Even though Huskey will never be tried in serial
killings, 'he did it,' detective who worked on case says
By Matt Lakin - Knoxnews.com
November 20, 2010
He swore another man killed four women - another
man with a different personality who lured them with the same voice
and strangled them with the same hands.
The only man accused of serial murder in Knox
County sits in prison today, a convicted rapist who'll never serve a
day for the killings of four women in a thicket just outside the
eastern city limits 18 years ago.
Judges ruled a series of missteps by investigators
made prosecution of Thomas Dee Huskey, better known as the "Zoo Man,"
impossible - despite a confession and souvenirs from the women's
bodies found in his bedroom.
Huskey, 50, qualifies for parole in two years. He
claimed insanity at the time of his arrest in 1992 and told
authorities the women died at the hands of "Kyle," an alternate
The men who made the case say they have just one
"We got beat by the system,"
said Dan Stewart, a retired
Knox County Sheriff's Office detective who helped win Huskey's only
conviction. "He wasn't tried for it, but he did it. We acted in good
faith, but the very paper we picked him up on was thrown out by the
Gregory P. Isaacs, who along with Herbert S.
Moncier defended Huskey, didn't discuss specifics of the case but
described it as a personal and professional milestone.
"It was an all-star lineup of attorneys,
prosecutors and experts from across the country," Isaacs said. "When I
first began representing Tom Huskey, it was the biggest case in the
state of Tennessee. I had no children then. Now, 17 years and four
kids later, we're still litigating cases involving Tom Huskey. It was,
is, and always will be an overwhelming case."
Bodies in the brush
The case began in February
1992, months before a single prostitute died, when a woman came to
Knoxville police with a lie that led them to a rapist in the act.
"She told me she'd been abducted inside the city,
taken to a spot in the county and raped, then tied up and robbed,"
said Tom Pressley, a retired Knoxville Police Department investigator.
"She lied to begin with, because she didn't want to admit she was a
prostitute. She took me and showed me where it happened."
The woman led Pressley to a secluded patch of woods
off Cahaba Lane in East Knox County, a spot littered with mattresses
and used condoms and favored by prostitutes and their johns.
"We got to the dead end, and she said, 'There's his
car,' " Pressley recalled. "As I went on up there, she saw her stuff.
We went into the woods, and she said, 'There he is now.' He had this
other little girl naked and on her knees."
Pressley stopped Huskey at gunpoint and arrested
him on the spot. Stewart, the KCSO investigator, picked up the case
after the women admitted being prostitutes who went to Cahaba Lane
The women refused to testify, and Huskey went free.
"I think he did what a lot of criminals do,"
Stewart said. "He learned from his mistakes. He decided the next time,
he was not going to leave any witnesses behind."
Experts say that's a common step in the evolution
of a serial killer. Most such killers begin with lesser offenses, such
as rapes or indecent exposure, and work their way up to the next
Eight months later, on Oct. 20, 1992, a hunter
walked up on the body of Patricia Rose Anderson, 32, in the same woods
off Cahaba. A search by deputies the following week turned up two more
bodies, then a fourth - all naked and strangled.
Pressley, the KPD investigator, heard the news,
recognized the spot and picked up the phone.
"I called the county and told them, 'I think I know
who your killer is,' " Pressley said.
Kyle and the Zoo Man
Police learned Huskey had earned the nickname "Zoo
Man" from Knoxville's prostitutes after a series of rapes near the zoo,
where he'd worked in the elephant barn. Victims began to come forward.
A search of Huskey's parents' home in nearby Pigeon
Forge turned up rope, porn and jewelry detectives believed had been
taken from the dead women. But KCSO investigators relied on a search
warrant issued by a city judicial commissioner - who an appellate
court ruled had no authority to issue the warrant.
Huskey claimed to suffer from multiple personality
disorder and blamed the killings on "Kyle," an alter ego who claimed
to hate Huskey and wanted to ruin his life. Prosecutors said he faked
mental illness and pulled the name from East Knoxville's Kyle Avenue,
where the Huskey family once lived.
Those statements hit the trash after judges ruled
the confession had been coerced.
"I was there," said David Davenport, a retired
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent who assisted KCSO detectives.
