impact of her daughter's death will be with her the rest of her life, Starkenburg said. "He might as well have killed me."

Both Williams and Farrington were tearful after the verdict, but were restrained and answered questions in quiet voices in the hallway outside the courtroom.

April Williams, who has a bullet lodged behind her heart as a result of the shooting, said she was "totally excited" at the verdict. Williams, who sat holding hands with Farrington after the verdict was read said she waspleased and had brought some "bubbly cider to celebrate."

Farrington said that although the trial is over the impact of the shootings "will hang on for a long time. It's not over."

She also said she was disappointed, but understood the jury's decision to find Corliss guilty of the lesser degree charge of assault in the attempt to shoot her. Corliss had been charged with first-degree assault.

Deputy Prosecutor Baird said Corliss "is one of the most dangerous and sadistic individuals we've ever run across . . . the only way he'll ever leave prison is in a pine box."

The jurors left quickly after the trial. On the way out one of them said they hadn't wanted to rush the deliberations and the system had worked.

"Justice has been served," he said.


'May His Soult Rot In Hell': Corliss Gets 75 Years For Woman's Murder

In an emotional courtroom proceeding in which the parents of his murder victim damned and threatened him, Charles E. Corliss today was sentenced to nearly 75 years in prison.

Lois Starkenburg, mother of the slain Kimberly Starkenburg, told Corliss: "You murdered the light of my life . . . you disgusting old man."

"Do you have any idea what it's like to get a call from the medical examiner, to have your whole world fall apart?" demanded Starkenburg, who set two color portraits of her 23-year-old daughter on a courtroom table as she spoke.

Corliss, 51, of Kent, was convicted last month of the execution-style slaying in Fall City last October of Kimberly Starkenburg, of West Seattle, and of wounding Brenda Mhoni and April Williams.

According to testimony at the trial, Corliss shot the women at the cottage of his ex-lover, Tamara Farrington. Witnesses said Mhoni was moving into the cottage with Farrington and the other women were helping her.

In her courtroom remarks today, Lois Starkenburg said her daughter loved to help people and "had friends of all ages, from 2 to 80."

"She would have been married this spring and she wanted kids of her own. You, Charles Corliss, cheated her, her fiance and her family of all that and so much more."

Staring at his daughter's killer, Glenn Starkenburg told Corliss he expects to greet him in hell, but said if Corliss ever gets out of prison, "the Starkenburg family is planning a coming-out party for you."

King County Superior Court Judge Jim Bates ordered the longest sentence provided under the state's sentencing guidelines for the murder and attempted murders Corliss committed.

Farrington, who also spoke in court today, said Corliss had displayed the "thoughtlessness and viciousness of a rabid dog attacking." Farrington told Bates no punishment on Earth would be adequate for the crimes Corliss committed, adding "may his soul - if he has one - rot in hell for eternity."

In addition to the prison sentence of 74 years and eight months, Corliss was also ordered to pay $13,520 in restitution to his victims.

As he did at his trial, Corliss today professed his innocence, saying, "I was tried and convicted by the media before I ever stepped in this courtroom."

Corliss told Bates the murders were committed by a man who had helped put Corliss in prison for a murder in Montana. Corliss was on parole from that conviction at the time of the shootings in Fall City.

Jurors deliberated just under nine hours last month before convicting Corliss of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault.

Corliss, a former Montana resident, told jurors he was framed. He admitted he was at the cottage that day, but said he left before the shootings occurred.

Corliss blamed the attack on an angry drug dealer, who Corliss said was seeking revenge against Farrington for an unpaid narcotics deal.

Lois Starkenburg told reporters outside the courtroom, "He got what he deserves. Death's too good for him. I hope he stays in there until he's dead."



MO: Slayer of women; one victim shot.

DISPOSITION: Jailed in Mont., 1965-85; 74 years in Wash. on one murder count and two counts attempted murder, 1991.



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