The movie Confessions
of a Serial Killer takes a different, less fictional version of
Sara L. Knox, "The Productive Power of Confessions of Cruelty" 2001
Brad Shellady, "Henry: Fabrication of a Serial Killer", included in
Everything You Know Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Secrets
and Lies, 2002; Russ Kick, editor.
Michael A. Kroll, "Condemned in Texas: When Innocence Doesn't
"The Death Penalty In Texas: Lethal Injustice", Amnesty
"Failing the Future: Death Penalty Developments, March 1998 - March
2000" Amnesty International, 2000
"Henry Lee Lucas able to confuse authorities and then beat death",
Jim Henderson, 1998 Houston Chronicle
"Sheriff's wife among 4 dead in shooting", Melissa Nelson, 2007
Associated Press (Yahoo News)
By Jason Johns
It is a hard thing to say that one murderer is worse than the other.
There is very little to differentiate a killing from another, in terms
of the actual act. However, some stand out never the less. These
individuals take murder to a whole new level. One may be persuaded to
think of Albert Fish, or England’s infamous Dennis Nielson when such a
thought is entertained. Preposterous and vile, these are the mutilators
and dismemberers of the world. The persons whose unspeakable deeds are
recognized as the most hideous of all time. The man I am about to speak
of ranks among them. He is a monster from the Lone Star State, and his
name is Henry Lee Lucas.
Lucas was brutally abused as a young child, horribly
mistreated throughout his early years. He was into bestiality and the
torture of animals during his early teens. He also engaged in sexual
acts with his half brother at this same time. It is hard to comprehend
such horrors as a child and adolescent, but Lucas dealt with them and
much more. Little did anyone know that a sinister creature had
manifested from this abuse, a year later all found out.
Lucas recanted that his first murder came at the
tender age of fourteen. This was supposedly a seventeen-year-old girl he
kidnapped from a bus stop. He claimed to have beaten her severely in the
head, hauled her to an isolated area, and proceeded to attempt a rape.
The girl came to and began to flail and scream. Lucas simply strangled
her to death at that point. However, no incident of the sort has ever
been reported. Lucas tended to lie quite often, so whether or not this
story is truth is anyone’s guess.
Lucas was arrested soon after this for breaking and
entering. He spent a short time in a Beaumont training school for boys
in Virginia. He was considered highly disruptive during his
incarceration. He claims to have raped his twelve-year-old niece the day
after his release. He was arrested again for breaking and entering, and
was in and out of jail until his release in 1959. He moved to Tecumseh,
Michigan to live with his half-sister.
Lucas killed for a second time that year, stabbing
his mother in a blind rage following a family dispute. She died some
fifty hours later of the wounds. He was tracked down and arrested in
Toledo, Ohio. He was sentenced to 20-40 years in Southern Michigan State
Prison for second-degree murder.
Sadly, over-crowding forced his release from prison
in 1970. Lucas claims to have murdered two women soon after he was let
loose, leaving one body close enough to the prison to see. As with his
alleged first murder, no evidence was ever unearthed to support his
claim. He was arrested again soon after for attempted kidnapping of a
young girl and served four years before his release in 1975. This is
where Henry Lee Lucas solidified himself as one of the worst of all
Lucas began a period of roaming, traveling everywhere from Wilmington,
Delaware to Hurst, Texas. He married during this time, but was accused
of molesting the woman’s children and opted to leave. He seemed to move
back and forth, often moving back in with Opal, until his other sister,
Almeda, offered him work at her husband’s wrecking yard. However, he was
quickly accused of molesting her granddaughter. The next day, he
deceptively asked to borrow their truck to pick up some junkers for the
yard. They never saw him again. The truck left the family’s driveway in
Port Deposit, Maryland, and turned up in Jacksonville, Florida.
It was here that Lucas met a man named Ottis Toole.
Lucas was soon living with the man and his family, sleeping with Toole
and his daughter. This continued until, while on a trip in Delaware,
Toole became sick and was hospitalized. Lucas took the man’s children
and headed for Maryland. Unfortunately for him, he was arrested there
and spent approximately two months in jail. Lucas returned to
Jacksonville upon his parole. Ottis’ health improved and he returned to
Florida as well.
Lucas and Toole were a reckless and violent tandem,
stealing anything and everything. Even robbing banks occasionally. Lucas
later confessed to numerous crimes during this period. One involved him
shooting a convenience store clerk and watching Toole molest the corpse.
This is where repetitive murdering for Lucas and Toole began. Another
story shared by Toole enhanced this point. Lucas and Toole were on a
Texas Interstate when they noticed a young guy and girl walking down the
road. Ottis simply pulled over, stepped out of the car, and shot the boy
nine times, disposing of him in a culvert. Lucas was busy fighting the
girl to get her in the car. Ottis jumped in the drivers’ seat and took
off, while Lucas steadily and repeatedly raped the girl. Ottis stopped
the car, dragged the girl out, and commenced to shoot her six times, and
left her on the interstate.
The two murdered constantly, killing for a car,
killing for sex, killing for fun. Anyone who drifted in their path was
in danger. One girl was found completely nude in a field, the victim of
stab wounds. Lucas were credited for some twenty murders in California,
Michigan, Texas, and Maryland. Of course, Lucas confessed to some
600,"free lunches" as he called them.
Crazy as this may seem, it gets stranger. Lucas and
Toole are approached by a man who offers them a job, contract killing.
As if this does not delight the two enough, he declares they must join a
satanic cult in order to be eligible for the job. They met with the cult
in Miami soon after. The stranger introduced himself by name at this
meeting, calling himself Don Meteric. He admitted to knowing Ottis well,
which hurt Lucas, who felt betrayed. This did not stop him from pledging
to the fraternity, however. He and Ottis supposedly were required to
murder a man to be accepted into the cult. They were taken to the
Everglades where Lucas claimed Ottis lured a man to a beach where Lucas
lay in waiting with a blade. Lucas ripped his throat. He, Ottis, and the
cult later cooked and ate the man in a "Black Mass" ritual. After their
induction, they began kidnapping babies for sale as slaves. They
kidnapped and drugged children and teenagers to star in illegal
pornographic movies the cult distributed. Of course, as with a lot of
Lucas’ testimony, not a trace of this satanic cult was ever uncovered,
leading one to believe it a hoax.
Lucas was supposedly told by the head of this cult to
take some time off. Ottis stayed on after his departure. He went
Jacksonville and met up with Ottis’ daughter, Becky. They moved to
California. They were playing the role of man and wife, but Becky,
according to Lucas, wanted more than play. She apparently wanted the
sexual part of a married relationship, but Lucas claimed "fatherly
devotion", prevented him from that. Becky became inflamed at him,
referring to him as a homosexual. Lucas resented this ludicrous
accusation, and to compensate for it, raped and murdered a woman later
that night while Becky slept.
Lucas then claims Meteric contacted him and offered
him a job. The mark was a lawyer in Beaumont, Texas. He befriended the
man and asked if he would like to go for a drink. When the man tilted
his head back to take a few swallows, Lucas stated he slit the man’s
throat so deep that, "the liquor just spilled out the bottom of his
head". He buried the body, only to dig it back up later and decapitate
it, and bury the body with the limbs out of the ground so it would be
discovered. They then drifted northwest, as far as Oregon and
Washington, Lucas raping and killing as had become his routine. He tried
to take credit for the Green River Murders, but this was proved
Lucas and Becky continued to roam, working for people
and barely getting by. Everything was fine until one of the couples
began converting Becky to Christianity. Lucas was immediately
threatened. Not long after this, Lucas stabbed her to death in a field,
raped the corpse, and chopped her up. He stuffed her into three
pillowcases and left her in the field. He returned to bury her two days
Kate Rich, one of the individuals to have sheltered the couple, became
suspicious of Lucas when she began hearing of him being around, and
Becky leaving abruptly. Rich met with Lucas and questioned him. He said
that she had run off with a truck driver. She immediately appeared not
to believe him. That was all he needed to inspire another murder. He
pulled off on an abandoned road, stabbed her, carved an inverted cross
into her chest, and then dragged her out of the car. He then proceded to
have sex with the dead body. He disposed of the lifeless corpse in a
ditch. Later, he returned to dice her up and pack her in garbage bags.
He spent the late night burning her in a wood burning stove. He departed
in the early hours that same morning. This murder was a turning point in
the psychopaths sick career. Family of Mrs.Rich contacted local
authorities when Kate failed to answer phone calls or the door upon
visits. When she turned up missing, witnesses said Lucas was the last
person to see her alive. His record was drawn. To the horror of the
sheriff, he had previous rape and murder charges, but this was
discovered too late, Lucas was long gone.
Lucas wandered awhile, theft remaining his only
source of sustenance. He was bouncing all over the country. Oklahoma,
Amarillo, Texas, stealing and selling to survive. Time was getting short
for Lucas. He returned to a town in California, Hemet, with the hopes of
attaining a job he once had working for a man named Jack Smart. Little
known to Lucas, Smart had long since caught wind of Lucas’ dissaperrance
the day after Kate Rich had vanished. He devised a plan on the spot.
Acting as though everything was perfectly normal, Jack graciously
welcomed Lucas back into his home, and phoned.his family in the hours
that followed. Soon after, Lucas was taken into custody, cuffed in Jack
Smart’s antique shop. Unbelievingly, Lucas had to be released because of
lack of tangible evidence. Back on the streets again, Lucas made tracks.
Lucas wasted no time, traveling all over continuing
to kill if he felt threatened. He stayed primarily in the central
states. But he made time in Illinois to abduct another woman, slash her
to death, and sleep with her body. He dumped her in a grove, like so
much refuse, but he made sure to clean all valuables off her first. He
drove to Texas and ditched his car, then quickly began trekking back
north via the thumb. But it was not to be, Lucas was running out of
options. He was broke, extremely desparate for cash. He resorted to
calling another ex-employer, Ruben Moore. Moore also knew he was wanted
by the police in conjunction with a possible murder. For the second
time, Lucas was lured. He was offered $100.00 to return to Moore’s ranch
and go to work for him. He arrived, and was greeted cheerfully by Moore,
who had the police there to get Lucas the next morning. Presently, the
only charge they could keep him for was theft of a stolen vehicle in
Maryland. Authorities there would not order an extradition for Lucas,
so, again, he was released. Luckily, only a short time later, Lucas was
apprehended once and for all. The human nightmare was finally at bay.
Yes, some killers are a little more than a murderer.
Some stand out as true monstrocities, creatures who resemble more
vicious animal than human. In terms of evil, they broke the mold with
Henry Lee LUCAS
by Wicked Wolly
Henry born on August 23, 1936 Montgomery Country,
Virginia as the ninth child of a prostitute. His father, who was an
alcoholic, carried the nickname : "No Legs" as his legs were amputated
after a train ran over them when he was lying completely pissed on a
As many serial killers Henry's mental problem was created in
his youth. His mother Viola Dison Wall Lucas, forced Henry to watch while
she was having sex with a customer. When he didn't she'd beat the shit
out of him with a stick. Hitting was her habit which almost was fatal
one time when she hit him hard and often Henry got into coma and woke up
36 hour later only because he wasn't willing to pick up some wood for
the fireplace. Humiliating seemed like a hobby of Viola, forcing Henry
going to school dressed up like a girl, have him eating of the floor and
forbid him to have feelings of love towards anything. Henry once told
that he was having a pet mule. Viola, seeing Henry take pleasure in the
animal, asked wheter he liked it or not. When he replied he did, she
went into the house, reapeared with a shotgun, and killed the mule. Then
she beat Henry because of the expense she'd just incurred in needing the
mule's carcass carted away... Henry that his earliest memory is of his
mother finnishing up with a customer then pulling out a shotgun and
shooting the man in the leg. The blood spattered all over him in the
process... No question where Henry got his fascination for spilling
blood of others! Besides all this Henry had a big part of bad luck. Once
playing with his brother Andrew, he got accidentally cut in his left eye
and injuried the optical nerves so that Henry was only able to see
shadows for a couple of months. When Henry, still recovering, went back
to school again, his teacher wanted to hit someone, but missed and she
accidentally hit Henry so that his wound re-opened and had to have his
eye replaced by a glass eye. On January 20th 1960 Henry engaged to
Stella. When celebrating that Viola interrupted the party and ordered
Henry to call of the engagement and come home with her and take care of
her. Stella ran of and Henry got pissed and fucked up. When he went back
to his sister, where he was living at that moment, his mother followed
him and they started arguing again. At a certain stage Viola took a
broom and started hitting Henry all over his face. Henry got that mad he
hit her back on the side of her neck. When she fell on the ground he
realised he was holding his knife and he had cut his mother's vein.
Henry ran of and panicked, his mother bled to death after that. This can
be seen as the start of a killing spree that followed the next thirty
Henry was arrested for murdering his mother and was
sentenced for 20 to 40 years jail, but was released after ten years due
to overcrowded prisons. During this period Henry was also transferred to
the Ionia Mental Hospital for two suicide attempts and claiming he heard
his mother's voice in his head over and over. The mental hospital tried
to 'cure' Henry by drugging him and pretty heavy electro shock therapy
which probably have caused severe brain damage. While Henry was in
prison he figured out how to kill and get away with it as he discovered
that US police didn't co-ordinate the crimes in different states. Even
though Henry told anyone that was willing to hear it, that he was not
ready for release and that he would kill again he was released due to
the earlier mentioned overcrowded cellblock... "I'll leave you a present
on the doorway out" Henry told to the guards and claims to have killed
two women within the sight of the prison the same day he was released.