"I disagree. I personally feel he conned the whole system. He
certainly gave that statement knowing what rights he had. Most of his
story, he gleaned from television. When he became Kyle, he showed no
remorse. He knew he was caught."
The case dragged on for years. Two juries found
Huskey guilty in rapes committed before the killings, but a jury
deadlocked on the murder charges in 1999.
In October 2005, 13 years after the discovery of
Anderson's body, District Attorney General Randy Nichols gave up the
murder case, and Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner dismissed
Huskey continues to serve a 64-year
sentence at the South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tenn.
He qualifies for a parole hearing in 2012.
Four murder counts dropped against Zoo Man suspect Thomas Dee
March 11, 2006
Four murder charges were formally dropped in Knoxville
against an accused serial killer known as the "Zoo Man." Thomas Dee
Huskey is a former elephant trainer who got his nickname from
prostitutes who said he took them to the Knoxville Zoo to have sex. He
remains in jail serving a 66-year prison term for raping four other
women in woods near the Knoxville Zoo in 1992.
'Zoo Man' case KO'd by court
13-year legal battle costliest in state
By Jamie Satterfield - Knoxnews.com
November 1, 2005
Thomas Dee "Zoo Man" Huskey once told authorities he
killed four women.
Lawyers may debate it. Historians may reflect on it.
But it now appears a jury will never decide it.
The state Supreme Court on Monday let stand a June
lower court decision that guts the case against Knox County's first and
only accused serial killer.
"It's over," defense attorney Herbert S. Moncier said.
Co-counsel Gregory P. Isaacs added, "Finally -
A strict reading of the judgment filed by the state
Court of Criminal Appeals in June would seem to back up the two
attorneys' contention that the 13-year legal battle is finished.
"It is, therefore, ordered and adjudged that the
judgment of the trial court is affirmed, and the case is remanded to the
Criminal Court of Knox County for the dismissal of the case," the
appellate court stated.
Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols
is not ready to throw in the towel just yet, however.
"He killed more people than anybody in the history of
this county," Nichols said. "I'm going to do my best to try to put a
Even if Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner does
not treat the appellate court's judgment as a direct order, Nichols
faces a daunting task.
Baumgartner's ruling, which was affirmed by the
appellate court and left unchallenged by the state's high court, tosses
out everything that directly ties Huskey to the 1992 slayings of four
Gone is Huskey's confession. Barred from use at trial
is the "souvenir" jewelry authorities say he took from some of his
victims and the rope they say he used to bind them.
Nichols' only hope at this point would be a largely
circumstantial case buried somewhere in the boxes and boxes of files the
case has generated.
"Can I weave a web of circumstantial (evidence)?"
Nichols wondered aloud Monday. "I'm going to make every effort."
Huskey's case is the most protracted in Knox County
history and the most expensive in Tennessee history. It's been funded on
the taxpayer dime. Isaacs and Moncier were appointed to represent Huskey.
Whether the state Supreme Court's refusal to hear the
prosecution's appeal of the June decision that sounded this death knell
is justice depends on who is asked.
Nichols is convinced that Huskey beat and strangled
the four women, all thought to be prostitutes, and hid their bodies in a
wooded area off Cahaba Lane in East Knox County. He is certain that
Huskey turned from a rapist who stalked prostitutes and sexually
battered them at a barn at the Knoxville Zoo, where his father worked as
an elephant trainer, to a killer.
He points to the words from Huskey's own mouth to
Knox County Sheriff's Office detectives and a Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation agent soon after the bodies were discovered.
But the core issue has always been whether those
words marked the confession of a stone-cold killer or the ranting of an
Huskey made his alleged confession via use of an
alter ego, "Kyle," and his attorneys have long claimed he suffered
Moncier insists that Kyle's confession to murder was
a made-up tale designed by the alter ego to kill his host personality -
Huskey. He says the details of Kyle's confession don't match up with
crime scene evidence.
"There is certainly considerable questions in our
minds whether Thomas Huskey did this or not," Moncier said Monday. "It
has always been of great concern to Greg Isaacs and I that the only
evidence in this case was the ramblings of an insane 'Kyle' and 'Kyle'
never got the facts correct."
