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Henry Lee LUCAS





Clasificación: Asesino en serie
Características: Caníbal - Necrófilo
Número de víctimas: 11 - 600
Periodo actividad: 1960 - 1983
Fecha detención: 11 junio 1983
Fecha de nacimiento: 23 agosto 1936
Perfil víctimas: Hombres y mujeres
Método de matar: Varios
Localización: Michigan, Texas, ???, USA
Status: Condenado pena de muerte. Muere en prisión 11 marzo 2001


Henry Lee Lucas (August 23, 1936 – March 13, 2001) was an American criminal, convicted of murder and once listed as America's most prolific serial killer. However, he later recanted his confessions. He once flatly stated "I am not a serial killer" in a letter to researcher Brad Shellady.

Lucas confessed to involvement in about 3,000 murders, an average of about one murder per day between his release from prison in mid-1975 to his arrest in mid-1983. A more widely circulated total of about 350 murders committed by Lucas is based on confessions deemed "believable" by a Texas-based "Lucas Task Force," a group which was criticized by Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox for sloppy police work and taking part in an extended "hoax".

Beyond his recantation, some of Lucas's confessions have been challenged as inaccurate by a number of critics, including law enforcement and court officials. Lucas claimed to have been initially subjected to poor treatment and coercive interrogation tactics while in police custody, and that he confessed to murders in an effort to improve his living conditions. This calls into question many of Lucas's alleged murders, since his confessions were often the sole evidence cited in favor of his guilt, especially his sole death penalty conviction; Amnesty International reported "the belief of two former state Attorneys General that Lucas was in all likelihood innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to death."

Lucas's sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1998 by then-Governor George W. Bush, and Lucas died in prison of natural causes. Though Lucas's death seemed to have removed the possibility of resolution in many instances, there are still a number of unresolved or open questions. Some authorities—while admitting that Lucas tended to exaggerate his accounts and told some outright lies, and also recognizing that the Lucas Task Force engaged in some very questionable tactics—insist that Lucas was a viable suspect in a number of unsolved murders. Despite these factors, Lucas still maintains a reputation, in the words of author Sarah L. Knox, "as one of the world's worst serial killers—even after the debunking of the majority of his confessions by the Attorney General of Texas."

Lucas allegedly carried out many murders with an accomplice, Ottis Toole, whose reputation as a serial killer is mostly unaltered by Lucas's recantations.


Early life

Lucas was born on August 23, 1936, in Blacksburg, Virginia. He described his mother, Viola Lucas, as a violent prostitute. His father, Anderson Lucas, was an alcoholic and former railroad employee who had lost his legs in a train accident, and who suffered from Viola's wrath as often as his son. Lucas reports that Viola regularly beat him and his half-brother, often for no reason. He once spent three days in a coma when his mother hit his head with a plank of wood, and on many occasions he was forced by his mother to watch her have sex with men. Lucas described an incident when he was given a mule as a gift by his father's friends, only to see his mother shoot and kill it.

When he was a teenager, Lucas claimed to have been introduced to bestiality and killing animals for pleasure (zoosadism)—the latter a common trait among sociopaths, especially those who become serial killers—as well as receiving convictions for petty theft. Lucas had also damaged an eye during a fight with his half-brother. His mother ignored the injury for three days, and subsequently the eye grew infected and had to be replaced by a glass eye.

Lucas claimed to have first murdered in 1951, when he strangled a girl who refused his sexual advances. Like most of his confessions, he later retracted this claim. In 1954, Lucas was convicted on several counts of burglary in and around Richmond, Virginia, and was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. He escaped, was recaptured, and was released in September 1959.

In late 1959, Lucas moved to Tecumseh, Michigan to live with his half-sister, Opal. Lucas was engaged to marry when his mother visited Michigan for Christmas. She disapproved of her son's fiancee and insisted he move back to Virginia. He refused, and they argued repeatedly about his upcoming nuptials.

Lucas kills his mother

On January 12, 1960, Lucas killed his mother, stabbing her with a knife. He claimed to have returned home from a night of drinking and gone to bed, only to be later woken by his mother, who beat him with a broom. After killing her, Lucas fled in a stolen car, returned to Virginia, then says he decided to drive back to Michigan, but was arrested in Ohio on the outstanding Michigan warrant.

