Happy New Year! Having trouble sleeping after all that partying last night? Well here's a Serial
Killer Bedtime Story to help bring in the Sandman. Tonight's story features Henry Lee Lucas & Ottis Toole, AKA The Tag Team from Hell, AKA the Sadist King and the Generalissimo of Pain.
The numbers speak for themselves. As a kid, Henry was the poster child of the "Future Serial Killer Club." 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. When little Henry sliced an eye while playing with a knife with his brother, his bootlegging, prostitute mother -- Viola Lucas -- left his gashed orb unattended for days until it eventually withered and had to be removed by a doctor.
Once mom beat him so severely with a piece of wood that he lay in a semi-conscious state for three days before Viola's boyfriend decide to take him to a local hospital. Another time, she cruelly decided to send Hank to school in a dress and with his hair curled.
Years later, 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 incestuous necrophilia. He got 40 years for matricide, but was out after 10. Free again, Henry launched his stellar career as the nation's most notorious random killer.
In 1976, 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 homicidal 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' niece, Becky Powell, shacked up with Henry at the age of seven. The unfortunate lassie was found at the age of fifteen dismembered, stuffed in pillowcases and strewn over a field.
After his arrest, Lucas toured the country as a star killer uncovering evidence of his handiwork for local police departments. 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 more than 600 killings 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 just a couple of murders and the real criminals were the officers who fed him information on unresolved 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 as 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 even though 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. As he awaits execution on Death Row in Texas, Hank still mentions bits and pieces of evidence linking him to numerous killings in 18 states.
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. Although his many confessions, he was sentenced to death for the 1979 murder of a female hitchhiker known as "Orange Socks" for the only item of clothing left on her body. During many of his detractions Lucas claimed that he was working as a roofer in Florida when the hitchhiker was killed. No execution date had been set for Lucas until now. He was granted a stay in September 1995 so his claims of false confessions could be investigated. The stay was lifted a year later.
On June 27, 1998 Governor George W. Bush spared Henry's life because of overwhelming evidence proving that Henry was not in Texas when "Orange Socks" was murdered. Although Lucas confessed to killing her, work records and a cashed paycheck indicated he was in Florida at the time of the murder. Bush issued the reprieve 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.
"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."
Sweet dreams, and forever remain Crazy 4 Crazies.