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Cynthia Coffman and James Marlow
On August 30, 1989, Cynthia Coffman and James Marlow are sentenced to death in California for the 1986 murder of Corinna Novis. Coffman was the first woman to receive a death sentence in the state since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977.
Coffman first met Marlow in May 1986, just after he was released from prison. Marlow, a career criminal, had been locked up for stealing his sixth wife's car. An earlier stint in Folsom prison had earned him the nickname of "The Folsom Wolf." Coffman and Marlow hit it off so fast that within weeks they were traveling the country together. In late July, Marlow and Coffman were married in Tennessee and then moved back West, sponging off relatives until they made it to California in October. On November 7, 1986, in Redlands, California, Corinna Novis disappeared and five days later, Lynel Murray was kidnapped outside of the dry cleaners where she worked in Orange County. On November 11th, Novis' checkbook was found in a dumpster along with some papers that had Marlow's and Coffman's names on them. A lodge owner in Big Bear City reported that they had recently checked in. Over 100 men joined a search party that eventually caught the couple while hiking through the mountains in clothes that had been stolen from Murray's dry cleaners. Marlow and Coffman were convicted of Novis' murder and sentenced to death; they were later also convicted of Murray's murder and today remain on death row.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: