Ottis Elwood Toole
(March 5, 1947 – September 15, 1996), sometimes misspelled as Otis,
was an American serial killer and arsonist. He was an accomplice of
convicted serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.
Toole admitted to multiple counts of murder, rape,
and cannibalism, and was the suspect in several unsolved murders. He
recanted and restated a number of confessions. Toole was convicted of
three counts of murder, and confessed to four more murder charges
before dying in prison. On December 16, 2008, police announced that
they had identified Toole as the likely murderer of Adam Walsh, and
closed the case as a result.
Toole was born and raised in Jacksonville,
Florida. Toole's mother was a religious fanatic; Toole later claimed
that she abused him, including dressing him in girl's clothing and
calling him Becky.
As a young child, Toole was a victim of incest at
the hands of many close relatives, including his older sister and next
door neighbor. His maternal grandmother was a satanist, who exposed
him to various Satanic practices and rituals in his youth, including
self-mutilation and graverobbing, and dubbed him "Devil's Child".
He was often designated as suffering from mild
mental retardation, with an I.Q. of 75. It is believed, however, that
his IQ was probably higher and that he had received such low scores
due to suffering from various learning disabilities (including
dyslexia and ADHD) and being illiterate. He also suffered from
epilepsy, which resulted in frequent grand mal seizures. Throughout
his childhood, he ran away from home often and often slept in
abandoned houses. He was a serial arsonist from a young age and was
sexually aroused by fire.
In the documentary Death Diploma, Toole
claimed he was forced to have sex with a friend of his father's when
he was five years old. He felt he knew he was homosexual when he was
10, and claimed to have had a homosexual relationship with a neighbor
boy when he was 12. Toole dropped out of school in the ninth grade and
began visiting gay bars. He also claimed to have been a male
prostitute as a teenager, and was known to dress in drag. Toole
claimed to have committed his first murder at the age of 14, when
after being propositioned for sex by a traveling salesman, Toole ran
over the salesman with his own car. Toole was first arrested at the
age of 17 in August 1964 for loitering.
Much information of Toole between 1966–1973 is
unclear, but it is believed that he began drifting around the
Southwestern United States and that he supported himself by
prostitution and panhandling. While living in Nebraska, Toole was one
of the prime suspects in the 1974 murder of 24-year-old Patricia Webb.
Shortly after, he left Nebraska and briefly settled in Boulder,
Colorado. One month later, he became a prime suspect in the murder of
31-year-old Ellen Holman, who was murdered on October 14, 1974. With
many accusations against him, Toole left Boulder and headed back to
In early 1975, Toole had returned to Jacksonville
after drifting and hitch-hiking through the American South. On January
14, 1976, he married a woman 25 years his senior. She left him in just
three days, after discovering her husband's homosexuality.
In 1976, Toole met Henry Lee Lucas at a
Jacksonville soup kitchen, and they soon developed a sexual
relationship. Toole later claimed to have accompanied Lucas in 108
murders, sometimes at the behest of a cult called "The Hands of
Death". Lucas later recanted his confessions, saying he made such
statements only to improve his living conditions in jail.
In April 1983, Toole was arrested on an arson
charge in Jacksonville, Florida. On October 21, he confessed to the
1981 murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh. A few weeks after Toole made the
confession, however, police investigating the case announced that they
no longer considered him a suspect. John Walsh, Adam's father,
continued to maintain that he believed Toole to be guilty.
On December 16, 2008, Hollywood, Florida police
announced Toole as the murderer, and the Adam Walsh case was closed.
The police did not reveal any new physical evidence and pointed out
that they still had no DNA evidence.
On January 12, 1982, Toole locked 64-year-old
George Sonnenberg in his own home and set the house alight, killing
him. In April 1984, Toole was convicted and sentenced to death in
Jacksonville, Florida for Sonnenberg's murder. Later that year, Toole
was found guilty of the February 1983 murder of 19-year-old Ada
Johnson, a Tallahassee, Florida, resident, and received a second death
sentence; on appeal, however, both sentences were commuted to life in
Experts at his trial had testified that Toole
suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. While serving his sentence,
Toole briefly stayed in the cell adjacent to serial killer Ted Bundy
in Florida's Raiford Prison. After incarceration, Toole pleaded guilty
to four more murders in 1991 and received four more life sentences.
