Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Henry Lee Lucas: Prolific Serial Killer or Prolific Liar?

The Game

Hugh Aynesworth
Hugh Aynesworth

Cox describes how reporter Hugh Aynesworth, co-writer with Stephen Michaud on a book about Ted Bundy, sat through Lucas's trial and had his doubts. He did some sleuthing and found that Lucas had been out of state or in prison at times when some of the murders to which he had confessed had occurred. That inspired McLennan County DA Vic Feazell to look into Lucas's confessions to two murders in his own area.

Apparently Lucas had written a letter to a reporter in Fort Worth suggesting that he was not actually responsible for all the murders he had claimed, and then the parents of one of Lucas's supposed victims decided after reviewing his statement that he was not the killer of their daughter. Aynesworth had interviewed Lucas himself and wrote a lengthy piece that was published on April 14, 1984. He asked the important question: was it all a hoax? He believed it was and accused the task force of failing to follow leads that may have undermined Lucas's credibility, such as noting the distance between crime scenes that made it virtually impossible for Lucas to have committed some murders that were close together in time. He thought the information about many of the murders had been fed to Lucas in order to close the cases. Supposedly Lucas had finally admitted that he was good for only three murders in his life: his mother, Becky, and Kate.

Vic Feazell & Lucas
Vic Feazell & Lucas

But Lucas told a lay sister who then told other reporters that he had lied to Aynesworth and was in fact the monstrous killer he'd claimed; his newfound religion forced him to tell the truth. Officers involved insisted that they did not believe everything Lucas said, but when he knew key unpublished details and could lead them directly to a crime scene, that was convincing evidence. He certainly had killed far more than three. In fact, by that point, writes Cox, 189 murders had been cleared and attributed to him. On April 23, he said that the only person he'd ever killed was his mother, and that had been an accident. He'd been able to "clear" so many murders because the Rangers had given him everything he needed to do so — pictures, reports, and even leading him to the crime scenes. He got a live appearance on Good Morning America to repeat his allegations. His decision to recant, he said, was based on his belief in God (the same reason he'd earlier given to confess to so many murders).

This news was just as stunning as his initial confession, and the officers involved quickly mobilized to try to piece together some dignity.


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