Nichols counters that jewelry belonging to some of
the victims and rope similar to that used to bind the women was found in
a bedroom of Huskey's parents' Pigeon Forge home, where Huskey was
He cannot use that evidence at trial because deputies
arrived there via a flawed court document. Nichols had hoped the state
Supreme Court would at least review his contention that Tennessee, like
the federal government and many other states, should honor what's known
as a "good faith exception."
Under the good faith exception, evidence obtained
when officers believe the court order they are executing is legally
sound should be allowed at trial even if it turns out the order was
The confession was tossed out because the appellate
court ruled it was not voluntary, opining that detectives "wore down"
Huskey over several days after he invoked his right to an attorney.
"We're in the minority in not having a good faith
exception," Nichols said.
Isaacs said a dismissal of the case against Huskey
will "validate" that the criminal justice system works for even those
too poor to afford a defense dream team.
"I can't wait to give the Huskey family a big hug and
close a lot of big files," he said.
He won't be giving Huskey a big hug, however. Huskey,
convicted in a series of rapes preceding the Cahaba Lane slayings, is
serving a 66-year prison term.
And that may have to be justice enough for Nichols.
"The chances are very strong that he will never see
freedom again," Nichols said.
On 13 February 1999, after a jury
said it was unable to decide whether the defendant was insane, a
mistrial was declared in the quadruple murder trial of Thomas "Zoo
Man" Huskey. The 12-member panel, brought 200 miles from Nashville
to Davidson County because of intense local publicity, told Judge
Richard Baumgartner they were deadlocked 6-6. The defense claimed Huskey,
a former zoo elephant trainer, possessed multiple personalities he
couldn't control. One personality in particular, an evil alter ego named
"Kyle," confessed to the 1992 the murder rampage that claimed
the lives of four prostitutes.
Huskey is charged with killing Stone,
Darlene Smith, Patricia Rose Anderson and Patricia Johnson and leaving
their bodies in trash-strewn woods off Cahaba Lane in East Knox County,
Tennessee. Prostitutes knew him as "Zoo Man" because he also
liked to take them to a barn near the Knoxville Zoo for sex. The "Zoo
Man" has already been convicted of attacking and raping several
women in 1991 and 1992, andy he is serving a 66-year sentence for those
Since his arrest in October, 1992, Huskey met several times with Knox County investigators. Calling himself
"Kyle," he described how he met the victims, what they wore
and what they did once he took them to Cahaba Lane, a dead-end road
where he could bind, beat and rape women he picked up around Magnolia
While being interrogated he related
how he talked with Anderson, a prostitute with a serious drug habit,
about what he would do with her. Anderson, who was pregnant, begged him
to let her go. Huskey -- or Kyle if you are to believe his multiple
personalities -- said he strangled her, laid her body on her stomach,
threw a jacket over her back and shoved an old mattress on top of her.
In his trial Dr. Jeffrey W. Erickson,
Ph.D. testified for the defense saying Huskey was suffering from a brain
disorder when he first examined him in 1977. Erickson saw Huskey when
was 16, after he broke into a house on the grounds of the Knoxville Zoo
to steal money.
His defense contended that as a young
man he was recruited by a sado-masochistic prostitution ring which
permanently scarred his psyche. Since his arrest in October, 1992,
psychologist Dr. Diana McCoy, Ph.D, repeatedly interviewed the "Zoo
Man" and uncovered his purported multiple personalities. She also
testified that Huskey reported having spells in his past in which he
lost track of time. According to McCoy, Huskey was insane when he killed
the four women.
Mistrial Is Declared In Quadruple Murder
The New York Times
Sunday, February 14, 1999
A mistrial was declared on Saturday in the quadruple
murder trial of a man who says he has multiple personalities, after a
jury said it was unable to decide whether he was insane.
The panel, brought 200 miles from Nashville because
of intense local publicity, told Judge Richard Baumgartner it was
''But it was on the responsibility part, not the
guilt,'' one juror said, referring to the mental state of the defendant,
Thomas (Zoo Man) Huskey.