In 1984, Toole confessed to two unsolved Northwest
Florida slayings, including one of the I-10 murders. During an
interview, he admitted to killing 19-year-old David Schallart, a
hitchhiker he picked up east of Pensacola, Florida. Schallart's body,
bearing five gunshot wounds in the left side of the head, was found on
February 6, 1980, approximately 125 feet off I-10's eastbound lane,
five miles east of Chipley, Florida. The second confession involved
the death of Ada Johnson. Toole confessed that he shot her in the head
on a road outside of Fort Walton Beach, Florida after picking her up
at a Tallahassee nightclub.
On September 15, 1996, at the age of
49, Ottis Toole died in his prison cell from liver failure. He was
buried in a prison cemetery, as no one claimed his body.
Posthumous identification for the murder of Adam Walsh
Twenty-seven years after the murder of Adam Walsh,
authorities officially named Ottis Toole as the likely killer.
Hollywood, Florida Police Chief Chadwick Wagner
said Ottis Toole had been the prime suspect all along, but went on to
admit that although Toole's case was weak, he could have been charged
during the original investigation. Wagner acknowledged that many
mistakes were made by the department and apologized to the Walsh
family. Public critics of the indictment argue that lack of new (public)
evidence, and the inability of the defendant to defend himself of the
allegations, leaves no definitive claim to his guilt. To this Wagner
has stated, "If you're looking for that magic wand, that one piece of
evidence, it's not there." However, by reexamining previously
uncorrelated evidence, police and the Walsh family are satisfied with
the new report and existing evidence that points only to Ottis Toole.
In response to the naming of his son's alleged
murderer, John Walsh stated, "We can now move forward knowing
positively who killed our beautiful little boy."
The decision was finally reached once Toole's niece
told John Walsh that her uncle confessed on his deathbed in prison
that he had murdered and decapitated Adam Walsh.
A character based on Toole was portrayed by Tom
Towles in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
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, 15 th 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
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
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
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.
Henry Lee Lucas was born in the early hours of August
23 rd , 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
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
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
Despite the additional care and attention that Henry
received at school, the beatings and poor treatment at home
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
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
It was the beginnings of a behavioural pattern that
would last a lifetime.
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
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
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
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 5 th , 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
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 7 th , 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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
All text that appears in this section was provided by
www.crimelibrary.com (the very best source for serial killer
information on the internet). Serialkillercalendar.com thanks the
crime library for their tireless efforts in recording our dark past
commends them on the amazing job they have done thus far).
An Interview With Ottis Toole: The
by Billy Bob Barton
The following article is reprinted
from Mike Diana's "The Worst Of Boiled Angel". Ottis Toole is a
convicted killer responsible for, by his own approximations, hundred
of deaths. The included tabloid article is taken from the October
15, 1996 issue of 'GLOBE'.
Let me tell you something: as a
crime beat journalist I've met every kind of criminal scum known to
mankind, a few I believed were aliens from other planets. I've
interviewed Ted Bundy who knawed on the naked buttocks of a dead
college coed and who fucked the week-old rotting, headless corpse of
Denise Noslund in Washington State. The law never got him for that
one, Bundy fried for strangling and raping the remains of a Florida
schoolgirl. Bundy was so depraved that he radiated evil like a
supernova. Pure scumbag.
I've chatted with serial murderess
Margie Barfield who had a habit of poisoning her victims. I saw her
at the North Carolina Prison for Women shortly before she was
executed. She was smiling, hymn-singing, bible-thumping bag of shit
who'd make you feel comfortable while pouring rat poison down your
I've talked to the worst criminals
on Earth - or so I thought - but nothing prepared me for my meeting
with Ottis Toole, the infamous Cannibal Kid, who recently was
sentenced to a mandatory 100 years in North Florida. I wrote this
character a letter while he was in prison near Appilachocola but
didn't catch up to him until he was sent to the infamous Florida
State Prison near Starke.