Though this never has been confirmed by law enforcements. A year after
that Henry was back in prison again for trying to kidnap a 15 year old
girl and violating his parole by carrying a gun. Spending 4 years on
Michigan jail some claim Henry met Otis Toole who would become his
killing partner in the years to follow. The way Lucas and Toole met is
rather vague and different stories are told by both of them. Anyway,
they met, and that's what counts. Henry's life was pretty hectic after
his release. Got married and divorced, lived at many different places
and even in a mobile home, had several different jobs and some arrests
for stealing cars and robbing stores. In the end Henry met Ottis and was
invited to stay at his place as he did. Soon, Henry became a member of
Toole family who were all living at the same home in Jacksonville. The
mother of Toole's niece and nephew, 'Becky' (her real name was Frieda,
but henry called her Becky for no apparent reason) and Frank, committed
suicide in 1981 and also Ottis mother died the same year. Henry and
Ottis took Becky and Frank along with them in their pick up and started
driving around, robbing stores and killing people while Frank and Becky
(at that time 10 and 11 years old) were waiting in the pick up. A
killing spree along the 135 which can easily be compared to the one
which is illustrated in "Natural Born Killers" on route 666. Most
'famous' victim was "orange socks". "Orange socks" was a girl (which is
still unidentified "till today) who was discovered along the 135 dead
and naked, wearing only a pair of orange socks. Henry claimed she wasn't
willing to have sex with him again so he strangled her and had sex with
her remains. Ottis claims he has killed "orange socks" 'cause he was
jealous that Henry was having sex with her while Henry and he had a
homosexual relationship. This ilustrate the difficulty of this serial
killer. There are about four differents stories to each murder, the only
facts are that there were peoples murdered, but you have to guess why
and by whom. Henry once told a story he was killing along with Ottis for
a Satanic cult called Hand Of Dead. Henry even wrote a book about this
cult simply called "Hand Of Dead: the Henry Lee Lucas Story" (1985). Out
of frustrations Henry killed women who reminded him of hookers and had
sex with their remains; this was the only way he could get sexual
Henry and Becky got pretty close. While Henry acted
like a father figure for Becky, Becky saw Henry as her husband while
they were traveling together through the States and Mexico. In 1982 they
ended up at "The House of Prayer", a small Christian community nearby
Rinngold, Texas. Henry fixed roofs over there in exchange for food and a
place to live. In the mean time the members of "The House of Prayer"
managed to convice Becky (then being 16 years old) of the importance of
Christianity what resulted in the fact she wanted Henry to take her back
to California so she could confess her crimes and could life on with a
pure soul. Henry tried to convince her that she would be in jail for the
rest of her life (she at least helped Henry once getting rid of a body
by slicing it into little parts). Obviously Henry was not able to
convince her and they took of on a morning in August 1982 Hitchhiking
their way back to California they were not very sucessful. After two
days they ended up in Denton County and weren't able to get another
lift. It was getting late and after an useless search for a motel they
decided to sleep in the open field. In his last attempt to convince Becky
not to go back to Florida, but to go back to "The House of Prayer" with
him, Becky went mad and started hitting Henry. That was the last thing
she would ever do as Henry reacted by stabbing a knife in her chest.
Henry felt remorse and was physically not able to bury her remains (of
course after having sex with'em). Henry went back to "The House of
Prayer" and told the members that Becky left him and went back to
Florida on her own. They believed the grieving Henry and invited him
back into the community. After that Henry killed once again: this time a
86 year old woman who he had taken care in the past. Henry was going to
take her to church, but when she didn't believe Henry's story concerning
Becky, Henry drove away, bought some beers, killed the 80 year old
woman, had sex with her, sliced her into little pieces and spent all
night burning them in the comunity's stove... After a pretty long
procedure officer "Hound Dog" Conway managed to track Henry down and
made him confess the murders of Becky and the 80 year old woman. And
again this was the start of a serial, not a serial killing, but a serial
confession. The years after June 11th 1984 Lucas started confessing and
in the end he had confessed to 350 of the worst sex killings ever. Of
those 350 confessions, 157 were practically proven to be an act of
Lucas' sick mind. Of course, as it's so typical for Henry's story, there
are different stories. One telling that the Hand Of Dead was arranging
alibi's for Henry so it seemed impossible that Henry has commited those
murders, one which is told by the investigators: he killed 157, one that
is told again by Henry: "I didn't kill anyone, but mom", one that tells
Henry that was forced by the police to confess, etc etc. Henry Lee Lucas
ended up in the electric chair. Even though Henry is called the biggest
liar in the American story, I think, when only a part of his story is
the truth, Henry makes people like Jeffrey Dahmer looking like sissies.
Henry Lee LUCAS & Ottis TOOLE
The Tag Team from Hell: the Sadist King and the
Generalissimo of Pain. The numbers speak for themselves, or maybe not.
Lucas and Toole could either be the deadliest team of killers in the
Archives, or the greatest hoaxers in crime history. No one can be quite
sure how many people they killed even if they confessed and recanted up
to 600 murders. Once labelled the "meanest man in America", Lucas, at
the time of his death, was remembered by prison authorities as "the
best" working the prison sewing machines. With his death in March 11,
2001, Henry Lee Lucas took to his grave either a far-reaching confession
hoax, or a lethal cross-country rampage of random serial killing.
As a kid, Henry was the poster child of the
dysfunctional "Future Serial Killer Club". He was uneducated,
malnourished, beaten, abused, and forced to watch his uncaring,
bootlegging, prostitute mother -- Viola Lucas -- turn tricks. His
alcoholic father, called "No Legs" because of a chance encounter with a
freight train, killed himself after repeatedly being humiliated by his
abusive wife. Henry was often forced to go to school wearing a dress and
curlers when he behaved "like a girl". Once he was beat so severely with
a piece of wood that he lay in a semi-conscious state for three days
before one of Violet's boyfriend decided to take him to a local
As a young boy Henry sliced open his eye while
playing with a knife with his brother. His left his gashed orb
unattended for days until it eventually withered and had to be removed
by a doctor. As a teenager he enjoyed sex with his half-brother and dead
animals. The future serial confessor said he first killed and raped a
girl at the age of 15. Not surprisingly Lucas became a juvenile
delinquent and was in and out of correctional institutes until 1960,
when, in a drunken binge, Henry stuck a knife in his mother's back and
proceeded to rape her dead corpse. Later, like on many other occasions,
he recanted his act of inscestuous necrophilia. He got 40 years for
matricide and was sent to prison and a hospital for the criminally
insane in Michigan, where he was diagnosed as a suicidal psychopath,
sadist, and sexual deviant.
Inexplicably he was out after serving only 15 years
to launch his stellar, cross-country serial killing spree. After his
release he had an unsuccessful marriage (which ended when his wife
realised he was having sex with her two small girls) and lived for a
while with his sister Wanda, leaving when she accused him of sexually
abusing her young daughter.
In 1978, after a chance meeting in a Jacksonville
soup kitchen, he joined up with a part-time transvestite and deeply
psychotic retard, Ottis Toole, to carry out numerous murderous
escapades. Ottis had a taste for human flesh and had many of his victims
for dinner. Henry, however, was not a cannibal because, he said, he
disliked the taste of Ottis' barbecue sauce. He was more of a sadist and
a necrophile, preferring sex with mutilated bodies and live or dead
The consummate killer couple, they enjoyed picking up
hitchhikers to satisfy their lust for blood. Sometimes, when they didn't
want to go through the hassle of killing and disposing of their prey,
they would just run over the occasional hitchhiker and continue on their
merry way. These lethal lovebirds parted ways after Ottis' 12-year-old
niece, Becky Powell, shacked up with Henry. One day the unfortunate
lassie lost her temper and struck Henry in the face. Not Mr. Nice Guy,
Lucas grabbed a carving knife and stabbed her in the heart killing her
instantly. After raping her post-mortem, he dismembered her, stuffed her
in pillowcases and left her remains strewn over a field.
Lucas was arrested in June 15, 1983, for a minor
weapons charge and suspicion of the murder of a 75-year-old Montague
County woman. During a court proceeding there shortly after his arrest,
he confessed to the murders of up to 600 people accross the country.
Lucas' highly publicized confession spree prompted detectives from 40
states to visiti him to talk about an estimated 3,000 homicides. He
later recanted, claiming he wanted to make police "look stupid", which
after all is said and done, he did. "That's just a bunch of garbage I
put together," Lucas said of the confessions in a 1998 interview with
The Associated Press. "I'm not some kind of saint, but I do believe I'll
go to heaven. And I do believe those who did the killings will be
punished by God." He blamed the confessions on a steady diet of
tranquilizers, steaks, hamburgers and milkshakes fed to him by
investigators, along with crime scene clues he said he parroted back to
detectives. Unfortunately for the victims and their relatives, many of
those murder cases were never reopened.
After his arrest, Lucas toured the country as a star
killer uncovering evidence of his handiwork for local police departments
to the tune of 600 dead. In 1985, Dallas Times-Herald journalist, Hugh
Aynesworth, claimed their reign of terror was a hoax and that
overzealous detectives fed the would-be killers many details of their
crimes. Henry and Ottis confessed to a huge amount of murders in 26
states. Henry even claimed to have carried the poison to Guyana as a
favor to his good friend Jim Jones.
Many investigators still believe that Lucas -- a
fifth-grade dropout -- was responsible for between three and twelve
killings and the real criminals were the officers who fed him
information on unsolved cases and coerced confessions. Serial killer
expert Robert Ressler believes Henry might be responsible for as little
as five killings. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
To many investigators' surprise one of Henry's
earliest alleged victims, a Virginia schoolteacher, was found alive and
kicking after he was charged with her murder. Not one to hold back his
most outrageous boasts, he claimed to have committed murders in Spain
and Japan eventhough there's no evidence suggesting he ever left the
Some of the crimes, he said, were committed under
orders from the Satanic cult, the "Hand of Death." After confessing to
over 300 hits, Hank recanted it all only to confess again when he became
born-again. For the last 18 years, Hank has been living in Death Row in
Huntsville, Texas, where he works the sewing machines making guard
Meanwhile back in Florida, Ottis was diagnosed as a
paranoid schizophrenic and his death sentence was commuted to six
consecutive life terms. In prison Ottis confessed and later recanted
killing 6-year-old Adam Walsh, whose 1981 disappearance outside a
Hollywood, Florida, mall set off a nationwide manhunt and launched the
TV career of his father, John Walsh, as the creator and host of the Fox
television series "America's Most Wanted."
On September 15, 1996, Ottis died in a prison
hospital of liver failure. Walsh, who repeatedly criticized the police
handling of his son's case, questioned why investigators did not try to
interview Toole on his deathbed or try for another confession. Speaking
from prison after Ottis' death, Lucas said Toole killed Adam and later
showed him the remains of the boy in a shallow grave. "I got sick about
it. I said let's get the hell out of here."
On March 31, 1998, Texas State District Judge John
Carter set June 30 as the execution date for Henry Lee for the 1979
murder of an unidentified female hitchhiker known by law enforcment as
"Orange Socks". The victim was so named because the socks were all she
was wearing when her body was found in a ditch off Interstate 35 near
Georgetown, north of Austin.
On June 27, 1998, the then Governor (now president)
George W. Bush spared Henry's life because of overwhelming evidence
proving that the drifter was not in Texas when "Orange Socks" was
murdered. Although Lucas confessed four times to killing her, work
records and a cashed paycheck indicated he was working as a roofer in
Florida at the time of the murder. Bush -- who as governor executed 152
inmates -- issued the only reprieve in his career on the recommendation
of the state parole board. "I can only thank them for believing the
truth and having guts enough for standing up for what's right," Lucas
said from death row. After the commutation, Lucas predicted that there
was an "80 percent chance" he would walk free someday.
"Henry Lee Lucas is unquestionably guilty of other
despicable crimes which he has been sentenced to spend the rest of his
life in prison," said Bush, in Brownsville for a conference of
U.S.-Mexico border state governors. "However, I believe there is enough
doubt about this particular crime that the state of Texas should not
impose its ultimate penalty by executing him."
Besides the life term for the Orange Socks killing,
Lucas was serving five other life sentences and 210 years in prison for
three other slayings. The district attorney who prosecuted the Orange
Socks case, Ken Anderson, said Tuesday he believes Lucas killed anywhere
from three to a dozen people. "I don't think he knew exactly," Anderson
said "He had no reliability. He had such a chaotic life. It's difficult
to imagine you can rely on anything he said, but the fact remains he was
a serial killer even though we're unable to pinpoint the exact number."
In 1999, Henry made it in the news again when he told
reporters he had become fascinated by drifter Angel Maturino Resendiz,
the Railroad Killer who has been connected to at least eight slayings in
Texas, Kentucky and Illinois. "If this was 1983, I'd claim these
murders, too," Lucas told the Houston Chronicle.
Henry died March 12, 2001, in his cell in Huntsville
of natural causes. He was 64 at the time of his death.
Henry Lee LUCAS
By Bonnie Bobi
For several years during the mid-1980s, Henry Lee
Lucas enjoyed holding the title of "the most infamous man on death row."
His fleeting fame did not evolve from the three cold-blooded murders he
did commit, but from hundreds of murders he did not. When Lucas was
sentenced to death in 1984, it wasn’t for the 1960 murder of his mother.
Nor was it for the 1982 cold-blooded rape and murder of Kate Rich, an
82-year-old Texas woman. And it wasn’t even for the 1982 murder and
dismemberment of Becky Powell, his longtime girlfriend. Instead, Lucas
was sent to death row for the 1979 rape and murder of a woman known only
as "Orange Socks" – a woman he probably never met.
After Lucas served 10 years in prison for the murder
of his mother, he was released on parole ¾ free to kill again. And he
did. During Lucas’ second murder trial, in 1983, he shocked a Texas
courtroom when he not only confessed to killing the elderly Rich, but
then announced: "And I’ve got 100 more out there somewhere."
Following news reports of Lucas’ outburst, detectives
and investigators from 19 states lined up to interview him while a
special task force worked around the clock to help lawmen solve more
than 600 murders that Lucas would eventually confess to.
Lucas’ general attitude was summed up in an early
jailhouse interview, "I didn’t have no feelings about killing (him). It
was just like I drink a glass of water."
As Lucas confessed to murder after murder, closing
more than 200 cases, real murderers were left undisturbed.
What made so many well-trained investigators err so
many times? Denton County, Tex., Sheriff Weldon Lucas once offered, "He
can make an interviewer believe anything."