Lucas claimed to have attacked his mother only in self-defense, but his claim was rejected, and he was sentenced to between 20 and 40 years' imprisonment in Michigan for second-degree murder. He served fifteen years and was released on August 22, 1975.

Lucas drifted around the American South, working a number of mostly short-term jobs. In Florida, he made the acquaintance of Ottis Toole sometime between 1976 and 1978 (sources disagree) and claims to have had a romantic affair with Toole's pubescent niece, Frieda Powell, who had escaped from a juvenile detention facility. Lucas and Toole both called Powell "Becky" sometimes, partly to disguise her identity and because Powell preferred it over her given name. Lucas and Toole were also reportedly lovers. Lucas would later claim that during this period he had killed hundreds of people, sometimes as Toole's partner. The trio left Florida and eventually settled in Stoneburg, Texas, at a religious commune called "The House of Prayer." Ruben Moore, the commune owner and minister, found Lucas a job as a roofer, and allowed Lucas and Powell to live in a small apartment on the commune.

Powell became homesick, so Lucas agreed to move to Florida with her. Lucas said they argued at a Bowie, Texas truck stop and claimed that Powell left with a trucker. According to Shellady, a waitress at the truck stop supported Lucas's account in court.

1983 arrest and multiple confessions

Lucas was arrested in June 1983, initially on a firearms violation. He was later charged with killing 82-year-old Kate Rich in Ringgold, Texas, and was also charged with Powell's murder. Lucas claimed that police stripped him naked, denied him cigarettes and bedding, held him in a cold cell, and did not allow him to contact an attorney. After four days of this treatment, Lucas claimed he decided to confess to the crimes in a desperate bid to improve his treatment.

Lucas confessed to the murders but claimed to be unable to take police to the victims' bodies. He closed out his confession with a hand-written addendum that read: "I am not allowed to contact any one I'm in here by myself and still can't talk to a lawyer on this I have no rights so what can I do to convince you about all this" (sic). When he was finally allowed counsel, Lucas's lawyer described his client's treatment as "inhumane" and "calculated solely to require the defendant to confess guilt, whether innocent or guilty."

The forensic evidence in the Powell and Rich cases has been criticized as inconclusive. A single bone fragment recovered from a wood-burning stove was said to be Rich's, and a mostly-complete skeleton roughly matched Powell's age and size, but Shelladay reports that the coroner stopped short of positively identifying either remains. As with most of his alleged crimes, Lucas has confessed to these murders only to later deny involvement, but the general consensus seems to be that Lucas did indeed murder Powell and Rich.

Confesses to thousands of murders

Lucas pled guilty to the charges, and in open court stated he had "killed about a hundred more women" as well. This was an unexpected confession, and Lucas later claimed to have been despondent over being suspected in Powell's disappearance. Shelladay reports that Lucas said, "If they were going to make me confess to one I didn't do, then I was going to confess to everything." These claims were quickly seized upon by the press, and Lucas, accompanied by Texas Rangers, was soon flown from state to state, to meet with various police agencies in an effort to resolve a number of unsolved murders.

In November 1983, Lucas was transferred to a jail in Williamson County, Texas, where the Lucas Task Force was soon established. Shelladay describes the task force as "a veritable clearinghouse of unsolved murder, courtesy of the Texas Rangers." They officially "cleared" 213 previously unsolved murders via Lucas's confessions.

Lucas reported that he confessed to murders only because doing so improved his living conditions, and that he received preferential treatment rarely offered to convicts. Others have offered accounts that seem to support Lucas's claims, for example, that Lucas was rarely handcuffed when in custody or being transported, that he was often allowed to wander police stations and jails at will—including knowing the security codes for computerized doors—and that he was frequently taken to restaurants and cafés. On one occasion, in Huntington, West Virginia, Lucas confessed to killing a man whose death had originally been ruled a suicide. The man's widow received a large life insurance settlement that had been denied after the initial suicide verdict, and the Texas Rangers hosted a party at a Holiday Inn, spending $3,000 on drinks and prostitutes. It has been suggested that such treatment demonstrates that the Lucas Task Force did not consider Lucas a threat.