The Florida State Prison is a
built on a pestiferous swamp. The mosquitos almost sucked me dry as
I waited to be cleared for entry into this state sponsored septic
tank of a prison. A sweating fat black maggot of a prison cop
wearing a shit-brown uniform examined my credentials as the vermin
attacked my bare skin. I swatted the bugs as the insolent toad
looked me over as if I was a new arrival for the eletric chair.
There isn't any speices of human lower than a prison guard. They're
far more corrupt than the criminals they watch over. In my oppinion,
they're blubbergutted, tobacco spitting, animated balls of feces.
Only a pervert would work in a prison and at the Florida State
Prison I saw these brown-shirted perverts aplenty.
Finally I was approved for entry
into the prison and was escorted to the interview area by a swishing,
limp-wristed homosexual "Classification Specialist". I was afraid to
ask what the pussy-boy specialized in. "He" was a "she" and a
genuine charmer. Finally I was put in a little room and a chained
human monster by the name of Ottis Toole was led in by a squad of
prison goons. They threw Toole into a chair but left the chains on
him. Toole glared at their backs as they left the room. Finally he
looked at me; I looked at him andsaid, "I'm Billy Bob. Is it true
you eat people or that is just bullshit?"
Toole looked me over as if I were
a whopper and said "You look damn tasty. If I had me a knife I'd
slit your throat and drink some blood."
I noticed Toole began to drool a
bit at the idea of dicing me up for stewmeat. His eyes were red and
crazy, he began to pant and hiss like a hungry animal. He liked the
idea of munching on human meat.
"They tell me you eat young boys,"
"I've eaten my share," Toole
"Tell me about it," I said.
Toole cocked his head to one side,
said in a weird squeaky little voice, "First I go out and catch me a
little boy, maybe go down to a mall or shopping center and grab one
there...grab him, tie him up, use a gag, put him in the trunk of my
car and drive him to my place out in the swamps. Nobody to bother me
way out there."
"Did you rape those boys?"
"Yeah, I give it to 'em in the
"Make them scream?"
"Naw, they have on a gag. Can't
"Ever fuck little girls?"
"Sure. Fuck'em in the butt same as
"Yeah, why's that?"
"A girl 8 or 9 years old, her
pussy ain't able to take a big dick. She can take it up her butt
same as a boy. I prefer a boy. I make his peter get hard, a boy
maybe 12 years old, I can make him shoot jizz every time while I'm
up his ass. A girl, she doesn't do nothing. Ain't much fun."
"You fuck'em, then you kill'em?"
"Yeah. So what? I like it."
"Ever kill any adult people?"
"Plenty of'em. All the time-men,
"How'd you kill them?"
"All kinds of ways. Strangle some
with a belt. Shoot some. Cut some throats."
"I read where you use a bar-b-que
sauce when you eat those kids. Is that true?"
"Yeah, I have my own recipe."
"Tell me how you cook a young boy
"After the fucking then you strip
them naked and hang them upside down by ankles; then slit their
throat with a knife, slit the belly and take out the guts, the liver,
the heart. Cut off the head. Let the blood drain."
"Do you have a big fire?"
"A pit. A bar-q-que pit. Charcoal
so there ain't much smoke. Take down the body, put the metal spit
through them. Put it into the asshole, through the body and out the
neck, wire the meat to the spit, put it on the spit-holder over the
coals. Damn tasty."
"Just how does a little boy bar-q-que
"Same as a roasted piglet. Boys
and girls taste about the same when you roast them 8 to 10 years old.
The flavor is a shade different when they're teenagers. The boys are
gamier than the girls. Give me the roasted meat of a boy age 14 and
a girl age 14 and I can tell the difference when you use a spicy
"Ever kill teenagers?"
"Sure. Get a pair of lovers
parking in the woods. Easy to catch them. Teenagers make a nice
roast, I do favor a rump roast from a teen. Younger ones I think I
prefer ribs. Juicy. Tasty. Younought to try some."
"You're a sick fucker! Anyone ever
told you that?"
"Sure. Plenty have told me. I got
off death row because they said I'm too sick to burn on the eletric
chair. Nobody came around to try to cure me. They give me some pill.
People eat pigs, cows, horses. I like to eat people. It's good meat,
too. You ain't tried it, don't be saying it ain't tasty. You might
"How many people have you killed
"Just me killing them alone or the
ones I killed and ate with Henry?"
