Cynthia Coffman and James Marlow were sentenced to life in prison exactly 27 years ago. Cynthia Coffman was the first woman to be given the death sentence since it was reinstated in California in 1977.
Cynthia and James met when Cynthia was visiting a boyfriend in jail. They hit it off and Cynthia soon abandoned that boyfriend for James. James was a white supremacist who had done time at the Folsom prison and called himself ‘the Folsom Wolf.’
They got married in late July, just two months after their first meeting. As a wedding gift, Cynthia had “Property of the Folsom Wolf” tattooed on her butt.
24-year-old Cynthia and 29-year-old James were a match made in sadistic hell. Very quickly their romance led them across the country to the California/Arizona area. Along the way, they bummed off relatives and stole to make it.
By October 1986, they were broke in California, so the two made a habit of robbing young women who had just been to ATM’s.
On November 7, 1986, they snatched Corinna Novis, 20, from Redlands, California. On the 11th, her checkbook was found in a dumpster. Inside the checkbook were Cynthia’s driver’s license and James’ medical emergency card.
A few days later, 19-year-old Lynel Murray was kidnapped from the dry cleaners where she worked. Her body was found in a half-filled bathtub at a hotel in Huntington Beach. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
Novis’ body was found in a shallow grave, also strangled and sexually assaulted.
The two murderers figured police would have a description, since they had left such an evident trail. They checked into hotels using their real names, and made several purchases using credit cards.
So they decided to switch to swimsuits, even in the freezing weather. They were hiking along the highway when police picked them up.
During the trial, James and Cynthia had a falling out and eventually they would both blame the other for the violent crimes. Cynthia claimed she had battered woman syndrome, that she was too afraid to challenge James’ authority.
But the judge saw through her act and said she was “in this thing up to the hilt and enjoyed it up to the last minute.”
Both criminals were given the death sentence for Corinna Novis’ murder, on this day 27 years ago. In a second trial for Lynel Murray, James got a second death sentence and Cynthia received life without parole.