Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Enigmatic Case of Robert Charles Browne

The One-eyed Player

The most infamous confessor was Henry Lee Lucas, arrested in 1983. This one-eyed drifter estimated he'd killed 100 people, but eventually raised that number to 360 in twenty-seven different states. In an unprecedented event, lawmen filled an auditorium in the hope of closing their open cases, but then Lucas recanted. No one knew quite what to make of a killer confessing to so many crimes he did not do, but then he insisted that he'd been forced to recant. His persistent waffling reduced his credibility. While it was clear that he had committed four murders, including his mother, even one of those a female victim dubbed "Orange Socks" came into doubt. Some criminologists believe he was responsible for between forty to fifty murders, but no one knows for sure. But we do know that during his confessions, Lucas got extra-special treatment, nice meals, a comfortable cell, and plenty of attention. He was having a ball.

Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas

"I set out to break and corrupt any law enforcement officer I could get," Lucas said later. "I think I did a pretty good job." He received the death penalty for "Orange Socks," but this sentence was commuted to life, and he eventually died in prison in 2001 of natural causes. The truth, if it remained anywhere, went with him.

Dr. Steven Egger, Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and author of The Killers among Us: An Examination of Serial Murder and its Investigation, once interviewed Lucas. He experienced firsthand the challenge of interpreting such confessions. "It was difficult to tell when Lucas was lying," Egger admits. "In some cases I might ask him to talk about an average killing and it seemed to me that what he said came from his imagination: he'd just thought it up. He was convicted of eleven homicides, so he was a serial killer, but he did blow a lot of what I call 'smoke and mirrors' and played a lot of games."

Dr. Steven Egger
Dr. Steven Egger

Egger advocates verifying whatever serial killers say, one case at a time. "Most of them are psychopaths, and they're good at lying. I don't place a lot of stock in my interviews with them."

It appears that Browne might have studied Lucas as well as the Zodiac. None of these men had any remorse for their murders or their lies. They're not made for it.

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