- Politics and Social Issues»
- Crime & Law Enforcement
The Twisted Mind of Henry Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas met OttisToole in 1975 and became partners in crime. What followed in their wake was a string of terrifying murders, and carnage across the country which shocked a nation.
As a child, Henry was one of 9 siblings raised by a pair of abusive and neglectful alcoholics in a one room log cabin with a dirt floor. His father, Anderson, was a paraplegic who had lost his legs in a train accident. His mother, Viola, was a prostitute who conducted business at their log cabin in the presence of her children…and husband. Anderson committed suicide in 1950. Apparently, he could no longer stomach watching his wife have sex with other men.
Viola was an extremely violent, abusive and overbearing woman who seemed to take pleasure in humiliating young Henry. On one occasion she forced Henry to go to school wearing a dress and his hair done in curls…he had no shoes. An empathetic teacher bought him a pair. When he came home his mother beat him unmercifully for accepting them. The youth dropped out of school in the fifth grade, never to return.
At 17, Lucas accidently injured an eye while playing with a knife. His mother could have cared less and wouldn’t lift a finger to get him medical assistance. He lost the eye and it was replaced by a glass one. His mother also brutally beat him with a wooden plank after which he lay in a state of semi-consciousness for several days. Her boyfriend, known to the children as “Uncle Bernie” finally took him to a hospital several days later.
It now became obvious Henry was becoming a troubled person. Some say it was due to his cruel mother. Others argue he wasn’t the only child and they didn’t end up sick and twisted. But regardless, Henry was now exhibiting a fondness for male companionship rather than normal male female relationships. He enjoyed torturing and killing animals just to watch them suffer in addition to having relations with their dead bodies.
Not surprisingly, Lucas spent his teen years in and out of jail for burglary and petty theft…in and out because he repeatedly escaped. But his crimes were soon to include murder.
In 1960, his mother had tracked him down and insisted he return to live with her. After getting drunk, they argued and she struck him with a broom. It was the biggest mistake of her pathetic life. According to later testimony, Lucas claimed to have stabbed her and then ravaged the corpse. It was a claim he later denied.
Lucas fled to Ohio where he was apprehended five days later. The court sentenced him to 40 years for the atrocity, but while serving the sentence he attempted suicide twice. This got him transferred to a mental institution where he was diagnosed as a suicidal psychopath, sadist and sexual deviant.
Unfortunately, for an unsuspecting public, he was released in 1970 due to overcrowding. Within a year Lucas found himself in hot water again for attempting to kidnap 3 young girls. This time he received 5 years imprisonment.
While serving this sentence he began corresponding with a woman by the name of Betty Crawford. They continued writing each other and married immediately after his release. It wasn’t long before the deviate began abusing her two young daughters, threatening to kill their mother if they said anything. To their relief, he left about 2 years later and began drifting around the country.
It was around this time the fateful meeting between Lucas and Toole took place in a Jacksonville, FL soup kitchen. They quickly bonded and according to Toole, they were even occasional lovers. Toole had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. With nowhere else to go at the time Lucas moved in with Toole at his mother’s house. Toole’s 12 year old niece, Becky Powell lived there as well. Lucas became enamored of the mildly retarded young girl.
According to later confessions by the murderous duo, they routinely picked up victims along the interstate. Their horrifying tales of cannibalism and dismemberment made banner headlines across the country. In fact, there were so many confessions, totaling over 3,000 in all, no one believed they were being truthful. Some boarded on the ridiculous. For example, Lucas claimed to have supplied the poison to Jim Jones in Guyana in what became known as the Jonestown Massacre in November 1978.
Lucas and Toole split up in 1981 after Toole’s mother died and they were forced to hit the road. However, Lucas and Becky stayed together and were next seen in Ringgold, Texas about 1982. There they stayed with an elderly woman named Kate Rich for a short time, but were eventually kicked out.
The pair next appeared in Stoneburg,Texas at a commune operated by evangelist Ruben Moore. In August 1982, Moore drove them to a local truck stop. Lucas returned to the commune the following day without Becky. He claimed she had left with an unnamed truck driver. She was never seen again.
When Kate Rich heard about Becky's mysterious disappearance, she immediately suspected foul play on the part of Henry Lucas and began investigating. Rich disappeared just as quickly. The Rich family filed a missing persons report. But, Lucas denied all allegations he was involved.
Meanwhile, Ottis Toole had claimed to have decapitated and murdered 6 yr-old Adam Walsh and was given a death sentence. Adam was the son of John Walsh, host of the now popular TV show“America's Most Wanted,” who disappeared outside a Florida mall in 1981. However, his sentence was later downgraded to 6 consecutive life sentences for arson and murder charges. After Toole's death in September 1996 from liver failure, Lucas verified Toole had killed young Adam.
Lucas was arrested in June 1983 and from then on he confessed to just about every murder authorities questioned him about. Sadly, he may have been given credit for many he actually didn’t commit, leaving the real culprits on the streets to continue perpetrating more.
He confessed to murdering 82 yr old Kate Rich, stabbing her to death in an oilfield. . He later burned her body in a wood-burning stove for over two days. Authorities found her bone fragments and ashes in the stove and Lucas was charged with first degree murder.
He also confessed to Becky Powell’s murder, saying after an argument at the truck stop she slapped him. He stabbed her in the heart and then dismembered her body which he stuffed into pillowcases. Lucas received another first degree murder charge when skeletal remains matching those of a female the size and age of Becky were found in a field.
After being sentenced to life in prison, Lucas began confessing to virtually ever unsolved murder on the books.. Later, Lucas recanted saying he wanted to “…make the police look stupid.” And there is reason to believe Lucas didn’t commit nearly as many murders he admitted to. For instance, Lucas had confessed at least 4 times to murdering a female near Georgetown, TX. The female was often referred to as simply "Orange Socks" because that’s all she was wearing when they found her. However, work record documents and a cashed check placed him in Florida at the time.
Apparently, after his fourth murder trial for the death of Orange Socks, the State of Texas decided to accept his confession and obliged him with the death penalty.
In 1985, The Dallas Times Herald ran a front page story revealing Lucas’s confessions had all been lies concocted to mock law enforcement officials. Lucas had told the Herald he had only killed three people, his mother, Kate Rich and Becky Powell. He was quoted as saying "They think I'm stupid. When all of this is over, they'll know who's really stupid."
On June 27, 1998, just 3 days before he was to be executed, Lucas received a stay of execution by then Texas Governor George W. Bush, citing evidence he was not in Texas at the time of Orange Sock’s murder.
Lucas died of massive heart failure in March 2001.