Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Henry Lee Lucas: Prolific Serial Killer or Prolific Liar?

Lucas Elaborates

The Texas Department of Public Safety had plenty of unsolved murder cases on the books and it appeared that Lucas was good for some of them. The officers began the process by contacting other jurisdictions around the state to facilitate interviews between Lucas and relevant law enforcement officials. Word spread as well to officers in other states with open murder cases, since Lucas had drifted around the country for several years. His descriptions just might fit their Jane Does, so they were granted interviews. In fact, when an officer mentioned to the prisoner where he was from, Lucas would often say, "Oh, yeah, I got me some there in your area."

Not everyone believed him and those with doubts sought corroborating evidence, but it often seemed that Lucas, with his prodigious memory, offered details about a murder that had not been printed in the press, so his descriptions seemed credible. He also told them that he knew how not to leave evidence, and in many cases his confession was the only thing that tied him to a body. That made the requirement for corroboration difficult. Those officers who coordinated the interviews urged all incoming detectives to follow a careful protocol, but ultimately it was the job of each jurisdiction to decide if they accepted Lucas as the killer they sought.

For the court, three psychiatrists were appointed to examine Lucas, and although a gag order was imposed, reporters flocked to Texas to try to get whatever they could, if only a quote from a grocery clerk who had served the homely outlaw some coffee. His notoriety blossomed, and several television news shows requested tapes of interviews.

Lucas signed statements about specific murders and offered drawings of more than seventy bodies to officers who came or requested information, and he soon had seven cases cleared, including one that would become famously linked to him. He described a woman he had killed in 1979 and dumped several years earlier in a culvert off Interstate 35, north of Georgetown, Texas. When found, she wore only a pair of orange socks, so the officers had dubbed her "Orange Socks." Lucas not only described her and confessed to killing her in several statements but also took officers straight to where he had dumped her.

Over several months, he offered more summaries for murders for which he had not yet been questioned, including a husband and wife in one Texas county who had owned a liquor store. Sometimes he murdered to rob and then eliminate witnesses; other times he just enjoyed the transient feeling of power it gave him. Usually he'd quickly killed the girls or women he'd picked up, because he preferred sexual contact with a corpse (although Steven Egger, who interviewed him, indicates in Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon that he was impotent). "To me," he said in an interview, "a live woman ain't nothin.'" Lucas generally used a knife or strangled them, but he was an advocate of trying different methods so as not to leave a pattern that police might link together.

He appeared to be quite buoyant about his arrest, according to American Justice, and to accept with complacency that he could get the death penalty. It seemed that being in prison suited him just fine, especially because he was treated well and probably had better food and shelter than he was used to. He did all he could to cooperate and the officers generally found him congenial. Nevertheless, he would prove to be a trickster.


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