But why would any man admit to murders he did not
commit? For Lucas, it was a game — a game in which he was winning.
Henry Lee Lucas was born on Aug. 23, 1936, in the
back woods of Virginia, near a small community named Blacksburg in the
Appalachians. He lived with his family in a two-room log cabin with dirt
floors. His alcoholic parents brewed moonshine whiskey, and his mother,
Viola, ruled her family with an iron rod, often forcing her children to
work on the still.
His father, Anderson, gained the nickname "No Legs"
in a drunken spree that resulted in his losing both of his legs in a
freight train accident. Afterwards, he occasionally sold pencils on
street corners while Viola turned tricks for extra cash. Lucas had eight
brothers and sisters, many of whom were farmed out over the years to
institutions, relatives, and foster homes. For some reason, Viola kept
Henry at home. She often beat him, along with his father, occasionally
forcing them to watch her sexual endeavors with strangers. Sickened by
one such episode, Anderson dragged himself outside to spend the night in
the cold where he contracted a fatal case of pneumonia.
When Lucas entered school in 1943, Viola sometimes
sent him off in a dress and ringlets — and always shoeless. When Lucas
returned home from school one day wearing a pair of shoes his teacher
had given him, Viola severely beat him for accepting the gift.
As a teenager, he reported having sex with his
half-brother and with animals whose throats they slit first. At 17, one
of Lucas’ brothers accidentally struck him in the left eye with a knife.
He suffered at home for several days until someone finally took him to a
doctor who removed the eye and replaced it with prosthetic glass.
Crime and Punishment
As Lucas grew older, he became bitter and distant.
Malnourished and uneducated, he never developed an ability to assign
value to life. He spent his teen years in and out of jail, beginning in
1954 when he was arrested for a string of burglaries near Richmond, Va.
Lucas was sentenced to six years in the Virginia State Prison, but on
Sept. 14, 1957, he escaped from a road gang and fled to his older
sister’s home in Tecumseh, Mich. Three months later, he was recaptured
and returned to Virginia where he attempted another escape a month
later. This time he was caught the same day. Despite the two escapes,
Lucas was released on Sept. 2, 1959, one year early. He went back to
live with his sister in Tecumseh where he was plagued by calls from his
mother, insisting that he return to live with her in Virginia. When he
refused, Viola followed him to Michigan.
On the night of Jan. 11, 1960, Lucas and his mother
went to drink at a local bar. "I was pretty well drunk when she started
arguing with me, wanting me to go back to live with her to Virginia, but
I told her I didn’t want nothing to do with her," Lucas remembers more
than 20 years later.
When they left for home, still arguing, they took the
dispute to an upstairs bedroom and railed at each other into the early
hours of the following morning. At one point, Viola hit Lucas with a
broom. He struck back with a knife. When the fight was over, 74-year-old
Viola was dead. The next day, she was found on the bedroom floor with a
fatal stab wound in her neck. Lucas, who was immediately suspected, was
nowhere to be found.
Five days later, he was spotted in Toledo, Ohio.
"I was picked up by a state trooper and he said I
looked kinda funny with a big, heavy coat on. He said, ‘Well, you just
look suspicious, ya know,’" Lucas recalled during an American Justice
interview more than 30 years later.
While running a routine check, the trooper learned
that the heavily clad visitor was wanted in Michigan on a murder charge.
When Lucas was locked up, he confessed to murdering his mother and
raping the corpse. Lucas wrote in a statement: "I had a knife in my
hand, but I do not know if the blade was opened or closed. I do not know
if I got the pocketknife from my pocket or just had it in my hand. When
I hit her with the knife, she fell to the floor, and I looked at the
knife in my hand and the blade was open."
He later recanted the jailhouse confession, telling
his defense attorney Carol Durst that after he stole the car, he had a
change of heart because he was worried about his mother. Thinking she
was only injured, he decided to go back and help her; he was returning
to the scene when the trooper stopped him.
Whether or not anyone believed that claim, Lucas had
confessed to stabbing Viola. In his pocket, police found a pocketknife
consistent with the murder wounds. That was enough to prosecute Lucas.
In March 1960, Judge Rex Martin presided over the
trial held in the nearby town of Adrian, Mich. Since Lucas had
confessed, the defense did not dispute that he had killed his mother.
Instead, the issue at trail was the degree of sentencing: Was he guilty
of first-degree murder or manslaughter?
Durst argued that the crime was committed without
premeditation, malice, or intent to kill. To help make its case, the
defense put Lucas on the stand. In court, he calmly repeated the story
he had told police, although now, he couldn’t remember hitting his
mother with a knife. Lucas showed no sign of emotion or remorse, and his
attorneys grew weary of his cold-blooded nature. Durst revealed that
Lucas told her he liked knives and would use them to cut up small
animals like cats and mice. "So that was something he seemed to think
was fun to do," Durst concluded.
Despite their concerns, the defense tried to foster
sympathy from the jury by detailing Lucas’ harsh upbringing that warped
his perception of the world. Both his brother, Ray, and sister, Opal,
testified to growing up in Virginia amid poverty and abuse.
Lucas said, "I’ve got gashes in the back of my head.
I’ve got black and blue marks on my body from being beaten every day. If
I didn’t do something she wanted, I got beaten." He said his mother
abused him not only physically, but emotionally as well.
The jurors had sympathy for the way Lucas was raised,
but didn’t think he killed his mother by accident. They compromised,
handing down a verdict of second-degree murder. When it was announced in
court, Lucas had no reaction.
He was sent to Jackson State Penitentiary in southern
Michigan. A social worker there met Lucas and observed "a very
inadequate individual with feelings of insecurity and inferiority."
After two attempted suicides, Lucas was transferred to a mental facility
and paroled in 1970 after serving 10 years.
Shortly after his release, Lucas was jailed again —
this time for trying to kidnap two teenaged girls. He was sent back to
his old cellblock where he lived until he was 39. After his release in
August 1975, he became a drifter.
Lucas Meets Toole
As Lucas traveled from town to town, his only
ambition was to stay alive while avoiding the law. His success was
short-lived. While in Jacksonville, Fla., Lucas stopped at a soup
kitchen where he shared a meal with Ottis Toole, a part-time
transvestite with a penchant for arson. They became quick friends, and,
according to Toole, lovers. Soon Lucas moved in with Toole, at his
mother’s home where Toole’s young niece, Becky Powell, also lived. Lucas
and the preteen girl quickly grew close.
Powell, diagnosed with a mild case of mental
retardation, hungered for kindness and companionship. She got both from
Lucas, and in her eyes, he was somebody important. Her devotion to Lucas
fed his weak psyche, one filled with low self-confidence and esteem. She
was the first person who ever made him feel special.
In 1981, Toole’s mother died and the three of them
were forced to move out of the house. Along with Becky, they began
roaming the interstates. When Lucas and Toole finally split up, Lucas
took Becky with him and headed west. In May 1982, the pair ended up in
Ringgold, Tex., near the Oklahoma border. They moved in with
octogenarian Kate Rich, whose family quickly became suspicious and
kicked Lucas and Powell back out onto the street. Then they met Ruben
The House of Prayer
Moore, a roofer and part-time minister, brought them
to his Stoneburg, Tex., House of Prayer, an abandoned chicken ranch with
makeshift living quarters for drifters and lost souls. Lucas and Powell
settled there, passing themselves off as husband and wife, although
Lucas was now 45 and Powell still a teenager.
Lucas once said, "That was the best part of my life.
I built myself an apartment there and worked as a roofer on Moore’s
crew. I bought a car and had what furniture I could buy for the house. I
had a TV and stuff like that."
But Powell, who was homesick and wanted to go back to
Florida, convinced Lucas to leave. On Aug. 23, 1982, Moore took them to
a truck stop and said good-bye. The following evening, Lucas returned to
The House of Prayer in tears. He told Moore that Powell had jumped into
a passing truck and left him. Lucas resumed his life on the old ranch.
No one ever heard from Powell again.
The Confessions Begin
One month later, the elderly Rich turned up missing,
and the Montague County sheriff’s office started an investigation that
quickly led to Lucas, who denied any involvement.
In June 1983, Lucas was arrested on a weapons charge
and held in the Montague County jail. After five days without cigarettes
and coffee, Lucas was ready to confess to anything. He wrote a note from
his jail cell: "To Whom It May Concern, I, Henry Lee Lucas, to try to
clear this matter up, I killed Kate Rich on September last year. I have
tried to get help so long and no one will help. I have killed for the
past 10 years and no one will believe it."
In his statement, Lucas said that he picked up Rich
to go to church, but instead, drove around for a while. He then got the
urge to kill her and have sex with her corpse. So he drove to an oil
field and stabbed her to death. He dragged her down an embankment and
then had sex with the body before stuffing it in a culvert and leaving.
Later, he returned to the oil field and brought her body back to his
apartment. To destroy the evidence, he stuffed the body into a stove
that sat in his yard and burned her over a two-day period.
When Lucas finished his statement, he told
investigators there was something else he wanted to get off his chest.
Out of the blue, he confessed to killing Powell, who was still thought
to be alive.
Evidence Is Found
During the investigation at The House of Prayer,
human bone fragments and ashes were found in the wood-burning stove.
Rich’s daughters identified their mother’s eyeglasses that were found in
the yard. The crime scene corroborated Lucas’ story, and witnesses had
seen Lucas with Rich on the day she disappeared. He was charged with
Meanwhile, he offered details on the Powell murder.
Lucas told investigators that when he and Powell left the House of
Prayer, they argued while trying to get a ride. He said the argument
began when Powell said she wanted to go back to Jacksonville. Lucas
refused because of an outstanding warrant for his arrest there. Just
before reaching Denton, they decided to get some sleep in an empty field
off the road. Powell didn’t survive the night.
Lucas took investigators to the scene and described
what happened next. "So we went back first to that little tree over
there as you go off on the road...and we kept arguing, cussing at each
other, and...she hauled off and hit me upside the head, and that was it.
That’s when I hit her with the knife. I just picked it up off the
blanket, brought it around, hit her right in the chest with it. And she
just sorta sat there for a little bit and then dropped over, ya know. I
cut her up into little teeny pieces and stuffed her into three
pillows... I stuffed all of her in there except her legs."
Two weeks after the murder, Lucas said he went back
to bury the body parts. During the confession, he said that he loved
Powell, but ended up killing her because of problems he had all his
Skeletal remains were found to be those of a white
girl around the same height, weight, and age of Powell. Lucas was again
charged with murder.
In June 1983, during the arraignment for the Rich
case, the judge asked Lucas if he understood the charges. He said he did
and admitted his guilt. He then went on to tell the judge that he had
murdered a hundred women. Lucas quickly became front-page news.
During the trial that resulted in a 75-year sentence,
the streets of Montague County became a feeding frenzy for the media.
Police from all over the country called the sheriff, hoping that Lucas
was the key to unsolved murders in their area.
During the media extravaganza, Lucas went on trial
for the Powell murder. His defense again argued the killing was
unintentional, and that he hit her with a knife before he had time to
think. In front of the jury, Lucas sobbed and said he loved Powell and
didn’t want her dead.
But, the defense had to deal with Lucas’ videotaped
confession, which included the following statement: "I had sex,
intercourse with her. It’s one of those things that I guess got to be
part of my life, having sexual intercourse with the dead."
It took the jury only two hours to hand down the
stiffest possible penalty for the crime — life in prison. After the
verdict was read, Lucas got up, shook hands with the prosecutor, smiled
at him and said, "You did a good job."
After the trial, Lucas began confessing to other
murders all over the country. He originally offered a list of 77 women
from 19 different states. He wrote detailed descriptions of the women
and drew sketches next to some of their names. As he confessed to more
and more murders, the details became increasingly more bizarre. Some
included dismemberment, necrophilia, even cannibalism.
Lawmen from all over the country were requesting
samples of Lucas’ saliva, fingerprints, and hair. One investigator said
that at one point in time, they ran out of pubic hair to get from Lucas
to send to people.
Lucas said he picked up most of his victims along the
interstates, offering a ride and sometimes dinner or a drink. "Just
about everyone I pick up, I kill ‘em. That’s the way it always turn
Lucas said he killed his victims to have sex with
them; "... to me a live woman ain’t nothing. I enjoy dead sex more than
I do live sex."
During one interview, Lucas said Toole had helped him
commit many of the highway killings. Toole, whom investigators found
serving time in Florida for arson, readily backed up Lucas’ claims.
Toole told Florida investigators, "We picked up lots
of hitchhikers, you know, and Lucas killed most of the women hisself,
and some of them would be shot in the head and the chest, and some of
them would be choked to death, and some of them would be beat in the
head with a tire tool."
The six-foot-tall, snaggle-toothed criminal said that
when he dressed up like a woman, he could get plenty of people to come
and ride with him and Lucas.
As the investigations continued, Lucas’s own estimate
of his victims soon grew to more than 600. In the fall of 1983,
investigators from 19 states gathered in Louisiana to swap information
on Lucas and Toole.
At the end of the sessions, lawmen linked the two men
to 81 murders, and many cases were soon closed.
One of the victims Lucas confessed to killing was
"Orange Socks," an unidentified woman found in a culvert wearing only
red-orange socks. This case resulted in a capital charge for Lucas, and
in late November 1983, Jim Boutwell, the sheriff of Williamson County in
central Texas, brought Lucas to his jail to await trial. Boutwell had
been anxious to talk to Lucas about a string of unsolved murders in his
county on Interstate 35, and, according to Lucas, the sheriff assured
that he would keep him happy during the investigation.
A task force was set up there to handle all the
inquiries coming in about Lucas from around the country. Here, Lucas was
the center of attention. When he wasn’t talking face-to-face with an
officer, he was in the task-force office on the phone with detectives
from other locales, talking to them about their unsolved crimes. Lucas
realized that he had become a valuable commodity and seemed to revel in
the daily business affairs of the task force.