Texas Ranger Phil Ryan reports that Lucas became so accustomed to such treatment that he began "dictating orders" which were often obeyed by Rangers. Ryan also reported that he became concerned about the veracity of most of Lucas's confessions, feeling confident in the accuracy of two of Lucas's confessions, and further stated to the Houston Chronicle that "I wouldn't bet a paycheck on any of the others." Shellady reports that Ryan invented utterly fictional crimes, to which Lucas would generally "confess" involvement, a tactic also employed by Dallas detective Linda Erwin.

The same Houston Chronicle article reports that Erwin interviewed Lucas after he confessed to 13 murders in Houston. Erwin reports that "when I heard it got to be hundreds and hundreds (of confessions), it was unbelievable to me." Erwin further reports that, like Ryan, she assembled an utterly fictional crime: She "fabricated a case using random photographs from old murders long since solved and details pulled from her imagination ... He claimed credit for the phony crime, and his confession, containing facts she had dribbled out to him, probably could have convinced a jury to convict him, she said." Erwin admitted she was uncomfortable fabricating a crime, but felt it necessary in order to settle questions of Lucas's reliability. Lucas was not charged with any of the crimes he confessed to committing in Dallas.

Ryan reports the manner in which Lucas typically confessed to a number of unsolved murders: If a police agency suspected Lucas, and if Lucas admitted involvement—and his total of some 3,000 confessions suggests he rarely denied complicity—they would send the Lucas Task Force a case file with information pertaining to the unsolved crime. Lucas would be questioned at length and sometimes even allowed to read police reports, thus learning any number of details previously known only to police, which he could then use during interviews.

"The Lucas Report" and controversy

Lucas's claims gradually became criticized as outlandish and less likely: He claimed to have been part of a cannibalistic, satanic cult called "The Hand of Death", to have taken part in snuff films, to have killed Jimmy Hoffa, and to have delivered poison to cult leader Jim Jones in Jonestown prior to the notorious mass muder/suicide of Jones's group.

In response to these claims, and to reports of the Lucas Task Force's questionable investigative methodology, the Texas Attorney General's office issued a study (sometimes called "The Lucas Report") in 1986.

The bulk of the Lucas Report was devoted to a detailed timeline of Lucas's claimed murders. The report compared Lucas's claims to reliable, verifiable sources for Lucas's whereabouts; the results often contradicted his confessions, and thus cast doubt on most of the crimes in which he was implicated. Attorney General Jim Mattox wrote that "when Lucas was confessing to hundreds of murders, those with custody of Lucas did nothing to bring an end to this hoax," and "We have found information that would lead us to believe that some officials 'cleared cases' just to get them off the books."

Here are a few examples of crimes the Lucas Task Force ruled "closed" based on Lucas's "confessions," when strong evidence has been cited, indicating Lucas was far from the scene of the crime:

  • Lucas confessed to the August 10, 1977, murder of Curby Reeves in Smith County, Texas, while payroll records indicate that Lucas worked a full shift at the Kaolin Mushroom Company in Kaolin, Pennsylvania.

  • Lucas confessed to the March 20, 1979, murder of Elaine Tollett in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while medical records indicate Lucas was in hospital in Bluefield, West Virginia.

  • Chris Piazza, then a prosecutor in Little Rock, Arkansas, wrote, of a specific 1981 robbery-murder case in which Lucas claimed involvement, that "the testimony of Henry Lee Lucas ... is dubious, to say the least" and that Lucas's testimony was "inaccurate in nearly every detail."

Orange Socks

Ultimately, Lucas was convicted of eleven homicides. He was sentenced to death for the murder of an unidentified woman, dubbed "Orange Socks" after her only clothing, who was discovered in Williamson County, Texas, on Halloween 1979. Lucas's confession was recorded on audio tape and videotape and, when presented at court, had been subject to significant editing, leading critics to speculate that the removed sections showed authorities coaching Lucas on details of the crime.

