Where did the baby name Rainelle come from in 1949?


We know that baby names have been inspired by missing children (e.g., Caylee Anthony, Kyron Horman, Natalee Holloway). Sadly, they’ve also been inspired by murdered children.

One example is Rainelle. The baby name Rainelle was given to 46 baby girls all of a sudden in 1949, making it a top debut name that year.

  • 1951: 15 baby girls named Rainelle
  • 1950: 14 baby girls named Rainelle
  • 1949: 46 baby girls named Rainelle [debut]
  • 1948: unlisted
  • 1947: unlisted

Similar baby girl names to debut that year were Rainell, Ranell, and Raenelle.

So, who was the victim?

Rainell Karel Downing, a 2-year-old from Michigan who was murdered in February of 1949. She and her mother Deliphene were victims of the Lonely Hearts Killers Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck.

Mrs. Beck admitted drowning the child, Rainelle [sic] Downing, in a tub of water after Fernandez had killed her mother, Mrs. Delphine [sic] Downing.

(Many newspapers misspelled their names “Rainelle” and “Delphine” repeatedly.)

After a highly sensationalized trial, Fernandez and Beck were found guilty of first-degree murder in August. Both were executed by electric chair about a year and a half later.

Poor Rainell didn’t live long, but it’s nice to think that her name lives on.

Source: “Jury Convicts ‘Hearts’ Pair of Murder.” Reading Eagle 18 Aug. 1949: 1+.

5 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Rainelle come from in 1949?

  1. My nephew is named in remembrance of a soldier killed in Iraq. The soldier was a close friend of my BIL. I think naming a baby for someone who died under tragic circumstances can be a nice tribute.

  2. @ C in DC-
    That’s how my brother got his name as well. He’s named after my father’s classmate who died in Vietnam.

    I appreciate memorializing a loved one or friend… But it feels creepy to hear that about babies whose names were inspired by a total stranger’s tragic end.

  3. Some interesting things I recently discovered:

    Although the news reports and books I checked spelled the names “Rainelle” and “Delphine,” it seems (according to their gravesite) that their names were actually “Rainell” and “Deliphene.”

    And Deliphene had 3 sisters: Zora Izona & Zella Izetta (twins, b. 1911), and Esther Vivian (b. 1915). Deliphene’s middle name was Emma.

  4. My name is Rainelle. I was born in 1949. My mother told me that she named me after a girl who drowned. I had no idea until now that the girl was murdered. When I was two my sister who was nine and Schizophrenic tried to drown me in a tub of hot boiling water. She did not succeed because she slipped and was severely burned by the water.

    I also dated a man with the last name Downing for a few years. When I was about 10 my younger sister who was nine died after her nightgown caught fire. She was alone in the kitchen when it happened. My brother and I found her running and all in flames but she died from third degree burns. Recently at a class reunion I was surprised to hear that the sister of one of my classmates named her daughter after my deceased younger sister whose name was Ramona. Thank you for the information. I never knew the whole story because my mom died it her early thirties, around 33, from cancer.

  5. Wow, Rainelle, sounds like you’ve been through a lot! Finding out that your younger sister has a namesake must have been a really nice surprise, though. Thank you for the comment!

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