Soon, Lucas was leading an entourage of investigators
and newsmen to crime scenes across the country. No physical evidence
linked him to the crimes, but he seemed able to give details and know
the murder scenes. Lucas was leading them all on a merry chase, a chase
he still brags about today. He had become a criminal celebrity, and, in
Lucas’ mind, that meant that he had really become somebody important.
In those days, he enjoyed giving interviews that
would spark attention: "I’ve killed by strangulation. I’ve killed by
hit-and-runs, by shootings, by robberies, by hangings. Every type of
crime, I’ve done it. I’ve got more female population hating my guts,
more than any other place in the earth."
As his notoriety grew, so did the number of victims
he claimed. His stories consistently became more outrageous. At one
point, he claimed that he and Toole killed because they were recruited
by a devil-worshipping cult called Hands of Death. Lucas said the cult
practiced human sacrifice: "They take a live girl and put her on the
table and split her open and take all of her organs out, and take the
body and cremate the body." He then said that the cult members would
bury the organs or "sometimes they put them in a pot and cooked ‘em."
Toole backed up Lucas’ most outrageous statements.
During one interview, Toole said, "And you know one
time, you fileted some of them bodies, and I did too...tastes like real
meat when it got barbecue sauce on it, don’t it?"
The outlandish confessions drew skepticism from some
officers, but it was still believed that Lucas was a prolific serial
On Apr. 2, 1984, Lucas faced his forth murder trial,
this time for the murder of Orange Socks, killed Halloween night 1979.
The stakes were high: Lucas faced the death penalty. There was no
physical evidence linking him to the crime, but as in so many other
cases ¾ Lucas had confessed.
At one point before the trial, he recanted, but later
said he wanted the death penalty. Regardless, his attorneys mounted an
aggressive defense based on an alibi.
Don Higginbotham, Lucas’ defense attorney, claimed
that at the time of the alleged murder in central Texas, Lucas was
working on the roof of a naval air station in Jacksonville, Fla.
But, prosecutors argued that Lucas was recorded
saying that he paid off the roofing foreman so he could leave work for
long periods of time and still get paid.
Defense argued that such a payoff was implausible,
and Lucas lied to investigators only to please them during an interview.
Higginbotham said that Lucas was working for a
federal entity at the naval air station that awarded bonuses for work
completed early. The attorney pointed out that the foreman would have
been financially better off by completing the job early than taking a
few paltry dollars from Lucas.
Lucas, however, had cashed a paycheck in Florida the
day after the murder, making it nearly impossible for him to have
committed the crime in Texas. An expert confirmed Lucas’ signature on
Prosecutor Ken Anderson suggested that Lucas did indeed cash the check,
but still had plenty of time to get back to Texas to commit the crime.
Higginbotham defied the prosecutor’s assertion: "It’s
approximately 12 - 1,300 miles from between Williamson County and
Jacksonville. He would have had to be averaging a speed of 70 mph the
entire time to get back. That means no stops. It is nearly impossible."
Higginbotham’s theory lost its impact after the jury
heard a taped confession from Lucas: "We were talking about sex, and she
told me, ‘Not right now.’ She went to jump out of the car when I grabbed
her and pulled her back into the car. She was fighting so hard, I almost
lost control of the car and wrecked. I pulled over. I grabbed her by the
neck and choked her until she died. I had sex with her again."
Then, Lucas said, he drove all the way to Georgetown,
Tex., with a dead woman in the back seat. On videotape, he described
where he took the girl.
The defense maintained that Lucas was fed the details
by investigators, weaving the facts into a false and improbable story.
They said that the defendant didn’t know many key facts of the crime in
his first taped confession, but was fed the details later.
The prosecution argued that if Lucas accidentally
confessed to murdering Orange Socks, it was only because he had killed
so many others. In the end, Lucas’ confession was enough to convince the
jury. They found him guilty and handed down the death penalty.
Murderer or Prankster?
Although Lucas recanted the Orange Socks murder, he
kept confessing to scores of other crimes. As a result, instead of going
to death row, he returned to his comfortable cell at task force
headquarters. There he confessed to and was charged with seven more
murders, based on his dubious confessions, with these convictions
resulting in life sentences. Lucas’ game with anxious lawmen was about
to end, however.
On Apr. 14, 1985, The Dallas Times Herald ran a
front-page story indicating that a number of Lucas’ confessions were
lies. The article revealed that he couldn’t possibly have committed many
of the crimes he confessed to because he was hundreds, or sometimes
thousands, of miles away from the killings.
Hugh Aynesworth, a reporter who wrote one of the
articles, had met with Lucas regularly since 1983. He said that Lucas
had told him that he killed three people: his mother, Powell, and Rich.
But that was it — all the others were false. Lucas explained that it was
his way of getting back at law enforcement; he wanted to embarrass them
because of the shabby way he was treated. Lucas told Aynesworth, "They
think I’m stupid. When all of this is over, they’ll know who’s really
According to Lucas, anxious investigators and the
Texas Rangers fed him the details he needed to make his confessions
Lucas said, "I’d go through files. I’d look through
pictures, everything that concerned that murder. And, when the detective
come from that state, or that town, ya know, I’d tell them all about
that murder. I’d knew about the murder. I’d only give them bits and
pieces. They didn’t care. They wanted to solve it."
Aynesworth suggested that when Lucas’ crime details
didn’t match up, Boutwell, the sheriff of Williamson County, would give
him a chance to change his confession.
Lucas also claimed police made it easy for him to
recognize crime scenes: "They’d ask me to go with them to a crime scene.
We’d go out driving, ya know, and I look for a house or a number that I
had seen in these pictures. And it might take me three, four times
around the block before I’d point out to them. I’d say, ‘Yea, that’s it
up there.’ And I’d tell them about the murder that happened there. And
that’s the way they solved the crimes."
In mid-April 1985, as news reports broke, Texas
Attorney General Jim Mattox, who had his own doubts about Lucas, decided
to take a closer look into the matter. He called a grand jury to
investigate three of the murders. In the meantime, with the original
Orange Socks sentence still intact, the 49-year-old Lucas was finally
sent to his death-row digs in Huntsville.
Mattox’s report noted that, with the exception of the
Powell case, Lucas had never led authorities to the murder sites. The
report concluded that investigators had fed Lucas the information he
used to build his confessions and that some law enforcement officials
cleared cases just to get them off their books. The report also
criticized the task force for not doing anything to bring an end to the
Lucas affair as evidence of a hoax mounted.
Despite the controversy, many task force members
still contend that Lucas was a prolific serial killer; others simply
believe that Lucas had an uncanny memory for details and had learned how
to manipulate investigators.
Denton County Sheriff Weldon Lucas said during an
American Justice interview, "Once you ask him about a murder, you have
to give him a certain location, and if you don’t watch out, Henry will
have you tell him how it happened, where it happened, and when it
happened. And then, he’ll repeat it back to you. He was a nightmare as
far as investigators go because he was so street savvy, it’s unreal."
Other lawmen later speculated that Lucas’ motivation
for the string of confessions revolved around the treatment he received
from Boutwell at the Williamson facility where Lucas had a comfortable
existence. When Lucas was asked about Boutwell, he said, "He treated me
as a son. He bought me anything I would want. If I wanted a sandwich, he
bought me a sandwich. If I wanted a steak, I got it. It didn’t matter,
ya know. I lived better in jail than I did on the street, ya know."
Defense investigator Brad Shellady told an American
Justice interviewer that he didn’t think Lucas wanted to give up
anything he had. "You see, they got to the point where he didn’t have to
wear prison clothes. He got all the artistic materials he wanted, all
the cigarettes he wanted, cable TV in his cell. As Henry said to me,
‘They treated me like a king. Why would I want to change things?’ The
instant you stop confessing — you’re going to death row."
A lie detector test Lucas eventually took indicated
that he did not kill Orange Socks and that he was in Florida on the
night she was killed. During one of Lucas’ appeals, the defense pointed
out that the Orange Socks conviction was based on murder and rape. But,
when the pathologist did the autopsy on her body, he found no signs of
rape. He also found that she had an advanced case of syphilis, and Lucas
has never been diagnosed with a venereal disease.
Lucas now says he wishes "I had kept my mouth shut. I
do regret speaking up...they had me drugged up on thorazine and freezing
to death in my jail cell, and I didn’t want to live anymore, and I
wanted to open up people’s eyes to what was going on in law enforcement,
how they didn’t care if they got the right person or not. I don’t think
anybody, a human being anyway, could kill 600 people."
As it turns out, Toole didn’t need help from Lucas to
gain notoriety. While awaiting trial for an arson murder in 1983, Toole
confessed to the grisly slaying of 6-year-old Adam Walsh. The boy’s
father, John Walsh, now host of television’s America’s Most Wanted, made
sure that Toole’s name was known throughout the country. Although Toole
twice confessed to the 1981 murder and decapitation of the young boy,
Walsh was never able to get a conviction. In 1996, Toole died from
cirrhosis of the liver while serving five consecutive life sentences on
On June 26, 1998, Texas Governor George Bush commuted
Lucas’ death sentence to life imprisonment because an investigation by
the Attorney General of Texas determined that Lucas could not have
killed Orange Socks. Lucas is the only death row inmate to ever receive
clemency from Governor Bush.
LUCAS, Henry Lee
America's most controversial
murderer was born August 23, 1936, at Blacksburg, Virginia. The
Lucas family home was a two-room, dirt-floor cabin in the woods
outside of town, where Henry's alcoholic parents brewed bootleg
whiskey, his mother doing occasional turns as the neighborhood
prostitute. Viola Lucas ran her family with a rod of iron, while
husband Anderson Lucas - dubbed "No Legs" after his drunken
encounter with a freight train - dragged himself around the house
and tried to drown his personal humiliation in a nonstop flow of
The Lucas brood consisted of nine
children, but several were farmed out to relatives, institutions,
and foster homes over the years. Henry was one of those "lucky"
enough to remain with his parents, and mother Viola appears to have
hated the child from the moment of birth, seizing every opportunity
to make his life a living hell on earth.
Both Anderson and Henry were the
targets of her violent outbursts, man and boy alike enduring wicked
beatings, forced to witness the parade of strangers who were called
upon to share Viola's bed. Sickened by one such episode, Anderson
Lucas dragged himself outside to spend a night in the snow, there
contracting a fatal case of pneumonia. Henry survived, after a
fashion, but his mother's cruelty seemed to know no bounds.
When Lucas entered school, in
1943, she curled his stringy hair in ringlets, dressed him as a girl,
and sent him off to class that way. Barefoot until a kindly teacher
bought him shoes, Henry was beaten at home for accepting the gift.
If Henry found a pet, his mother killed it, and he came to
understand that life -- like sex - was cheap. When Henry's eye was
gashed, reportedly while playing with a knife, Viola let him suffer
until doctors had to surgically remove the withered orb, replacing
it with glass.
On one occasion, after he was
beaten with a piece of lumber, Henry lay semi-conscious for three
days before Viola's live-in lover - "Uncle Bernie" -- took him to a
local hospital for treatment. Bernie also introduced the boy to
bestiality, teaching Henry to kill various animals after they were
raped and tortured.
At age 15, anxious to try sex with
a human being, Lucas picked up a girl near Lynchburg, strangled her
when she resisted his clumsy advances, and buried her corpse in the
woods near Harrisburg, Virginia. (The March 1951 disappearance of
17-year-old Laura Burnley would remain unsolved for three decades,
until Lucas confessed the murder in 1983.)
In June 1954, a series of
burglaries around Richmond earned Lucas a six-year prison term. He
walked away from a road gang on September 14, 1957, and authorities
tracked him to his half-sister's home, in Tecumseh, Michigan, three
months later. A second escape attempt, in December 1957, saw Lucas
recaptured the same day, and he was discharged from prison on
September 2, 1959.
Back in Tecumseh, Henry was
furious when his 74-year-old mother turned up on the doorstep,
nagging him incessantly with her demands that he return to
Blacksburg. Both of them were drinking on the night of January 11,
1960, when she struck him with a broom and Henry struck back with a
knife, leaving her dead on the floor. Arrested five days later, in
Toledo, Ohio, Lucas confessed to the murder and boasted of raping
his mother's corpse, a detail he later retracted as "something I
Convicted in March 1960, he drew a
term of 20 to 40 years in prison. Two months later, he was
transferred to Ionia's state hospital for the criminally insane,
where he remained until April 1966. Paroled on June 3, 1970, Lucas
went back to Tecumseh and moved in with relatives. In December 1971,
Henry was booked on a charge of molesting two teenaged girls. The
charge was reduced to simple kidnapping at his trial, and Lucas went
back to the state pen at Jackson. Paroled in August 1975, over his
own objections, Henry found brief employment at a Pennsylvania
mushroom farm, then married Betty Crawford the widow of a cousin -
in December 1975.
Three months later, they moved to
Port Deposit, Maryland, and Betty divorced him in the summer of
1977, charging that Lucas molested her daughters by a previous
marriage. Meanwhile, according to Henry's confessions, he had
already launched a career of random murder, traveling and killing as
the spirit moved him, claiming victims in Maryland and farther
In late 1976, he met 29-year-old
Ottis Toole at a Jacksonville, Florida, soup kitchen. The homosexual
Toole was an arsonist and serial killer in his own right, and they
hit it off immediately, swapping grisly tales of their adventures in
homicide. Over the next six and a half years, Lucas and Toole were
fast friends, occasional lovers and frequent traveling companions,
taking their murderous act on the road. A bachelor once again by
1978, Lucas moved in with Toole's family in Jacksonville. There, he
met Toole's niece and nephew, Frieda and Frank Powell, falling
slowly in love with the ten-year-old girl who called herself Becky.
