The Bluebelle was a 60-foot (18 m) ketch that was the site of brutal murders on November 12, 1961.
The ship was chartered by optometrist Dr. Arthur Duperrault (41 years of age) of Green Bay, Wisconsin, for a trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Bahamas, departing on November 8, 1961. Accompanying him was his wife Jean (38), and his three children, Brian (14), Terry Jo (11), and Renee (7). The ship was skippered by decorated World War II and Korean War pilot Julian Harvey (44), accompanied by his sixth wife, Mary Dene (34), whom he had married in July.
Late one night on the return voyage, Harvey allegedly killed his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Duperrault, and two of the children, Brian and Renee. Terry Jo was awakened by screams, and Harvey ordered her to stay below. He then scuttled the vessel and prepared to leave in a dinghy. Terry Jo was able to untie a 2' × 5' (0.6 × 1.5 m) cork float and launch herself onto it just as the ship sank. She drifted for four days without food or water, and was near death when rescued in the Northwest Providence Channel by the Greek freighter Captain Theo. A picture taken of her by a crewman appeared on front pages around the world with stories of the "sea waif".
Harvey had been picked up three days earlier in the dinghy along with the dead body of Renee. He told United States Coast Guard investigators that a squall had brought down the Bluebelle's masts, holing the ship's hull, rupturing the auxiliary gas tank, and starting a fire. He claimed he had found Renee floating in the water and tried unsuccessfully to revive her. (An autopsy showed that she had died of drowning.) However, after Harvey was informed of Terry Jo's rescue, he checked into a motel under an assumed name and committed suicide with a razor blade.
It is believed Harvey planned to kill his wife to collect on her $20,000 double indemnity insurance policy, but he was observed by Dr. Duperrault, and then had to kill him and his family who may have witnessed his murder. It was later found that Harvey had survived a car accident that claimed another of his six wives and her mother, and that his yacht Torbatross and his powerboat Valiant had sunk under suspicious circumstances, yielding large insurance settlements.
Mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner, among others, wondered why Harvey did not kill Terry Jo. Gardner speculated that Harvey may have wanted to be caught and punished. Survival psychologist Richard Logan theorised that Harvey had intended to kill her, but when she accidentally dropped the rope connected to his dinghy, he was forced to dive overboard in order to prevent it floating away without him, and thus left her alive on the sinking ship. Many years later, she stated in a television interview with Matt Lauer, "I think he probably thought I would go down with the ship."
The 1963 Charles Williams novel Dead Calm involves a couple who rescues a man named Hughie escaping a sinking ship in a dinghy, only to learn that he intentionally scuttled the boat after murdering a woman, leaving other passengers to die. The book's film adaptation even more closely mirrors the Bluebelle case, with Hughie murdering all of the boat's occupants before escaping.
In 1967, John D. MacDonald published a highly fictionalized account of the crime, The Last One Left, cited by Anthony Boucher in The New York Times as the best mystery novel published that year.
In May 2010, Terry Jo (now known as Tere Jo Duperrault Fassbender), co-wrote a book entitled Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean with Richard Logan. It covers both the Bluebelle story and her life since then. The book sheds some new light on Harvey's character and on the events of the night of the murders, thanks in part to Duperrault's willingness to undergo a sodium amytal injection to aid her recall.