Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Henry Lee Lucas: Prolific Serial Killer or Prolific Liar?


Ottis Elwood Toole
Ottis Elwood Toole

In 1976, after years in prison for various crimes, Lucas had teamed up in Florida with arsonist and serial killer Ottis Elwood Toole, 29, who enjoyed mutilating corpses. They met, says David Frasier in Murder Cases of the Twentieth Century, in a Skid Row rescue mission in Jacksonville. Although he's often been cast in Lucas's shadow, Toole had his own gruesome story and in the end, it may be that he was in fact the more degenerate of the two of them. He was a grade school dropout with an IQ just above mentally retarded, and supposedly he'd been introduced to sex before the age of ten by his older sister and a gay neighbor.

Ottis Toole, younger
Ottis Toole, younger

Toole was born on March 5, 1947 in Jacksonville, Florida. Abandoned by his alcoholic father, he grew up in the custody of his mother, whom he claims dressed him as a girl, and his sister. His mother supposedly was a religious fanatic, while Toole's grandmother had been a Satanist, writes Michael Newton in The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, and had dubbed him "the devil's child." He'd watch her dig up graves in search of body parts to use in her rituals. Already a serial arsonist (getting erotic enjoyment out of the fires he set) and frequent runaway, he committed his first murder at age 14. A traveling salesman had picked him up for sex and once they were in the woods, Toole ran the man over with his own car. And yet he dressed in drag to hunt for "dates" at the rescue mission.

Toole was suspected in four other murders across the country before he met Lucas in Florida. These involved shootings in Nebraska and Colorado, and two stabbings in Colorado. Toole had been married briefly, but his wife managed to spend only three days with him before she departed. In retrospect, it's no wonder.


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