In 1979, Lucas and Toole were
hired by a Jacksonville roofing company, Southeast Color Coat, but
they often missed work as they answered the call of the highway. Two
years later, after Toole's mother and sister died a few months apart,
Becky and Frank were placed in juvenile homes. Lucas helped spring
them both, and they made a quartet on the road, Frank Powell
witnessing deeds that would drive him into a mental institution by
Authorities came looking for Becky
Powell in January 1982, and she fled westward with Lucas. In Hemet,
California, they met Jack and O'Bere Smart, spending four months
with the couple as house guests and hired hands, refinishing
furniture to earn their keep. In May, O'Bere Smart had a brainstorm,
dispatching Lucas and Powell to care for her 80-year-old mother,
Kate Rich, in Ringgold, Texas. Henry and Becky arrived on May 14,
spending four days with Rich and cashing two $50 checks on her bank
account before relatives booted them out of the house.
Thumbing their way out of town,
they were picked up by Ruben Moore and invited to join his religious
commune the All People's House of Prayer - near Stoneburg, Texas.
Becky grew homesick in August, and they set off, hitchhiking, on
August 23. Camped out that night, in Denton County, they began to
quarrel. Becky made the grave mistake of slapping Lucas, and he
stabbed her on the spot, dismembering her corpse and scattering its
parts around the desert.
Back in Stoneburg the next morning,
Lucas explained that Becky had "run off" with a truck driver. Kate
Rich dropped from sight three weeks later, on September 16, and
police grew suspicious when Lucas left town the next day, his car
found abandoned in Needles, California, on September 21.
An arsonist burned Rich's home on
October 17, and deputies were waiting when Lucas surfaced in
Stoneburg the following day. Held on a fugitive warrant from
Maryland, he was released when authorities there dropped pending
charges of auto theft. Chafing under sporadic surveillance, Lucas
huddled with Ruben Moore on June 4, 1983, declaring an intent to "clear
his name" by finding Powell and Rich, wherever they might be. He
left a pistol with Moore, for safe-keeping, and rolled out of town
in a wheezing old junker. Four days later, Moore was summoned to
fetch him from San Juan, New Mexico, where his car had given up the
Returning to Stoneburg on June 11,
Lucas was jailed as an ex-con possessing a handgun. Four nights
later, he summoned the jailer, pressing his face to the bars of his
cage as he whispered, "I've done some bad things."
Over the next 18 months, Lucas
confessed to a seemingly endless series of murders, bumping his
estimated body-count from 75 to 100, then from 150 to 360, tossing
in murders by friends and associates to reach a total "way over
500." Ottis Toole, then serving time on a Florida arson charge, was
implicated in many of the crimes, and Toole chimed in with more
confessions of his own.
Some of the crimes, said Lucas,
were committed under orders from a nationwide Satanic cult, the "Hand
of Death," that he had joined at Toole's request. Toole sometimes
ate the flesh of victims they had killed, but Lucas abstained. His
reason: "I don't like barbecue sauce." Detectives from around the
country gathered in Monroe, Louisiana, in October 1983, comparing
notes and going home convinced that Toole and Lucas were responsible
for at least 69 murders.
A second conference at Monroe, in
January 1984, raised the total to 81. By March 1985, police in 20
states had "cleared" 90 murders for Lucas alone, plus another 108
committed with Toole as an accomplice. Henry stood convicted in nine
deaths - including a Texas death sentence on one of the unsolved
"I-35 murders" - and he was formally charged with 30 others across
the country. Dozens of officers visited Lucas in jail, and he also
toured the country under guard, visiting crime scenes, providing
details from memory.
A California tour, in August 1984,
"cleared" 14 unsolved cases. Five months later, in New Orleans,
Lucas solved five more. In the first week of April 1985, he led a
caravan across the state of Georgia, closing the books on ten
murders. Lucas was barely home from that trip when the storm broke,
on April 15. Writing for the Dallas Times-Herald, journalist Hugh
Aynesworth prepared a series of headline articles, blasting the "massive
hoax" that Lucas had perpetrated, misleading homicide investigators
and the public, sometimes with connivance from the officers
According to Aynesworth, over-zealous
detectives had prompted Lucas with vital bits of information,
coaching him through his confessions, deliberately ignoring evidence
that placed him miles away from various murder scenes at the crucial
moment. From jail, Lucas joined in by recanting his statements
across the board. Aside from his mother, he claimed to have slain
only two victims -Powell and Rich - in his life.
By April 23, he was denying those
crimes, despite the fact that he led police to Becky's grave, while
Rich's bones had been recovered from his stove, at Stoneburg. From
the beginning, officers had been aware of Henry's penchant for
One of his first alleged victims,
a Virginia schoolteacher, was found alive and well by police. Some
of his statements were clearly absurd, including confessions to
murders in Spain and Japan, plus delivery of poison to the People's
Temple cultists in Guyana. On the other hand, there were also
problems with Henry's retraction. Soon after the Aynesworth story
broke, Lucas smuggled a letter to authors Jerry Potter and Joel
Norris, claiming that he had been drugged and forced to recant.
A local minister, close to Lucas
since his 1983 "conversion," produced a tape recording of Henry's
voice, warning listeners not to believe the new stories emerging
from prison. The most curious part about Henry's new tale was the
role of Hugh Aynesworth, himself.
In his newspaper series,
Aynesworth claimed to have known of the "hoax" - hearing the scheme
from Henry's own lips since October 1983. A month later, on November
9, Aynesworth signed a contract to write Henry's biography.
In September 1984, he appeared on
the CBS-TV "Nightwatch" program, offering no objections as
videotapes of the Lucas confessions were aired. As late as February
1985, Aynesworth published a Lucas interview in Penthouse magazine,
prompting Henry with leading remarks about Lucas "killing furiously"
and claiming victims "all over the country" in the 1970s.
Through it all, the Times-Herald
maintained stony silence, allowing the "hoax" to proceed, while
dozens (or hundreds) of killers remained free on the basis of
Henry's "false" confessions. In retrospect, the Aynesworth series
smells strongly of sour grapes. A clue to the author's motive is
found in his first article, with a passing reference to the fact
that Lucas had signed an exclusive publishing contract with a Waco
used-car dealer -- shortly after his June 1983 arrest.
The prior existence of that
contract scuttled Aynesworth's deal, concocted five months later,
and prevented him from winning fame as Lucas's biographer. The next
best thing, perhaps, would be to foul the waters and prevent
competitors from publishing a book about the case. (It is worth
noting that Aynesworth omits all mention of his own contract with
Lucas, while listing various authors who tried to "cash in" on the "hoax.")
Aynesworth produced an elaborate
time-line to support his "fraud" story, comparing Henry's "known
movements" with various crimes to discredit police, but the final
product is riddled with flaws. Aynesworth rules out numerous murders
by placing the Lucas-Toole meeting in 1979, while both killers and
numerous independent witnesses describe an earlier meeting, in late
1976. (In fact, Lucas was living with Toole's family in 1978, a year
before Aynesworth's acknowledged "first meeting.")
The reporter cites pay records
from Southeast Color Coat to prove that the killers seldom left
Jacksonville, but office manager Eileen Knight recalls that they
would often "come and go." (At the same time, Aynesworth places
Lucas in West Virginia while he was working in Florida, the same
error of which he accuses police.)
According to Aynesworth, Lucas
spent "all the time" between January and March 1978 with girlfriend
Rhonda Knuckles, never leaving her side, but his version ignores the
testimony of a surviving witness, tailed by Lucas across 200 miles
of Colorado and New Mexico in February of that year.
The woman remembers Henry's face -
and she recorded his license number for police -- but her story is
lost in Aynesworth's account. At one point, Aynesworth is so anxious
to clear Henry's name that he lists one victim twice on the time-line,
murdered on two occasions, four days apart, in July 1981.
Authorities reacted in various
ways to Henry's turnaround. Arkansas filed new murder charges
against him on April 23, eight days after his change of heart, and
other jurisdictions remain unimpressed by his belated pleas of
innocence. In Marrero, Louisiana, relatives of victim Ruth Kaiser
point out that Lucas confessed to stealing a stereo after he killed
the 79-year-old woman: a theft that was never reported and therefore
could not have been "leaked" by police. As they recalled, "He
described things we had forgotten about, details that never appeared
in the paper and that we never put in a police report."
Investigator Jim Lawson, of the
Scotts Bluff County sheriff's office, in Nebraska, questioned Lucas
in September 1984, regarding the February 1978 murder of
schoolteacher Stella McLean. "I purposely tried to trick him several
times during the interview," Lawson said, "but to no avail. We even
tried to 'feed' him another homicide from our area to see if he was
confessing to anything and everything in an effort to build a name
for himself, but he denied any participation in the crime."
Commander J.T. Duff, intelligence
chief for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, describes Henry's
April 1985 tour thus: "Lucas was not provided with any information
or directions to any of the crime scenes, but gave the information
to law enforcement. When a crime scene was encountered, Lucas
voluntarily and freely gave details that only the perpetrator would
By November 1985, police in 18
states had reopened 90 "Lucas cases," but what of the other 108? And
what of the telephone conversation between Lucas, in Texas, and
Toole, in Florida, monitored by police in November 1983?
At the time, Henry and Ottis had
not seen or spoken to each other in at least seven months, deprived
of any chance to work up a script, but their dialogue lends chilling
support to the later confessions.
LUCAS: Ottis, I don't want you to
think I'm doing this as a revenge.
TOOLE: No. I don't want you to
hold anything back about me.
LUCAS: See, we got so many of them,
Ottis. We got to turn up the bodies. Now, this boy and girl, I don't
know anything about.
TOOLE: Well, maybe that's the two I killed my own self. Just like
that Mexican that wasn't going to let me out of the house. I took an
ax and chopped him an up. What made me -- I been meaning to ask you.
That time when I cooked some of those people. Why'd I do that?
LUCAS: I think it was just the
hands doing it. I know a lot of the things we done, in human sight,
are impossible to believe. Indeed.
And yet, the victims were
dispatched, if not by Toole and Lucas, then by someone else. The
truth may never be revealed, but in the meantime, Henry's jailers
are convinced of his involvement in at least 100 homicides.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
Lucas: Deadly Drifter
Joe Don Weaver
liked the pre-dawn hours more than any other. He hated the day shift in
the Montague County lockup because it usually meant dealing with the
constant noise and chatter of unruly inmates as they carried out their
daily routine. The nights weren't much better. It wasn't until the early
hours of the morning that the place really settled down and became
almost peaceful, a peace only occasionally punctuated by louder than
usual snoring or inmates crying out in their sleep.
particular morning, 15th June 1983, his peaceful reverie was shattered
by shouting coming from a cell at the far end of a hallway. Angry at the
intrusion, Weaver strode down the hallway to investigate. Locating the
source, he stopped before a cell door and shouted, " What do ya' want?"
A feeble voice
answered through the heavy steel door. "There's a light in here."
have to look into the cell to know that it was pitch black. "No there's
became more insistent, almost fearful. "There's a light. And it's talkin'
things," Weaver answered, anxious to put an end to this fantasy. "Now
shut up and get some sleep."
returned to his office, ruminating over the reason for the disruption.
The occupant of the cell was a small, scruffy man who was serving time
for a minor weapons offence as well as being a prime suspect in two
murders. Weaver convinced himself that the prisoner, still in a weakened
condition after a recent suicide attempt, was hallucinating.
A short time
later, another louder yell echoed down the hall. "Jailer! Come here,
returned to the cell and unlocked the food-service hatch in the door and
peered inside. "What is it this time?" He demanded.
Henry Lee Lucas, answered in a quiet, feeble tone. "Joe Don, I done some
pretty bad things."
of the crimes that Lucas was suspected of, answered brusquely. " If it's
what I think it is Henry, you better get down on your knees and pray."
After a long
pause, Lucas asked weakly, "Joe Don, can I have some paper and a
to the strange request and nearly an hour later Lucas handed him a short
letter that was addressed to Sheriff Bill F. Conway.
the opening paragraph, Weaver returned to his office and placed an
urgent call to Sheriff Conway. Even at such an early hour, Weaver was
sure that the Sheriff would want to hear what he had to tell him.
had originally arrested Henry Lee Lucas in October 1982 in regard to the
disappearance and suspected murder of Kate Rich, an 80-year-old widow
who had employed Henry as an odd-job man. Lucas was also questioned
about the mysterious disappearance of his fifteen-year-old common-law
wife, Frieda "Becky" Powell.
For days after
the arrest, Conway, who had earned the nickname "hound dog," for his
dogged, almost mystical, ability to track down suspects, questioned
At one stage,
anxious to crack Lucas's confident demeanor, he deprived Lucas of the
two things he craved most -- coffee and cigarettes.
stuck to his original story. He had left the Rich home and gone to live
in a religious commune. Kate Rich was very much alive when he left, he
insisted. As to Becky, he assured Conway that she had run off with a
truck driver while they were hitchhiking home and he had never seen her
again. After more fruitless questioning and several lie detector tests,
which Lucas passed easily, Conway was forced to let him go.
had no further contact with Lucas until months later when he was
contacted by Reverend Moore, the pastor in charge of the "House of
Prayer" where Lucas had been living. Reverend Moore informed Conway that
Lucas had given him a handgun and asked him to look after it for him.
Conway had never believed Lucas's story and was anxious for another
crack at breaking him. The fact that Lucas was an ex-con and had been in
the possession of a firearm meant that, under Texas law, Conway had
every right to arrest him a second time. The chance was too good to pass
up and Lucas was again jailed and questioned.
session after the arrest had yielded nothing in the way of new
information. More pressure was applied and again Henry was deprived of
his precious coffee and cigarettes. Shortly afterwards, Lucas attempted
suicide. After he had recovered, he was questioned a second time, again
without result. Now it seemed that he was finally ready to confess.
after Weaver's phone call, Lucas was sitting across a desk from Sheriff
Conway ready to tell all. Before turning on a tape recorder and
beginning the interview, Conway glanced again at the crude note he held
in his hands. Lucas had scrawled:
I have tried
to get help for so long and no one will believe me. I have killed for
the past ten years and no one will believe me. I cannot go on doing this.