"You were doing this with Henry
"Yeah, we'd mostly eat hitch
"All together how many do you
"Oh, probably about 150 or so."
"Incredible! And the police never
"Ain't no police out in the woods."
"Henry Lee Lucas says now that he
didn't kill all those people, that he was making it all up. What do
you say about that?"
"We killed over 200 when we was
roaming the country together. Maybe he killed more before he met me
or after we split. I'd say around 200 for sure, I got over 100 my
own self. Henry said he got about 400 all together, I don't know for
sure. I really don't."
"Do you recall any memorable
"Oh yeah, I remember Shelly."
"Shelly, is that a boy or a girl?"
"A young woman about 20 or 25,
"What do you remember?"
"I got her when she was hitch
hiking in Colorado. I had me an old pick-up truck. I picked her up,
took her up into the Rocky Mountains and killed her. She was naked
when I killed her. A pretty one. It was the summertime in 1974 and
what was funny is that the police blamed the killing on Ted Bundy
but Ted didn't get that one, I got her."
"Ever hear of anyone else being
blamed for killings you did?"
"Yeah. I got me a chinese girl out
by Colorado Springs in 1974; cut her throat and she had a friend and
I stabbed her up, too. The cop got a guy named Estep for that case
but I did it. Cops don't always get the right person."
"Kill anyone else in Colorado?"
"Oh yeah, I remember a girl. Ellen,
late twenties or early thirties in age, I got her down by Pueblo,
Colorado, we rode east. I shot that one, shot her throught the head."
"Did you fuck them?"
"Sometimes. I fucked them the way
I fuck a boy. Make them take it up the ass. I ain't into pussy but a
girl's a sshole is about the same as a man's."
"Did you eat Patty?"
"No. Not her. I shot her; didn't
eat her or cut off a hunk to eat later. Just left her lying dead."
"Were you involved with a Death
"No, not then. That was around
1974. I joined the cult in the 1980's, early 80's. I was in it with
"Tell me about it."
"It was THE HAND OF DEATH. We were
working for that cult and we'd grab little kids for the human
sacrifices, grab young women for the snuff movies. We'd tie the
women up and haul them to Mexico, only the ones that come out there.
I liked working for THE HAND OF DEATH. They'd let me have the
corpses when they were done with the films or sacrifices and I could
take a prime cut. We got most on those people from Texas since it's
near the border with Mexico. There were several Death Cults down
there. I heard that a few years ago the police busted one near
Matamoros. That wasn't THE HAND OF DEATH, it was a different one."
"What's a human sacrifice like?"
"Secret rituals, I can't reveal it
"Generally. Tell me generally."
"Put them on the altar and cut
their throat; then make a burnt offering to the Devil. Like that
"Who? Women? Kids?"
"Virgins were preferred. Girls of teenage years."
"Yeah, slit the throat, collect
the blood in a goblet, pass it around and drink it hot. Do chants.
It's secret stuff. You aren't supposed to reveal it. They make you
take an oath for secrecy."
"You drank human blood from a cup?"
"Yeah, it's in the ritual."
"What's it taste like?"
"Kinda salty. Not so good. I like
cooked meat. I didn't mind eating the cooked parts."
"Is eating human flesh part of the
"What parts are ritually eaten?"
"Well, I'm not allowed to tell
"Just tell a little."
"We had a ritual where we ate sex
"Tell about that."
"The women parts were the titty
nipples and the hole where the dick goes in."
"I guess. It's like a little bag
"You'd cut out their cunts?"
"Whatever it's called. A sex part.
A hole the woman has."
"What about the males?"
"Cut off the peter, cut off the
"You fry it all up?"
"No, it's put in like a little
stewpot. The guy who cooks it makes it like a soup or stew. It's a
secret recipe from about a thousand years ago."
"Not bad. The part of the woman
around the pussy hole is like lips. Sort of chewy and rubbery. The
balls are damned good when fried. Use a little batter and a fryer
and it's a real treat. Crispy. Like a crispy chestnut. Fresh fried
balls is one of my favorites."