Dan Morales, Mattox's successor as Texas Attorney General, concluded that it was "highly unlikely" that Lucas was guilty in the "Orange Socks" case. Though initially skeptical of the Lucas Report, he came to generally support its findings.

Williamson County prosecutor Cecil Kuykendall discounted Lucas as a suspect in the "Orange Socks" case and has stated his opinion that Lucas's confession drew attention from a far more viable suspect, further noting evidence that Lucas was in Florida, working as a roofer, during the time that "Orange Socks" was killed. As cited in an Amnesty International report, Mattox stated that during the time "Orange Socks" was killed, "work records, check cashing evidence, all information indicating Lucas was somewhere else. [W]e found nothing tying [Lucas] with the crime he confessed to and was convicted of." Mattox's office decided not to intervene, so certain they were that the state appeals court would overturn Lucas's conviction in the "Orange Socks" case.

Lucas told Shelladay that he confessed to the murder in an effort at "legal suicide," and that he "just wanted to die." Lucas expressed what Shellady describes as "deep regret and sorrow" for offering false confessions, stating that he "was not aware how crooked they [Texas authorities] were until it was too late." The Houston Chronicle article also notes that Lucas offered various motives for his confession spree: Improving his conditions, a desire to embarrass police, and feeling guilt over killing Powell and Rich.

Adding to the confusion, however, was Lucas's habit of making confessions, recanting them, then offering more confessions, and again recanting them. Mattox, wary of Lucas's many false confessions, suggested in 1999 that in the case of Rafael Resendez-Ramirez "I hope they don't start pinning on him every crime that happens near a railroad track."

Lucas's supposed confederate, Ottis Toole, died in September 1996 from cirrhosis of the liver. He was serving six life sentences in a Florida prison. In 1998, the Texas Board of Pardon and Parole voted to recommend commuting Lucas's death sentence to life imprisonment. Then-Governor George W. Bush agreed to the commutation, the only time he commuted a sentence in his entire tenure as governor. On March 13, 2001, 64-year-old Lucas died in prison from heart failure.

Dissenting opinions

On the other hand, several authorities and interested parties remained sure of Lucas's guilt in a number of murders, regardless of his recantations and the controversy surrounding his many confessions. Jim Larson, a sheriff’s department investigator in Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, questioned Lucas in September 1984 regarding the unsolved 1978 murder of schoolteacher Stella McLean. Larson says he asked deceptive questions to test Lucas, but insists Lucas offered compelling testimony to support his claims of killing McLean.

Texas General Land Office Commissioner Garry Mauro, then standing for election of governor of Texas, stated his opinion that "There is no doubt in my mind that Henry Lee Lucas is guilty enough of the murders he confessed to that he earned the death penalty."

The Houston Chronicle article quotes Harold Murphy of Marianna, Florida, who remained convinced that Lucas killed his daughter Jerilyn in 1981.

As cited in the above Houston Chronicle article, Texas Ranger Phil Ryan—while strongly criticizing the Lucas Task Force for their questionable methods, and while rejecting the vast majority of Lucas's confessions—concluded that Lucas was a strong suspect in two cases, and thought Lucas was "at most ... responsible for 15 murders." This was still a considerable total, qualifying Lucas as a serial killer according to the FBI's definitions, but well below the claims of hundreds or even thousands of murders. Eric W. Hickey cites an unnamed "investigator" who interviewed Lucas several times, and who concluded Lucas had probably killed about 40 people.

These statements, among others, make it clear that law enforcement officials and other figures have conflicting opinions as to Lucas's guilt or innocence.

In fiction

The movies Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 2 - Mask of Sanity are loosely based on Lucas's confessions. Portrait Of A Serial Killer starred Michael Rooker as a fictionalized version of Lucas, while Mask of Sanity starred Neil Giuntoli.

The movie Confessions of a Serial Killer takes a different, less fictional version of Lucas's story.


  • 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 Matter", 1998

  • "The Death Penalty In Texas: Lethal Injustice", Amnesty International, 1998

  • "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)


Henry Lee Lucas

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 time.

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 impossible.

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 later.

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.


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 rail road.

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 years.

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 satisfaction.