I also killed the only girl I ever loved.
across at the scruffy looking vagrant before him. "Tell me what you did
to Kate Rich," he asked his prisoner. Lucas hesitated briefly, staring
at the Sheriff with his one good eye before beginning a detailed
confession that was to be, not only the beginning of the biggest serial
murder investigation in history, but also one of the most controversial.
Lucas was born in the early hours of August 23rd, 1936. He was the
youngest of nine children. His mother, Viola Dison Wall Lucas, was a
sadistic, alcoholic whore who earned the bulk of the family's meager
income providing sexual favours to strangers. Henry's father, Anderson,
was also an alcoholic. Having lost both legs after falling down drunk in
the path of a freight train, "No Legs," as he was known in the district,
would supplement the family's income by selling pencils and bootleg
reared in a four-room cabin in Montgomery County, Virginia. The "house"
was little more than a rough shack, with earthen floors throughout and
no power or electricity. Sharing this cramped environment, apart from
the immediate family, was Viola's "boyfriend" and pimp, a sleazy low-life
by the name of Bernie.
occupants of the house shared a single bedroom. The close sleeping
environment meant that young Henry, his brother and, at times his father,
were witness to Viola's sexual escapades with Bernie or whatever "customer"
was present at the time. At times Viola would insist that Henry and his
brother watch her having sex, to the point where she would punish them
if they attempted to leave or look away.
refused to provide any domestic care to her family. She never cleaned
the house or prepared regular meals for anyone except herself and Bernie.
The boys and their father were constantly abused, verbally and
physically, and left to scrounge whatever meals they could. It wasn't
long before the boys were stealing food from neighbouring farms and
stores in town. Viola treated them as hired help, sending them to fetch
water and firewood.
As Henry grew
the chores became harder and the beatings more regular. He was forced to
work from dawn to dusk. One of his jobs was to guard the "still." During
those times, his father would let Henry taste the rough "moon shine"
that he produced. It wasn't long before Henry was drinking the deadly
brew on a daily basis until at the tender age of ten, he was virtually
from his mother's instructions was usually punished swiftly and
violently. On one occasion, after he refused to perform a menial task,
Viola beat Henry over the head with a log of wood. The attack was so
severe that his scalp was split open to the bone and the blows knocked
Henry into a coma that lasted for a full day. Strangely, the only person
who showed any concern after the beating was Bernie. He was convinced
that the police would hear of the attack and come and arrest them.
convinced Viola that they should take Henry to the hospital. To avoid
prosecution, Viola told the doctor that her son had fallen from a
ladder. Fearing reprisal, Henry backed up her story.
When Henry was
old enough for school, Viola further taunted him by curling his hair and
sending him to school in a dress. He was ridiculed and teased by his
classmates until a concerned teacher took the initiative and cut his
hair and provided him with a shirt and pants to wear. Viola was furious
and went to the school and verbally abused the teacher for interfering.
The same teacher would later recall Henry as being a seriously disturbed
child who was constantly filthy and malnourished with distinct learning
additional care and attention that Henry received at school, the
beatings and poor treatment at home continued. Eventually, the beatings
began to take their toll. Henry was gripped by seizures and often
complained of noises and "voices" in his head. To further exacerbate his
difficulties an accident with a knife robbed him of most of the sight in
his left eye. Sometime later, after being hit with a ruler at school,
his eye was irreparably damaged and had to be removed and replaced with
a glass eye.
As Henry grew,
so too did his fascination with the "outside world." He continuously
dreamed of leaving his life of pain and torment behind and "hitting the
Lucas, Henry's father, was the only person in the family that showed any
sign of tenderness towards the boy. When Anderson later died from
pneumonia, after getting inebriated and lying out in the snow, Henry
became bitter and increasingly angry.
It was the
beginnings of a behavioural pattern that would last a lifetime.
By the time he
was thirteen, Henry was almost completely obsessed by sex. He began to
trap animals so that he could use them in his private sexual rituals,
often torturing them to death. Bestiality became normal behaviour. At
about the same time he began to steal more regularly, sometimes for food
but more increasingly for money. Later Henry would brag that he murdered
for the first time in 1952, aged just fourteen.
Lucas told of
how he had abducted a seventeen-year-old girl from a bus stop and beat
her until she was unconscious. He then dragged her to a secluded spot
and attempted to rape her. When the girl woke and started to scream,
Henry strangled her until she lay still. He claims that he had no
intention of killing the girl and told interviewers that it took him a
long time to get over the "terrible thing" that he had done. To date,
there is no record of such a crime having been committed.
Not long after
the event, Henry's brother ran off and joined the Navy. After he left,
Henry spent less and less time at home. Most of the time he wandered
aimlessly through the district looking for trouble. It wasn't long
before he found it and was subsequently arrested for breaking and
entering. He was convicted and sentenced to the Beaumont Training School
for Boys in Virginia. The institution records indicate that while there,
Henry was disruptive and made numerous escape attempts. He later formed
an alliance with a black inmate and, according to prison authorities,
the relationship was "of a sexual nature."
One year later
he was released. The records of his stay in Beaumont describe him as
being friendly one minute and broodingly dangerous the next. The day
after his release, Henry bragged of raping his twelve-year-old niece.
For the next nine months, he worked as a farm hand, learning various
skills until he was picked up for breaking and entering a second time.
He was convicted and, because he was now an adult, sentenced to serve
four years in Virginia State Penitentiary.
to adapt to prison life, learning trade skills and spending much of his
time working on rural road-gangs. In May 1956, while on one such
assignment, he escaped and stole a car and drove to Ohio. He was on the
run for just two months until he was arrested for transporting stolen
property across a state line and sentenced to serve thirteen months in
Chillicothe prison in Ohio. During his brief spell of freedom, he met a
girl named Stella.
release in September 1959, he moved to Tecumseh, Michigan to live with
his half-sister Opal. While there, he contacted Stella and after dating
her for a short time, asked her to marry him. She agreed and they
announced their engagement. Shortly after, Viola came to visit and tried
to persuade Henry to leave Stella and come back and live with her, as
she was getting on in years and needed someone to look after her. Henry
refused and a violent brawl erupted. Stella, realising that this was a
family that she didn't want to be involved in, broke of the engagement
off and went back to Opal's apartment. Viola followed and the argument
continued. At one point Viola hit Henry over the head with a broom and
broke it across his skull. Henry retaliated and struck Viola on the neck.
He later told police:
All I remember
was slapping her alongside the neck, but after I did that I saw her fall
and decided to grab her. But she fell to the floor and when I went back
to pick her up, I realized she was dead. Then I noticed that I had my
knife in my hand and she had been cut.
he had killed his mother, Lucas panicked and, after turning out the
lights in the apartment, got in his car and drove to Virginia. As it
turned out, Viola hadn't died after the attack. She was still alive
forty-eight hours later, when Opal returned to the apartment and found
her lying in a pool of blood. An ambulance was called but, because of
the length of time that she had been bleeding and the resulting shock,
they were unable to save her and she died a short time later. The
official police report stated that she had died of a heart attack,
precipitated by the assault.
later picked up by police in Toledo, Ohio and returned to Michigan and
charged with second-degree murder. Despite assuring police that he had
acted in self-defence, he later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to
20-40 years in the State Prison of Southern Michigan.
later describe his time in South Michigan as a "nightmare that would not
end." Almost from the time he was imprisoned, he complained of hearing "voices"
in his head that taunted him day and night. The prison's psychologists
interviewed him in an attempt to settle him down. Lucas talked freely
about the voices inside his head, including his mother's. "She wanted me
to commit suicide for what I done to her," he told them. He blamed his
destructive and undisciplined behaviour on her influence. Weeks later,
Henry wrote a letter to his sister telling her that he couldn't stand it
any more and was going to kill himself.
later he made good on his threats and slashed his wrists and stomach
with a razor blade on two separate occasions. Jail staff thwarted both
attempts and he was transferred to Iona State Mental hospital for
treatment. What followed were four-and-a-half years of drug and shock
therapy, both of which only succeeded in making Henry meaner and more
prone to violence. At one stage he told the doctors that if he were
released he would definitely kill again.
his threats, in 1966, he was transferred back to Michigan State prison.
Incredibly, not long after his return, a prison psychologist conducted
an examination of Lucas and reported to the parole board that: -
Lucas is grossly lacking in self-confidence, self-reliance, will power
and general stamina. He does not have the courage to blame others for
his mistakes or misfortunes or to engage in aggressive social behavior
aimed at alleviating some of his discomfort. I would say he is making
Lucas, on the
other hand, was full of vengeance. Driven by the need for revenge, he
spent most of his prison time learning the methods of other dangerous
criminals. He studied books on police procedures and later, when he was
put to work in the prison records room, he studied the files of other
inmates analysing the reasons they had been caught. It wasn't long
before he learned that, to avoid detection, all he had to do was keep
moving across state lines after each offence.
later, in June 1970, Henry got to put his ideas into practice when he
was given early release because of severe overcrowding conditions in the
prison. On the day he left Michigan State prison, he told the warders, "I'll
leave you a present on the doorstep." Later, Lucas claimed he murdered
two women on the day of his release, leaving one of his victims within
sight of the prison walls. Authorities have yet to uncover any evidence
to support his claim
newfound freedom didn't last long. Twelve months later he was back in
Michigan State Penitentiary, charged with the attempted kidnapping of a
teenage girl from a bus stop and violating his parole by being in
possession of a handgun. After serving a further four years, he was
released in August 1975, telling prison officials that "this time," he
was going to "hole-up somewhere and get a job and make some money."
Instead, even though he would eventually find some part-time work, Henry
Lee Lucas began to drift around the country. His hapless wanderings
marked the beginning of one of the most controversial episodes in
American criminal history.
On the Road
release, Lucas travelled to Port Deposit, Maryland, to visit his half-sister,
Almeda Kiser and her daughter, Aomia Pierce. Records show that he stayed
with his sister for three days after which he moved to Chatham,
Pennsylvania with Aomia Pierce and her husband. He took on several jobs
during that time but was incapable of keeping them. Through Pierce, he
met Betty Crawford, the widow of one of his nephews. Initially they were
just friends but the relationship developed steadily until they were
finally married on December 5th, 1975.
with Pierce for a short time, Lucas, Crawford and her three children
moved back to Port Deposit to live in a trailer park. Henry drifted from
job to job earning only small amounts of money. The bulk of the family's
income was provided by Crawford's social security payments. The family
lived in this manner until June 1976, when, in company with another
family from the trailer park, they moved to Hurst, Texas. The plan was
for Crawford to visit her mother while Henry looked for work. Again,
Henry failed to find suitable work, so they moved on to Illinois before
returning to Maryland.
returning, Betty Crawford accused Lucas of molesting her daughters.
Henry denied the charges but told her that he had decided to leave
anyway. On July 7th, Lucas packed his few belongings and headed towards
Florida. On the way south, he stopped off in Tecumseh, Michigan to stay
with Opal. Less than a month later, Henry and his brother-in-law, Wade
Kiser, travelled to West Virginia for a family reunion. On the way,
while caught in heavy traffic, Henry struck up a conversation with
another man and shortly after, left Kiser to team up with the stranger
for a trip to Shreveport, Louisiana.
After a brief
stop over in Virginia, to visit his half-brother Harry Waugh, Lucas
arrived at his destination. While in Shreveport, Henry was offered the
job of driving a car to Los Angeles but declined after he became
convinced that he would be working for the Mafia. Lucas left Louisiana
and went back to Port Deposit. He didn't stay long and moved on to
Wilmington, Delaware where a relative, Leland Crawford gave him work in
a carpet store. That lasted for several months until he returned to Port
Deposit to spend Christmas with another relative, Nora Crawford. The
following January, he left Nora and moved to Hinton, West Virginia and
went to work for Joe Crawford, who was not only a relative, but also
owned a carpet store.
Hinton, he met a woman called Rhonda Knuckles and lived with her until
March 1978 until he tired of the relationship and returned once more to
Port Deposit. He moved back with Opal. Lucas stayed for a short time
until his sister Almeda offered him lodgings and a job in her husbands
wrecking yard. Henry seemed settled until Almeda accused him of sexually
molesting her grand daughter. Again he denied the accusation. The next
morning he told the Kiser's that he needed their truck and tools to
collect a couple of wrecked cars for the yard. When Lucas didn't return
that night or the following day, the Kisers reported the car as stolen.
The vehicle was later recovered outside Jacksonville, Florida in an
Jacksonville with no money and nowhere to stay. He soon learned of a
mission that provided both food and shelter. While he was waiting in a
line to be fed, a man named Ottis Toole approached him. They entered
into a conversation and soon after Ottis invited Henry to come back to
his home in Springfield, a suburb of Jacksonville.
At the time,
Ottis was sharing a house with his mother Sarah and her husband Robert.
Ottis's wife, Novella, a nephew, Frank Powell Jr. and Frieda Powell,
Ottis's eleven-year-old niece, also lived in the house. The Toole family
was quite used to Ottis bringing home strange men from the mission.
Sarah Pierce, a one time house guest later told police that Ottis, a
known bisexual, often picked up men to bring home for sexual purposes.
As well as his homosexual tendencies, Ottis also enjoyed watching his
male guests have sex with his wife, Pierce and the under-aged Frieda.
Henry adapted to his new "home" and was soon sharing the main bedroom
with Ottis after Novella was sent to stay with neighbors.
Ottis got a
job for Henry in the paint factory where he worked, but Henry only
lasted a month before he quit and headed north. While on his trip, he
was allegedly beaten up by a member of his family and spent several
weeks in hospital. When he was well enough to travel, he returned to
Jacksonville and resumed his old job. Later, Ottis's mother Sarah bought
a house and moved her extended "family" into it. Henry quit his job
again and went into the scrap metal business, soon filling the backyard
of the new house with wrecked vehicles and parts. Now that Henry was
working from home, Frieda, or "Becky" as Lucas called her, started to
spend more time with him and a "relationship" developed. The "family"
seemed relatively happy for over a year until May 1981 when Sarah died.
death, Ottis and Henry took Frank and Becky and set out to travel to
California. Initially, the children saw the trip as an adventure but
after reaching Arizona they became homesick so Henry and Ottis decided
to cancel the trip. After selling the truck, they hopped a freight train
as far as Houston then hitchhiked the rest of the way back to
Jacksonville. Not long after their return, they stole a pickup truck
from one of Ottis's relatives and drove it to Wilmington, Delaware where
they abandoned it.