"What's eating the sex parts
supposed to do for you?"
"Gives you increased sexual
"Right. You believe that?"
"I don't know. I prefer to eat the
ribs actually but I go along with what's being served at the
"Where was this weird shit going
"Mexico, a ranch down there."
"And these were all virgins you
ate and cut up?"
"I don't know. Me and Henry would
drive up to Texas and collect women. Girls. We'd just catch those we
"Tell me about that part."
"Certain times of the year the
priests wanted virgins for the human sacrifices. They'd say to me
and Henry to go up to texas and collect some. We'd drive on up. get
girls hitch hiking, pick up vans at bars, there are a lot of women
just walking down the road in South Texas. Migrant workers. We'd get
them, tie them up, gag them, put them in the trunk. We fill the
trunk, 6 or 8 girls, then go back to Mexico. Down at the ranch the
priests check them for virgins."
"How did they check?"
"Took down their pants and looked
at that hole. The hole is smaller on virgins. Something about that
hole, I'm not into women. The priests took the virgins to one
building and the non-virgins went to where they made snuff films."
"Ever see any of these films being
"What did you see?"
Ä political movie about Paris, France, in the old days. They had a
machine that cut off a womans head."
"Yeah, I think so."
"Tell about it."
"The woman i strapped to a board.
Her neck is locked in between a thing, her head is sticking out of a
hole on the board. A big knife drops and cuts off her head. The head
falls into a basket."
"Yeah, it was interesting. Her
name was Charlotte."
"You knew her name?"
"Her movie name, I guess. She was
political. Broke some law, so they cut off her head. Blood squirted
all over the place. It was an old timey execution."
"Did you sacrifice any virgins?"
"No, never did. Priests did all
"You saw it?"
"Oh sure, we all saw it."
"What did you see? Tell how a
virgin is sacrificed."
"The high priest is dressed in a
goat costume. He stands behind the virgin. She's chained belly down
to the sacrificial block with her buttocks raised and spread. There
is a second high priest who has the knife. They do the chants,
ceremonies, the secret things I can't tell about. Then the priest in
front pulls the virgins head back by her hair and puts the knife
against her throat. The one behind her steps up and puts his dick
into her sex hole and when she screams the priest in front slits her
throat. It's all secret rites."
"How many virgins are sacrificed?"
"The main ceremony, once a year
calls for 13 virgins. That's the big ritual. Ususally it's only one
"Do you really expect me to
believe you saw 13 virgins sacrificed at one time? There aren't even
13 virgins left in America. Give me a fucking break, Ottis!"
"It's not all at once. One at a
time, all night long because each ceremony, at sundown and the last,
at sunrise which is about an hour. The first one is a black girl,
she is sacrificed to the prince of darkness at the exact moment of
sundown. During the night virgins are sacrificed to specific demons.
Those virgins are usually Latinas. The last virgin, the 13th, is
sacrificed to Lucifer, Son of the Morning; always a blond girl is
used and her throat is cut at sunrise.She's called the Sun Princess.
She has two slavegirl attendants who are sacrificed with her, they
go with her into the Heart Of The Sun."
"Ottis, you're crazy!"
"The year I first saw the
Ceremonies the Sun Princess was a teenage girl, a white-blond from
Houston. Her cult name was "Taireina" which is "Morning Star". The
year I saw it the Sun Princess was an American, so was the black
girl, the others were Latinas. I saw the rituals. THE HANDS OF DEATH
are a most secret cult; I've already said too much!"
"You and Lucas were involved in
"Yeah, but Henry wants to deny
everything now because he's trying to avoid being executed. I'm too
crazy for execution so I can tell you how it really was. Henry
killed a lot of people. I know, I was there. I helped him do the
"We're running out of time Ottis.
Do you have any particularly fond memories of your days together
with Henry Lucas? He's the one they made the movie about, not you.
He's famous, you're a nobody. A prison faggot. What's your last word?"
"Henry is going to be executed but
I'll be alive surrounded by cute fuck-boys. I have everything I want
in prison. Except I miss the freedom to drive down the highway
robbing and killing from town to town. That's excitment at its best
and miss being able to bar-b-que a boy when I get the urge. I did
like to bar-b-que. You can write it your story that anyone who wants
to write me and get a recipe for my home made sauce, I'll send it
free. Just send a few stamps for the reply letter. That's all honey."
