Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods




Henry Lee Lucas, police photo
Henry Lee Lucas,
police photo

In a 1996 study, it was estimated that 28% of men who commit sexual homicide got their start during adolescence. Henry Lee Lucas was 15 the first time he killed in 1951, and the reason he murdered this teenage girl was to see what it was like to have sex with a human. Prior to this, says Stephen Egger in Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon, he had been killing animals for sex, primarily with a knife. His second victim nine years later was his 74-year-old mother, once a prostitute, whom he stabbed to death with a knife.

Lucas was arrested and jailed for illegal possession of a weapon. At that time, he told a jailer that he'd done some bad things, and he began to confess, and confess, and confess. At first the police believed him, but as his death toll climbed to some 600 victims in nearly every state and in Canada, it began to seem like he was just a compulsive confessor. Nevertheless, he did point to places where victims were found and it's now estimated that he was responsible for some 40 to 50 murders.

Ottis Toole, police <br /> photo
Ottis Toole, police

In 1976, after years in prison, Lucas teamed up with arsonist and serial killer Ottis Toole, who enjoyed mutilating corpses. Later Toole claimed to have been a cannibal, but Lucas said that he'd abstained from that behavior because he did not like the taste of barbecue sauce. He did tell Toole that they had a devil in them that made them do these things that most people didn't.

They traveled together from one state to another, and their favorite prey were female hitchhikers. For a while, Toole's orphaned nephew and niece, Frank and Becky Powell, came with them. Then it was just Lucas and Becky, 13. When she argued with Lucas one day and slapped him, he killed her with a knife. Then he raped the corpse, dismembered it, put the pieces into a pillowcase, and dumped them in a field.

The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers book cover
The Encyclopedia of
Serial Killers book cover

Toole's grandmother had been a Satanist, according to Michael Newton in The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, and had dubbed him, "the devils' child." He watched her dig up graves for body parts. Already an arsonist, he committed his first murder at age 14. A traveling salesman picked him up for sex and Toole ran the man over with his own car. He was suspected in four other murders across the country before he met Lucas in Florida. Introducing him to "The Hand of Death cult, Toole talked about how they killed children for sacrifice to Satan. While Lucas was off with Becky, Toole allegedly killed nine people in a state of rage over their betrayal. He was caught burning buildings and imprisoned in Florida.

By that time, Lucas was also in prison in Texas, confessing to his crimes, so Toole added a few to the list, including the murder of Adam Walsh, whose death precipitated the television program, America's Most Wanted. He confessed to many more crimes, not all of which were accepted, and died in 1996 in prison.

In 1985, Lucas had recanted most of his confessions, saying that he'd been coerced to close the cases, but then returned to some of his original statements. Then he said that everything was a lie: "I set out to break and corrupt any law enforcement officer I could get. I think I did a pretty good job."

He did get the death penalty for a case they called "Orange Socks," although he's had two stays of execution because the evidence was too slim.

The victims of these two men ranged in age from young children to elderly women, killed in every conceivable way and disposed of by dumping, dismembering, and incinerating. How many murders they actually committed will probably never be known.

That's not the case with the two men who found in their kinship a different kind of blood connection.


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