When Toole was
later hospitalized for an illness, Lucas and the children travelled on
to Maryland where he was arrested for the theft of the Kiser's vehicle
and jailed. Frank and "Becky" were returned to their natural mother,
Drucilla Carr. Henry was held in jail from July 22nd until October 6th
when he was released on parole and returned to Jacksonville.
1981, after Drucilla Carr committed suicide, Frank and "Becky" were sent
to a children's shelter in Bartow, Florida. The following January, "Becky"
ran away from the shelter. Shortly after her escape, police circulated a
"pickup" order for "Becky" and Lucas as they believed that he was
responsible for transporting her from the home in Bartow back to
hospital, Ottis Toole returned home to Jacksonville where he lived with
his wife until May 1982 when they left to travel to California. On the
way, they picked up a hitchhiker in Texas to share the driving. The man
would later smash the car, causing Toole and his wife to be hospitalized
for a time. Eventually after recovering, they returned to Jacksonville.
police records, shortly after Lucas and Toole met, they spent their "leisure
time," drinking and cruising the highways looking for "fun." Apparently,
their idea of fun was to rob small convenience stores and, on the odd
occasion, banks. They stole money, food and beer and took obvious
delight in terrorizing the staff.
became bolder and more violent with every crime. Eventually their crimes
became more brutal, to the point where, if a store clerk or bank teller
resisted in the slightest way, they were gunned down and left in a pool
of blood. Lucas would later relate one such incident to the Georgia
Bureau of Investigation.
He told police
that he and Ottis robbed a small convenience store in western Georgia.
Lucas walked to the front counter and produced a .22 calibre handgun and
held it to the temple of the female clerk. After binding the terrified
woman with rope, he dragged her to the back of the store while Toole
rifled the till. The woman began to scream and struggle to get loose.
Lucas told her, "I you don't keep quiet, I'm gonna have to shoot ya."
Fearing for her life, the woman obeyed. As they were dividing the money,
Lucas noticed that the woman was trying to loosen the ropes. Casually he
walked to the back of the store and shot her through the temple.
Afterwards, while Henry loaded cases of beer into their car, Toole had
sex with the woman's body. At the conclusion of the admission, Lucas
told police, "Now see, that's the difference between me and Ottis. He
just kills 'em when he feels like it. At least I warn 'em first."
the investigators most was that Lucas told the story without any emotion
or remorse, as though he were describing an incident that someone else
was responsible for.
continued to escalate as the murderous pair seized every opportunity to
commit more and more brutal crimes. They seemed to be driven by the
desire to prove who was the more lethal. Toole later bragged to police
of one such incident. While cruising the I-35 highway through Texas,
they came across a teenage couple walking alongside the road. Apparently
the couple's car had run out of gas and they were on their way to a
local filling station. Ottis stepped out of the vehicle and shot the boy
nine times in the head and chest and rolled the body into a culvert
while Lucas dragged the hysterical girl into the back seat. While Ottis
drove, Henry raped the girl repeatedly. Ottis explained that watching
Lucas having sex with someone else made him angry. Seething with jealous
rage, Toole then stopped the car and, dragging the girl onto the roadway,
shot her six times. They then drove back towards Jacksonville leaving
the body lying on the road.
came in contact with was a potential victim. Drifters, women with car
troubles and hitchhikers, all fell prey to the deadly duo. Because the
murders were mostly committed in remote areas, there were no witnesses.
If their cars broke down or ran out of gas, they would steal another,
usually murdering the driver. They would then drive the new vehicle to
another state, dump it and hitchhike to the next location.
weren't robbing, raping and killing, they would work odd jobs until the
urge for blood became too strong and they continued their odyssey of
was to continue, even when the pair later travelled with Frank and "Becky"
Powell, who by that time had become Henry's lover. She was just twelve
years old. From Maryland to California, Texas to Michigan, they raped,
robbed and murdered. Often, while Frank and Becky waited in the car, the
two men would commit their crimes and drive off as though nothing
unusual had occurred. Henry said he particularly enjoyed killing women
whose cars had broken down on lonely roads. He told police he considered
them, "free lunch."
victim was found dumped in a field, completely nude. She had been
stabbed thirty-five times in the chest, neck, arms and back. Deep cuts
had been made along the inside of her arms and from the middle of her
chest to the pubic bone. Both nipples had been cut off and removed.
According to police, who methodically pieced together the killer's trail
of terror from pay-slips and discarded vehicles, Ottis and Toole were
responsible for up to four or five murders in each state before moving
across state lines to avoid detection. On more than two occasions, the
pair committed several murders in a single day.
Of all the
claims of violent behavior Lucas and Toole have made to police, none is
more outrageous then their story of a strange religious cult that they
were asked to join. Supposedly, while on one of their murderous sprees,
Henry and Ottis were approached by a stranger who offered the men the
job of delivering stolen cars to various destinations. Lucas wasn't
impressed and declined the offer, as he was afraid that it would
increase their chances of being caught by police. The stranger then made
another offer. He asked if they would be interested in "contract"
killing on behalf of his "organization."
He told them
that they would be paid $10,000 for each "execution." Lucas and Toole
were interested. They figured that since they'd been killing for fun,
they might as well get paid for it. The stranger said that they would be
hired on one condition.
"You have to
join our religion, and once you join, there is only one way out," he
"What kind of
religion," Lucas asked.
"The Hand of Death," the stranger replied. "We worship the devil."
account is Lucas's version of how the two came to be associated with the
cult. Ottis Toole would later disagree with some of the details, but
apart from the variations in the two men's stories, they both swore that
they did join.
after the mysterious meeting, Lucas and Toole allegedly travelled to
Florida to meet the leaders of the cult. In an abandoned warehouse on
Miami's waterfront, the same "stranger" met them and introduced himself
as Don Meteric. When Meteric began to talk about the crimes the two had
committed in the past, Lucas became suspicious and asked Meteric how he
knew so much about them. Meteric laughed and said, "Ottis here has been
doin' work for me for years." Lucas told police years later that, at the
time, he'd felt betrayed by Ottis and couldn't believe that he had been
manipulated by him into joining the cult.
That night, at
an isolated spot in the Florida everglades, Henry Lee Lucas was inducted
into the "Hand of Death." Later, he and Ottis were taken deeper into the
everglades by airboat to an island where Lucas would undergo "training."
Meteric told him: "From now on, you will do everything you are told,
without question. You will be told to kill someone while you are here
and you will obey. Once you have proven yourself, you will be one of us."
Both men were
then taken to a tent and Lucas was told to wait for his "assignment."
An hour later,
Meteric came for him. "Your man is in the next tent," Meteric told him.
"Get him out of sight and cut his throat. Make sure you cut him clean
because we'll be needin' him later." Lucas told police that Toole
giggled with delight at the prospect of "using" the body after the deed
Armed with a
knife, Henry went to the next tent, Ottis went with him. Ottis produced
a bottle of Jack Daniels, telling Henry, "It'll spice up the taste." At
the time, Lucas had no idea what his companion meant. Toole went into
the tent first and struck up a conversation with the male occupant. From
the ease of their talk, Lucas guessed that the two had met previously.
Toole then lured the man to a nearby beach with the promise of a drink.
Lucas waited in the shadows while Ottis handed the man the bottle. As
the man tipped his head back to take a swig, Lucas stepped behind him.
Grabbing the man's hair with one hand, Lucas reached forward with his
knife hand and in one quick swipe, slit the man's throat. Lucas and
Toole then took turns drinking from the bottle as their hapless victim
lay bleeding to death at their feet.
After the man
had died, Meteric was informed and inspected the corpse. He
congratulated Lucas on a "quick, clean kill." Later that night, Henry
attended his first "black mass," during which the man he had killed
earlier was cooked and eaten by the other members of the cult.
In the weeks
that followed, Lucas said he was schooled in the finer points of
kidnapping, arson, all methods of murder and child abduction. He was
also instructed on the correct way to prepare a human sacrifice and, in
accordance with the cult's satanistic code took part in various rituals
involving dead bodies, including necrophilia.
later, his training completed, Lucas was ready to "go to work." He and
Toole set off on a trip to the southern states to kidnap children who
would either be used in sacrificial ceremonies within the cult or
transported into Mexico where they were to be sold on the "grey market"
to wealthy families. After a "trial run," to check the route and
familiarize themselves with the methods of the border patrol, they set
off on their first kidnapping job. They had been supplied with drugs to
subdue the children while they were being transported.
interviewers that he was surprised how easy it was to kidnap babies.
When they reached San Antonio, Texas, Lucas and Toole drove through
shopping center car parks until they found a baby that had been left
asleep in a car. Several minutes later, they had the baby in the car,
drugged and ready to be transported across the border. They also
kidnapped older children and teenagers who were subsequently drugged and
used in pornographic movies that were made and distributed by the cult.
later search vast areas of the Florida everglades by boat and helicopter
for evidence of the cult's existence but none would be found. Lucas
explained this away by telling police that the cult was a nationwide
conspiracy involving, not only senior police, but also politicians. "They
were probably tipped off that you were lookin' for 'em," he explained.
after carrying out further unsavory tasks for the death cult, Henry was
told to go back home for a vacation and wait for further instructions.
Ottis decide to stay on and join Henry later. If the cult did in fact
exist and if Lucas was paid handsomely for the crimes he committed on
their behalf, there was no evidence of his new found wealth when he
returned to Jacksonville.
his return, Lucas took Becky and their meager belongings and headed for
California, telling her that they were going to get set-up as husband
and wife. It was the first time they had been alone for an extended
period and Henry soon realized that, even though he enjoyed her company,
she could be petulant and demanding. Leaving with no money meant that
they had to commit numerous petty thefts on the way to pay for the trip.
Lucas, up to this time, he had never had sexual relations with Becky,
but as the trip progressed she became more demanding in that department
and brooded when Lucas refused her requests. Henry insists that he
resisted because he was torn between lust and a "fatherly devotion" for
Becky. In the past, if he had wanted sex, he would rape to satisfy his
sexual cravings. It meant no more to him than stealing when he was broke.
As for killing, that was different, murder was just pure fun.
At one stage,
after Lucas refused to make love to her, she became angry and accused
Henry of being homosexual. He denied the accusations and calmed her with
a promise to buy her clothes and gifts. Later that night when Becky was
asleep, Lucas left the motel and drove to a truck stop. He claims that
he picked up a woman and after driving her to an isolated spot, raped
her and slit her throat. After cleaning himself up, he was back in the
motel before Becky woke.
As the trip
progressed, Lucas insists that he contacted Meteric and was given the
job of killing a man in Beaumont, Texas. The target was supposedly a
lawyer who was about to give police information regarding the cult.
After reaching the town and setting Becky up in a motel, Lucas tracked
down his victim and followed him, waiting for the opportunity to kill
him. Henry told police how he struck up a friendship with the man and
lured him to a quiet spot with the promise of sharing a bottle of booze.
The story took
on a familiar ring when he related how, when the lawyer tipped his head
back to take a swig, Lucas slit his throat with one swipe. He would
later brag to Ottis in front of police, that he had cut the man so deep
and fast that, "the liquor just ran out the bottom of his head."
Lucas took the body out of town and dumped it in a shallow grave. He
then drove the man's car back to the motel. After picking up Becky, he
returned to the burial site and, with Becky's help, dug up the corpse,
decapitated it and buried the parts separately. They left the man's feet
sticking up out of the ground so that he would be found. That way, Lucas
reasoned, Meteric would get to hear about it and know that he had done
the job and pay him for it. Lucas insists that the grisly task sexually
excited Becky to the point that he relented and let her fondle him in
bed later that night.
months on the road, Henry and Becky finally reached California, tired,
hungry and broke. The money for the "hit" did not transpire so they
drifted through the state robbing for food and working odd jobs.
Eventually the truck broke down and they started hitchhiking. Becky was
disillusioned and unhappy. Life on the road with Henry wasn't what she
thought it would be. She began complaining incessantly, demanding that
they return to Florida.
north to Oregon and later Washington, where Lucas continued raping,
killing and stealing cars. At one point, while travelling through the
Seattle area, Lucas read about the spate of killings near the Green
River and insisted that he then went out and killed several prostitutes
and left their bodies the same as the ones reported in the newspaper so
that someone else would be blamed for them. Police would later dismiss
the claims after Lucas was proven to be elsewhere at the time of the
hitchhiking through a rural district in California, Lucas and Powell
were picked up by a local businessman. The man, Jack Smart, who owned an
antique shop in the small township of Hemet, said later that he felt
sorry for the couple as they seemed to be at the end of their tether.
He drove them
back to his house and fed them. After dinner, Lucas told his host that
Becky was his wife and that they were on the road looking for work.
Smart then offered them lodgings in exchange for Henry helping him out
at the store and making some much-needed repairs to the building.
Smart's wife remarked at the time that they seemed to be a strange
match, a dirty one-eyed drifter and his child "bride."
For a time,
Henry worked hard. Not long after his arrival, word spread of his
abilities and he was soon hired to complete various handy man duties
throughout the district. In the four months that he stayed in the town,
Lucas proved himself invaluable to have around. He worked hard and fast,
pausing just long enough for the ever-present cup of coffee and a
cigarette and, at the end of the day, a few beers. Even though Henry
spent most of his time with Becky, he still found time to go off on one
or two day trips, presumably to satisfy his murderous desires.