The defense said Mr. Huskey, a former zoo elephant
trainer, has multiple personalities he cannot control or remember,
including one named Kyle who confessed to the 1992 killings of four
Mr. Huskey, 38, got his nickname for taking
prostitutes to the Knoxville Zoo for abusive sex.
The prosecution will push for a new trial. Mr. Huskey
already had been sentenced to 66 years in prison for raping four women.
The mistrial brought relief to Mr. Huskey's family
and frustration to victims' relatives.
''I would rather have this than have my father put to
death,'' said Isaac Huskey, one of the defendant's two sons.
Carolyn Lerner of Dearborn, Mich., the sister of a
victim, Susan Stone, said she thought the evidence was overwhelming
against Mr. Huskey.
''I am extremely disappointed,'' she said. ''It has
been seven long years.''
"Zoo Man's" trial ends in hung jury
Reported by Court TV's Grace Wong, Clara Tuma and
February 15, 1999
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Court TV) — After five days
of deliberations on a seven-year-old case, jurors on Saturday found that
Thomas "Zoo Man" Huskey suffers from mental illness but could not decide
whether he could be held responsible for the 1992 murders of four women.
Huskey, a former Knoxville Zoo worker nicknamed the "Zoo
Man" by local prostitutes because he liked to have sex near the
workplace, is charged with killing four women. His defense claimed that
he suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID), a condition once
known as multiple personality disorder, and that his alter ego "Kyle"
framed him for the crimes.
During trial, the prosecution said Huskey is faking
his alleged mental illness and suggested he may have stolen his
different identities from the soap opera Days of Our Lives.
The jurors, who were impaneled in Davidson County and
driven into Knoxville for the trial, indicated to Judge Richard
Baumgartner on Friday that they were struggling to reach a verdict. All
agreed that Huskey suffers from a mental disease, but ultimately the
12-panel jury was evenly divided over whether his illness prevented him
from being responsible for the murders.
The prosecution and the defense mostly dueled over
Huskey's sanity during the trial. Huskey's defense presented experts who
said that his multiple personalities developed from the trauma he
suffered from being sexually abused as a child.
Defense psychologist Diana McCoy testified that she
examined Huskey 27 times over a three year period and met several of his
alter egos, including "Kyle," "Jericho," "Timmy" and "Larry." Telling
jurors that Huskey was insane at the time of the murders, McCoy said
that several factors contributed to the development of Huskey's alleged
multiple personalities: his being raised at a zoo by parents who were
not emotionally supportive made him feel like a caged animal; the
physical and sexual abuse by his teachers; his alleged involvement in a
prostitution ring as a teen-ager; and an alleged gang rape by a "Sargeant
Blackie" and several teen-age boys.
The multiple personalities, McCoy said, formed in
Huskey to help him cope with his traumatic experiences. McCoy believed
that "Kyle" represented a role Huskey played in the prostitution ring,
and "Timmy" emerged after the gang rape.
But prosecutors believed that Huskey was faking his
mental illness. One of Huskey's former cell mates, William Fletcher,
testified that Huskey told him that he intended to fake mental illness
to avoid the death penalty. Huskey, Fletcher said, also told him that he
killed the women because he wanted to rob and rape them and prevent them
from approaching authorities and talking to each other about his crimes.
The prosecutors also believed that Huskey learned how
to fake his illness by reading the book "Sybil," about a woman with
multiple personalities. Dr. McCoy said that Huskey told her he read the
book as part of a 7th grade English class, but insisted he refused to
read it in jail. However, at the time of that conversation, Huskey also
told McCoy that he had the book in his jail cell.
Huskey's defense suggested that another person killed
one of Huskey's alleged victims. Linda Jarnigan testified that an inmate,
Jesse James Coffey, who once worked with her husband, wrote her a letter
confessing to killing one of the women. In the same letter, Coffey also
confessed to participating in the murders of two other women and burying
However, the husband, Billy Jarnigan, came to the
stand and denied raping and murdering women with Coffey. Jarnigan
admitted he and Coffey got high on cocaine together, but insisted they
did not commit murder.
The state also was armed with Huskey's confession to
the crimes. But the defense refuted the confession, claiming that "Kyle"
framed Huskey and that the mentally-ill defendant was coerced and
manipulated into making a false confession.