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 hospital.

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 animals.

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 United States.

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 uniforms.

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.

Mommy’s Dearest

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.

Deadly Revenge

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 Moore.

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 first-degree murder.

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 life.

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.

The Trials

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."

The Confessions

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 out."

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.

Williamson County

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.

Bizarre Confessions

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 killer.

Orange Socks

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 the check.

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 stupid."

According to Lucas, anxious investigators and the Texas Rangers fed him the details he needed to make his confessions credible.

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 unrelated charges.

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 liquor.

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 made up."

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 afield.

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 1983.

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 ghost.

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 themselves.

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 exaggeration.

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 have known."

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


Henry Lee Lucas: Deadly Drifter

by Patrick Bellamy


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.

On this 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."

Weaver didn't have to look into the cell to know that it was pitch black. "No there's not."

The voice became more insistent, almost fearful. "There's a light. And it's talkin' to me."

"You're seein' things," Weaver answered, anxious to put an end to this fantasy. "Now shut up and get some sleep."

Weaver 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, quick!"

Weaver returned to the cell and unlocked the food-service hatch in the door and peered inside. "What is it this time?" He demanded.

The prisoner, Henry Lee Lucas, answered in a quiet, feeble tone. "Joe Don, I done some pretty bad things."

Weaver, aware 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 pencil?"

Weaver agreed to the strange request and nearly an hour later Lucas handed him a short letter that was addressed to Sheriff Bill F. Conway.

After reading 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.

Sheriff Conway 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 Lucas constantly.

At one stage, anxious to crack Lucas's confident demeanor, he deprived Lucas of the two things he craved most -- coffee and cigarettes.

Lucas still 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.

Sheriff Conway 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.

The first 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.

Several hours 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.

Conway stared 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.

Fruit of the Womb

Henry Lee 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 whiskey.

Henry was 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.

All the 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.

Henry's mother 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 an alcoholic.

Any deviation 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.

Eventually he 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 difficulties.

Despite the 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 road."

Anderson 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.

Criminal Destiny

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.

Henry seemed 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.

After his 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 and left.

Henry stormed 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.

Thinking that 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.

Henry was 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.

The Big House

Henry's would 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.

Some time 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.

Regardless of 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: -

Henry Lee 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 good progress.

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.

Four years 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

Lucas's 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

Following his 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.

After living 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.

Shortly after 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.

While in 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 undrivable condition.

Otis and Becky

Lucas reached 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.

After her 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.

In December 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 Jacksonville.

After leaving 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.

Killing Time

According to 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.

The pair 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."

What disturbed 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.

The killing 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.

Everyone they 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.

When they 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 destruction.

The killing 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."

One such 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.

Cult of Death

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 told them.

"What kind of religion," Lucas asked.

"It's called, "The Hand of Death," the stranger replied. "We worship the devil."

The previous 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.

Several weeks 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 was done.

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.

Seven weeks 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.

Lucas told 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.

Police would 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.

A Harmless Couple

Allegedly, 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.

Shortly after 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.

According to 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."

Switching cars, 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.

After three 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.

They drifted 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 murders.

"Granny" Rich

While 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.

Soon after, 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.

The relatives 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 house.

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.

House of Prayer

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 Prayer."

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.

Again, they 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 ways.

She rekindled 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.

Rather than 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.

The next morning Henry and Becky left the ranch and started hitchhiking towards Florida, a trip that was to have fateful implications.

Lost Love

Even though 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.

Lucas later 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.

Her response 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."

Lucas said 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."

Lucas then 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.

Running Scared

After killing 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.

On the 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 her home.

Kate Rich 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.

After 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.

Later that 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.

Lucas stayed 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.

The following 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.

Conway 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 Conway's jurisdiction.

In Custody

Henry's next 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

Conway was 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.

Final Run

Lucas's last 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.

In October 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 some time.

Lucas then 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.

Moore agreed 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.

Several days 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 execution date.

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.

Given the 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 be known.


- Max Call: Hand of Death: The Henry Lee Lucas Story (1985).

- Mike Cox: The Confessions of Henry Lee Lucas (1991).

- 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).



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