At about this
time, Mrs Smart had a call from relatives in Ringgold, Texas. They told
her that her ailing mother was too old and frail to look after herself
and needed help, especially with the maintenance of her house, which was
in a sad state. The Smarts hit on the perfect solution and invited Henry
and Becky to move to Ringgold to live rent free. All they had to do was
help around the house.
the odd couple traveled by bus to their new home and were met at the bus
depot by Mrs Smart's mother, Kate "Granny" Rich. She took to Becky
immediately and lavished attention on the young girl. Henry was given
the run of the place and, in exchange for the work he performed, given,
not only food and a bed, but also Kate's trust. It wasn't long before
she was giving him money to do the weekly food shopping for the "family."
At first Henry was diligent, but it wasn't long before he began
squandering the money on beer and cartons of cigarettes.
The clerk at
the local general store became suspicious when Henry and Becky began
ordering large stocks of goods that Kate Rich had never previously
purchased. The final straw was when Henry started paying for the orders
with checks that were signed differently than normal. The clerk
contacted Rich's relatives in Oklahoma and told them he feared that Kate
was being taken advantage of.
drove to Ringgold to see for themselves. When they arrived they found
Rich sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by dirt and filth. Dishes
hadn't been washed for weeks and the rooms hadn't been cleaned for
months. Lucas and Powell were on the couch asleep. The family was
incensed and demanded that Henry and Becky leave immediately. The couple
were given money for bus fare and driven into town to wait for the next
bus. Instead of taking the bus, Henry decided they should keep the money
and hitchhike to Wichita Falls. The intention was to pick up money that
was being mailed to him from Jack Smart to pay for the repairs to Rich's
They were soon
picked up by a kindly man in a truck and driven the ten miles to their
destination. All went well until Henry went to retrieve the promised
money from the post office and found that it hadn't been sent. Once more
they were broke, hungry and homeless.
The man in the
pick-up introduced himself as Ruben Moore, a preacher from Stoneburg, a
nearby town. He offered the couple accommodation at his ranch. "It's a
religious community," he explained to them. "I call it the House of
As it turned
out, the "community" was nothing more than a converted chicken coop and
a few shacks on a run-down ranch. Moore offered them lodging and food.
In return, he asked only that Henry assist him as a laborer in his small
roofing business, and that they both attend Sunday church services.
Lucas and Powell readily agreed.
settled in to a routine. Henry worked while Becky helped with the
domestic chores. What Henry didn't know was that, while he was mending
buildings and repairing cars, Becky was not only learning how to wash,
cook and sew, she was also learning Christian values. When Henry found
out he didn't seem to mind at first, but later would become threatened
when Becky openly embraced her new found religion and began to mend her
her friendship with Kate Rich and began to spend more time with the old
woman than she did with Henry. As Becky grew as a Christian she began to
feel the need to put her life in order. One of the things that concerned
her most was the fear that the authorities would find out that she was a
fugitive from the children's home and, having crossed state lines to
avoid detection, was guilty of committing a federal offence.
run the risk of arrest, she decided that it would be best to return to
Florida and give herself up. Later, she raised the subject with Henry
and he became violent and abusive when she suggested they go back to
Jacksonville. The argument came to a head when Becky told him that an
important part of her conversion to Christianity was the confession of
all her sins. Henry became angry and demanded to know if she had said
anything about the things that he and Ottis had done. When she said she
hadn't, he rapidly changed his mind and told her to start packing, as
they would be leaving for Florida the next day.
morning Henry and Becky left the ranch and started hitchhiking towards
Florida, a trip that was to have fateful implications.
they'd been on the road many times, Henry and Becky found it
increasingly difficult to get a ride. Many vehicles would slow down some
out of curiosity others to openly leer at Becky. Whatever their reason,
it seemed that as soon as they saw Henry, they would speed up and leave
them in a cloud of dust. Their trek continued until they reached Demon
County, Texas, where they decided to find a cheap motel and get some
rest before continuing. Hot, tired and filthy, they trudged from one
motel to another trying to find a vacant room. Unable to find one, they
decided to sleep in an open field on the edge of town.
related in a statement to police that, after unpacking their bedrolls,
he lay down and started drinking heavily. Becky stripped down to her
underwear and lay beside him. As Lucas's level of intoxication increased
he started to abuse Becky for insisting they leave the "House of Prayer."
The result was a violent argument with both of them yelling and swearing
at each other. Finally, Henry told her that he had made the decision to
return to Stoneburg the following morning.
was to hit him on the side of the head. "That was it," Henry recalled.
"I just stabbed her with my knife. I just picked it up, brought it
around, and hit her right in the chest with it. She sort of set there
for a little bit and then dropped on over."
that, immediately after the attack, he was shocked that he took the life
of someone he loved. His shock couldn't have lasted long, because,
according to his statement, "I took her bra and panties off and had sex
with her. That's one of those things I guess that got to be a part of my
life - having sexual intercourse with the dead."
removed a ring from her hand and cut her body into pieces and stuffed
her remains into three pillow cases and left her in the field while he
walked around thinking about what to do next. He remembers that he was
overcome with a strange feeling that he couldn't explain and was unable
to rid himself of the feeling that he had destroyed something very
special in his life. Even though he had killed many times, the murder of
Frieda "Becky" Powell was to be the first time that Henry Lee Lucas
would feel guilt and remorse for his actions.
Becky, Lucas's first instinct was to run, to get away from the one crime
that continually preyed on his mind. He claimed that he was tormented by
Becky's "voice from the grave," but two things stopped him from leaving.
The first was disposing of the body, the second, and most important, was
to build a suitable alibi for himself. Anxious to cover his tracks, he
decided to return to the "House of Prayer." Two days later, Lucas walked
on to the ranch and went to see Reverend Moore. When Moore asked about
Becky, Henry broke down in tears and told him that Becky had run off
with a truck driver while they were hitchhiking. He asked if he could
stay and work at the ranch for a while until he got himself sorted out.
Moore agreed and Lucas settled back into his usual daily routine. Two
weeks later, he returned to the murder scene to bury Becky's remains. He
told police, that when he returned to the site he was so overcome with
grief that he could only bury half of her.
It is not
known if Henry's feelings of guilt and remorse were real or not, but one
thing is certain. After killing Becky, something inside him obviously
changed. He become less cocky and attentive to details, a fact that
would eventually bring about his downfall.
In the small
community of Stoneburg, word quickly spread of Henry's return, minus
Becky. One person who was more concerned than the rest was Kate Rich.
Hearing that Henry was back at the ranch, she contacted him and asked
about Becky. Henry told her that he would come and talk to her about it
and offered to drive her to her regular evening church service. Kate
agreed and the date was set.
appointed day, Henry arrived early driving Moore's car. After picking up
Rich, he drove into Oklahoma to pick up some beer. They began discussing
Becky and Rich pushed him for more details, stating that she didn't
believe that Becky would have done such a thing. Lucas started to get
angry at the insistent questioning. By the time they had driven back
from town, it was too late for church so Lucas suggested that he drive
continued to badger Lucas for answers until, finally he'd had enough.
Pulling off on a deserted road, he pulled his knife and plunged it into
Rich. After she collapsed, he took her body from the car and after
carving an inverted cross in her chest, had sex with her corpse and
dumped her in a culvert.
returning to the ranch, Moore asked Lucas about the church service.
Henry told him that when he went to pick up Rich, she had decided not to
go because she was feeling sick. Moore, knowing that Rich was in poor
health, accepted the story.
night, Lucas took several garbage bags from the kitchen and drove to
where he had dumped the body. After carving her remains into small
pieces and packing them into the bags, he returned to the ranch.
up most of the night, burning the body parts in the wood stove in the
compound's kitchen. It was 5 a.m. before he was satisfied that his
victim would not be found, still early enough to leave the ranch
undetected. Before sunrise, Henry had taken Moore's car and headed north
to the border. He knew that he had to put some distance between himself
and his latest victim, as Moore was sure to tell anyone who asked, that
Lucas was the last person to see Kate Rich alive.
Monday, Rich's relatives tried in vain to contact her. Worried about her
health, they decide to drive to her home to investigate. After making
inquiries, they became suspicious and rang the local sheriff, Bill "Hound
Dog" Conway, who filed a missing persons report. The relatives told
Conway about Lucas and how he had stolen money from the old woman
previously. The trail led to the "House of Prayer" where Moore confirmed
that Rich was last seen with Henry Lucas.
returned to his office and ran a criminal records check on Lucas. When
he found that Lucas not only had a previous history of rape and murder,
but also had outstanding warrants for parole violations, he circulated
an arrest order. Unfortunately, by that time, Lucas had already left
plan was to gather together some much-needed cash and make a run for it.
Following this plan, he drove to Oklahoma where he broke into a store
and stole several television sets. After selling them in Amarillo,
Texas, he headed for California.
With his money
running out and anxious for work, Lucas returned to Hemet, California,
hoping to find work and lodgings with Jack Smart. Unfortunately for him,
Kate Rich's relatives had called Smart, prior to Henry's arrival, and
asked him to tell them if and when he saw Lucas. Jack Smart welcomed
Lucas into his home without indicating that anything was amiss but later
the same evening, telephoned his family in Oklahoma and informed them.
Sheriff Conway had put a trace on the vehicle that Lucas had taken from
Moore. The California Highway Patrol later found the car abandoned
outside of Hemet and called Conway's office. They also told him that the
front seat was covered with dried blood. Conway had the vehicle
impounded and asked the Californian police to arrest Lucas as a material
witness in a murder. Later the same day, the police went to the Smart's
antique shop and took Henry Lee Lucas into custody.
When Henry was
picked up, he told the police that the blood in the car was his own, the
result of having cut himself. The police related details of the
conversation to Conway who sent word to Rich's relatives in the hope of
obtaining a blood sample that would hopefully match the one in the car.
No sample was available, but records indicated that Kate Rich's blood
was type "A." A sample was taken from Lucas, which proved to be type
"O." The blood from the car was tested and found to be type "O" as well.
disappointed with the results, but knew from his experience that when
blood samples dry out, they usually revert to type "O." Without the body,
no further tests could be carried out so, in the absence of a
Californian arrest warrant or an extradition order from Conway, the
police were forced to release him. Lucas left the police lock-up and
again hit the road, anxious to cover as much ground as he could so as to
avoid any further police scrutiny.
days of freedom were spent robbing convenience stores and killing anyone
that resisted or could identify him. He travelled from New Mexico, back
to Oklahoma and on through Missouri, Indiana and Illinois.
1982, he reached the town of Decatur, Illinois where, after trying for a
job at a construction site, he applied for welfare benefits. With no
time to wait for his benefit to be paid, Henry hitched a ride to
Missouri and was dropped of at a truck stop. At a nearby gas station,
Lucas noticed a woman who seemed to be travelling alone. He waited for
his chance and as she was about to get back into her car, he came up
from behind her and told her to "get in the car and be quiet."
He ordered the
woman to drive south. She did as she was told and they drove for the
rest of the day. Some time later, Lucas took over the driving as the
woman slept. He later told police, "I was drivin' and I felt this chill
come over me and I knew that she was goin' to die." Shortly before dawn,
just outside the town of Magnolia, Lucas drove off the highway onto a
deserted back road and pulled over. Almost as soon as the car had
stopped moving, Henry drew his knife and stabbed the woman in the neck.
Mortally wounded, the woman grabbed at her throat as Lucas plunged the
knife in a second time. Finally she lay still. Lucas then dragged the
body from the car, cut the clothing off and had sex with the corpse for
stripped the body of valuables and identification and dragged it to a
grove of pine trees and left, without even bothering to cover it.
Returning to the car, he continued south through Texas until he finally
abandoned the vehicle in Fredericksburgh. In a further attempt to cover
his tracks, he then hitched a ride back to the north and was eventually
dropped of in Bloomington, Indiana. Unfortunately, the town was a
university district full of young clean-cut college students. In such
surroundings, Lucas, the filthy ragged drifter was far too conspicuous,
so decided to move on.
With no money
and feeling desperate, Lucas contacted Ruben Moore, at the "House of
Prayer" and asked for help. He told Moore that had been travelling
trying to find Becky but had run out of money and needed a place to stay.
Moore refused but, knowing that the police were looking for Lucas, told
him to call back in a couple of days and he would see what he could do.
Moore then called Sheriff Conway and was told that, because Lucas was
wanted in relation to the deaths of Kate Rich and Becky Powell, it was
imperative to get him back to Stoneburg.
to help and, when Lucas called back, made arrangements to send him $100
to pay for his return. Meanwhile, Conway had been scouring Henry's
police files and discovered that he was still wanted for the theft of
his brother-in-law's truck in Maryland. This would be sufficient reason
to hold Lucas and question him further.
later, Henry Lee Lucas returned to the ranch and was welcomed by Moore.
The next morning, summoned by Moore, Sheriff Conway arrived and arrested
Lucas. Conway held Lucas for several weeks, trying in vain, to get Lucas
to confess to the murders. Eventually word came back from the Maryland
police. They had no intentions of issuing an extradition order for
something as petty as car stealing, they told Conway, and suggested that
he be released. Not long after, Lucas was to return to the ranch and
give Moore the gun that would see him arrested for the final time.
As a result of
on-going investigations and further indictments in Florida on similar
offences, not to mention a string of appeals against his sentence, Henry
Lee Lucas has spent the last thirteen years on death row waiting for an
In June 1999,
just when it seemed that "justice would seem to be done" and the
sentence carried out, George Bush Jr., the Governor of Texas, stepped in
and commuted the death sentence to one of life imprisonment. Henry's "partner
in crime," Ottis Elwood Toole, died several years ago of cirrhosis of
the liver while serving out his sentence.
glaring inconsistencies of his confessional statements and the
authorities' inability to explain them, it is now virtually impossible
to gauge whether Henry Lee Lucas was the worst serial killer in
America's criminal history. As a consequence, the number of murders that
Lucas was actually responsible for, be it two or two hundred, may never
- Max Call: Hand of Death: The Henry Lee Lucas Story
- Mike Cox: The Confessions of Henry Lee Lucas
- Murder Casebook núm. 116: Visions of Murder. Henry
Lee Lucas and the Zodiac Killer (1992).
- Joel Norris: Henry Lee Lucas. The Shocking True
Story of Americas Most Notorious Serial Killer (1991).