Prosecutors have vowed to convict Huskey during his
retrial, which will be rescheduled at a later date. Huskey's defense
lawyers have said they plan to file a motion asking Judge Baumgartner to
acquit their client.
"Zoo Man" Huskey
February 13, 1999
A mistrial was declared in the quadruple
murder trial of Thomas "Zoo Man" Huskey after a jury said it
was unable to decide whether the defendant was insane. The 12-member
panel, brought 200 miles from Nashville to Davidson County because of
intense local publicity, told Judge Richard Baumgartner they were
deadlocked 6-6. The defense claimed Huskey, a former zoo elephant
trainer, possessed multiple personalities he couldn't control. One
personality in particular, an evil alter ego named "Kyle,"
confessed to the 1992 the murder rampage that claimed the lives of four
Now that the three-week
trial has ended in a mistrial, lawyers will get ready to retry the
capital case. District Attorney General Randy Nichols, whose case came
close to an acquittal, vowed to do a better job with the prosecution
next time. It's not clear whether the judge will go back to Davidson
County to seek a jury or choose another location.
"Zoo Man" Huskey
February 9, 1999
Jury deliberations began in the trial of
Knoxville's alleged serial killer, the "Zoo Man." The defense
claims that Huskey suffers from multiple personalities and is innocent.
Prosecutors claim it's all an act.
"Zoo Man" Huskey
February 8, 1999
There was more conflicting testimony in the
murder trial of accused serial killer Thomas "Zoo Man" Huskey.
One of his former cellmate's
contradicted the testimony of another former cellmate. The witness
earlier testified that the former elephant trainer admitted killing four
women. But another witness testified that Huskey never spoke about his
case to anyone.
Thomas D. Huskey
February 5, 1999
Dr. Jeffrey W. Erickson, Ph.D. testified for the defense in the
trial of Thomas "Zoo Man" Huskey saying their client was
suffering from a brain disorder when he examined him in 1977. Erickson
first saw Huskey when was 16, after he broke into a house on the grounds
of the Knoxville Zoo to steal money.
Tennessee v. Thomas Huskey
"Serial Killer Trial"
By Kathryn Rubenstein - CourtTV.com
February 1, 1999
Thomas Huskey, an alleged serial killer nicknamed "Zoo
Man" by local prostitutes because he liked to have sex by the Knoxville
zoo, is charged with raping and killing four women in 1992. Huskey
worked at the zoo, where his father trained elephants, until he was
fired for abusing animals.
Huskey's defense claims he suffers from dissociative,
or "multiple personality" disorder and says his alter ego, Kyle,
committed the crimes. The prosecution says Huskey's not only faking, but
may have stolen his "personalities" from the soap opera Days of Our
Huskey allegedly lured his victims — Patricia Rose
Anderson, Patricia Ann Johnson, Darlene Smith and Susan East Stone — to
a remote area of East Knox County. All except Smith were believed to be
On Oct. 20, 1992, one of Huskey's victims was
discovered buried in a shallow grave, in in a wooded, garbage-strewn
area, by a man who had stopped for a bathroom break. Over the next few
days, three more victims were found nearby.
Huskey was taken into custody on Oct. 21. The
following day he was brought into court to answer an outstanding warrant
for solicitation. He pleaded guilty and signed the waiver "Kyle Huskey."
No one noticed that he used a different name.
After his arrest, Huskey gave police four different
statements. In three statements, "Kyle Huskey" confessed to murder.
Additionally, Kyle said he had raped three of the four women. (Rape
could not be proven on the autopsies and therefore is not included in
the charges.) In a fourth statement, police met South African, alter-ego
"Phillip Daxx," who said Kyle was out to hurt Thomas.
But the prosecution claims it's all a scam. At the
very least, Huskey does not meet the standard for insanity because he
can appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions, they say.
The defense will call experts to prove that Huskey is
in fact dissociative and that Thomas should not be punished for Kyle's
While there is no not guilty by reason of insanity
plea in Tennessee, jurors can find Huskey guilty, not guilty or guilty
by reason of insanity. If convicted of first-degree murder, Huskey faces
the death penalty.