TOOLE, Ottis Elwood
A native of Jacksonville, Florida,
Toole was born on March 5, 1947. His alcoholic father soon took off
for parts unknown, leaving Toole in the care of a religious fanatic
mother and a sister who dressed him in girl's clothes "to play."
Toole's confusion was exacerbated by his grandmother, an alleged
Satanist, who branded Ottis "the devil's child" and sometimes took
him on the graveyard runs that yielded human body parts for use in "magic"
charms. Toole tan away from home repeatedly but always drifted back
again. He suffered from seizures and derived satisfaction from
torching vacant houses in his neighborhood. Questioned later about
his choice of targets, Toole replied, "l just hated to see them
By his own admission, Toole
committed his first murder at age 14. The victim, a traveling
salesman, picked him up outside town and drove him into the woods
for sex. Afterward, Toole "got nervous" and tan the man down with
his own car.
Classified as retarded with an IQ
of 75, Toole dropped out of school in the cighth grade. His first
arrest, for loitering, was logged in August 1964, and others
followed, building up a rap sheet filled with counts of petty theft
and Iewd behavior. He married briefly, but his bride departed after
three days' time, repulsed by Toole's overt homosexuality. By 1974,
Toole was drifting and touring the western states in an old pickup
truck. Acquaintances thought nothing of it, but later evidence
suggests he may have claimed at least four victims in a six-month
Police suspect Toole in the death
of 24-year-old Patricia Webb, shot in Lincoln, Nebraska, on April
18, 1974. Five months later, on September 19, a lone gunman invaded
a massage parlor in Colorado Springs; employee Yon Lee was stabbed,
her throat slashed, before the attacker moved on to rape, shoot, and
stab coworker Sun Ok Cousin. Both women were set on fire, but Lee
survived to describe her assailant as clean-shaven, six feet two,
and 195 pounds, driving a white pickup truck. Police, for reasons
yet unclear, arrested-and ultimately convicted-Park Estep, a
mustachioed soldier who stood five feet ten, tipped the scales at a
mete 150 pounds, and owned a red pickup truck. Meanwhile, on October
10, 31-year-old Ellen Holman was abducted from Pueblo, Colorado,
shot three times in the head, and dumped near the Oklahoma border.
Homicide investigators now believe Toole also pulled the trigger in
Two years later, Toole met killer
Henry Lucas at a jacksonville soup kitchen, taking him home for a
night of drinking, conversation, and sex. The men had much in common,
sharing memories of murder, looking forward to a time when they
might hunt together. By 1983, according to police, they had
traversed the continent together several times, annihilating random
victims at a dizzyying pace.
On January 14, 1977, Toole
startled relatives by marrying a woman 24 years his senior. The
relationship was curious from day one, and Novella Toole soon found
herself sharing Ottis with Henry Lucas and other strangers. "A few
nights after we were married," she said, "he told me he got nervous
a lot, especially if he couldn't get a man. He'd get angry, he sald,
and then he couldn't get excited with a woman." They were separated
by 1978, Lucas and Toole moving in w'th Toole's mother, sharing
quarters with sister Drusilla Powell and her children, Frank and
The homicidal soul mates found
work with a jacksonville roofing company, Southeast Color Coat, but
office manager Eileen Knight recalls that they disappeared
frequently, sometimes for weeks at a stretch. "Ottis would come and
go, " she told jacksonville newsmen. "We'd hire him whenever he
carne back because he was a good worker." Toole's landlord, Betty
Goodyear, said of Ottis and Henry, "They went out of town, always
disappearing. All [Toolel cared about was that old car. I think they
were using ¡t for robbing people because they always seemed to have
a lot of money." Along the way, Toole allegedly introduced Lucas to
a satanic cult, the "Hand of Death," that kidnapped children,
practiced human sacrifice, and cranked out snuff films on a secret
ranch in Mexico.
Toole's mother died in May 1981,
following surgery, and the loss hit him hard. Ottis haunted the
cemetery, sometimes at night, stretching out on the ground by her
grave, supposedly feeling the earth move beneath him. A short time
later, sister Drusilla died of a drug overdose, considered a
probable suicide, and her children were packed off to juvenile homes.
Alone for once with Lucas off on his own or in jail, Toole brooded,
drinking heavlly and popping pills. lt was around this time-on july
27-that six-year-old Adam Walsh disappeared from a Hollywood,
Florida, shopping mall, and his severed head was later recovered
from a Vero Beach canal on August 10.
Lucas returned in October,
discharged from a Maryland jail, and together the men contrived
Frieda Powell's escape from a Polk County juvenile home. By january
1982, authorities were looking for the girl in jacksonville, and she
fled westward with Lucas. They were gone two days before Toole
learned of their departure, and he lapsed into "a world of his own,"
pacing the floor and muttering over Henry's betrayal. He wandered to
forget and killed along the way, reportedly claiming nine victims in
slx states between january 1982 and February 1983.
On May 23 and 31, 1983, two houses
were burned in Toole's jacksonville neighborhood. Teenage
accomplices fingered Toole on june 6, and he freely confessed to
setting an estimated 40 fires over the past two decades. Convicted
of second-degree ARSON on August 5, he drew a term of 20 years in
By that time, Lucas was singing in
Texas, and Toole backed his partner up with more confessions.
Toole's statements "cleared" 25 murders in 11 states, and he
admitted participating with Lucas in another 108 homicides. A
practicing cannibal, Toole also dropped hints about his interest in
Satanism but stopped short of naming alleged fellow cult members.
On October 21, 1983, Toole
confessed to the murder of Adam Walsh, startling Assistant Police
Chief Leroy Hessler with details that were " grlsly beyond belief.
"As Hessler told the media, "There are certain detalls only he could
know. He did it. I've got details that no one else would know. He's
got me convinced." In spite of that endorsement, officers reversed
their stance a few weeks later, issuing statements that Toole was
"no longer a suspect" in the crime.
Another troubling case harked back
to 1974 and the carnage in Colorado Springs. Toole confessed to the
massage parlor attack in September 1984, again providing details of
the crime, but embarrassed prosecutors swiftly mounted their
counterattack. After hours of hostile grilling, Toole threw in the
towel. "Okay," he told authorities, "lf you say I didn't kill her,
maybe I didn’t" (In a strange, unsatisfying compromise, Park Estep
was later released-on his first parole bid-though his name was not
formally cleared. The curious display of mercy by Colorado's parole
board convinced some observers that the state accepted Toole's guilt
but refused to publicly acknowledge a mistake.)
On April 28, 1984, Toole was
convicted in jacksonville of setting the fire that killed 64-year-old
George Sonnenberg in january 1982. Sentenced to death for that crime,
he was indicted one month later for the murder of 19-year-old Ada
johnson in Tallahassee, during February 1983. Conviction on that
charge brought a second death sentence, but both were commuted to
life imprisonment on appeal. In 1991, Toole pled guilty to four more
slayings in Florida, receiving a superfluous quartet of new life
sentences. Police in Hollywood, Florida, were reviewing the Adam
Walsh case when Toole died of cirrhosis in September 1996, and
authorities were embarrassed to learn that all traces of critical
DNA evidence had vanished from their files. The case remains
officially unsolved, though Adam's parents (and a number of police
investigators) are convinced of Toole's guilt.
Ironically, Toole's name was
seidom mentioned in the controversy over Henry Lucas's confessions
and his later change of heart in April 1985. No effort has been made
to challenge Toole's involvement in at least a score of homicidas
from coast to coast, and ¡t is just as well, considering his
dialogue with Lucas, taped by Texas Rangers in November 1983.
TOOLE: Remember that one time I
said I wanted me some ribs? Did that make me a cannibal?
LUCAS: You wasnt a cannibal. Its
the force of the devil, something torced on us that we cant change.
Theres no reason denying what we become. We know what we are.
TOOLE: Remember how I liked to
pour some blood out of them?
LUCAS: Ottis, you and I have
become something people look on as an animal Theres no way of
changing what we done, but we can stop ¡t and not allow other people
to become what we have. And the only way to do that is by honesty.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans