The Tag Team from Hell: The Connection of Ottis Toole and Henry Lee Lucas
Ottis Toole was officially named the killer of 6-yr. old Adam Walsh today. What many people don’t know is that for years, Toole was the companion of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.
As a kid, Henry was the poster child of the dysfunctional. Growing up in the countryside of Virgina, he had eight brothers and sisters who were farmed out to institutions, relatives, and foster homes, he managed to stay at home where he was mistreated and abused. He was uneducated, malnourished, beaten, and forced to watch his uncaring, bootlegging, prostitute mom — Viola Lucas — turn tricks. His alcoholic father, called “No Legs” because of a chance encounter with a freight train, killed himself after repeatedly being humiliated by his abusive wife. Henry was often forced to go to school barefoot, wearing a dress and curlers. Not surprisingly, he dropped out by fifth grade and remained semi-literate for the rest of his life.
As a teenager he enjoyed sex with his half-brother and dead animals. The future serial confessor said he first killed and raped a girl at the age of 15. When he was 17, Henry sliced open his eye while playing with a knife with his brother. His left his gashed eye unattended for days until it eventually withered and had to be removed by a doctor and replaced with prosthetic glass. Once he was beat so severely with a piece of wood that he lay in a semi-conscious state for three days before one of Violet’s boyfriend decided to take him to a local hospital. All this explaining why Lucas spent most of his youth in and out of correctional institutes until January 11, 1960, when, in a drunken binge, Henry stuck a knife in his mother’s back and proceeded to rape her dead corpse. Later, like on many other occasions, he recanted his act of inscestuous necrophilia.
He got 40 years for matricide and was sent to Jackson State Penitentiary in southern Michigan. A social worker there met Lucas and observed “a very inadequate individual with feelings of insecurity and inferiority.” After two attempted suicides, Hank was transferred to a mental facility for the criminally insane, where he was diagnosed as a suicidal psychopath, sadist, and sexual deviant.
Inexplicably he was out after serving only 10 years. After his release things didn’t get any better. He had an unsuccessful marriage which ended when his wife discovered he was having sex with her two small girls. Then he lived with his sister Wanda, leaving when she accused him of sexually abusing her young daughter.
In 1978, after a chance meeting in a Jacksonville soup kitchen, he joined up with part-time transvestite, Ottis Toole, to carry out numerous murderous escapades. Ottis was erotically stimulated by arson and had a taste for human flesh. Henry, however, was not a cannibal because, he said, he disliked the taste of Ottis’ barbecue sauce. He was more of a sadist and a necrophile, preferring sex with mutilated bodies and dead animals: “I enjoy dead sex more than I do live sex.”
The consummate killer couple, they enjoyed picking up hitchhikers to satisfy their lust for blood. Sometimes, when they didn’t want to go through the hassle of killing and disposing of their prey, they would just run over the occasional hitchhiker and continue on their merry way. These lethal lovebirds parted ways after Ottis’ mildly retarded 12-year-old niece, Becky Powell, shacked up with Henry. One day the unfortunate lassie lost her temper and struck Henry in the face. Not Mr. Nice Guy, Lucas grabbed a carving knife and stabbed her in the heart killing her instantly. After raping her post-mortem, he dismembered her, stuffed her in pillowcases and left her remains strewn over a field.
Lucas was arrested in June 15, 1983, for a minor weapons charge. Within days he confessed to the one-year-old murder of 82-year-old Kate Rich, a Montague County woman who had taken Becky Powell and him in when they moved to Texas. Then he confessed to murdering and dismembering little Becky and led detectives to the field where he dumped her body. During the Powell trial he confessed to having sex with her after her death: “I had sex, intercourse with her. It¹s one of those things that I guess got to be part of my life, having sexual intercourse with the dead.”
After he was sentenced to life in prison he congratulated the prosecutor for a job well done and continued confessing to the tune of 600 murders throughout the United States. Lucas’ highly publicized confession spree prompted detectives from 40 states to visit him to talk about an estimated 3,000 homicides which in turn led to one of the greatest mockeries of the U.S. legal system with cops clearing their books of unsolved murders and Lucas parroting whatever information he was fed. “I’ve killed by strangulation. I’ve killed by hit-and-runs, by shootings, by robberies, by hangings. Every type of crime, I’ve done it. I’ve got more female population hating my guts, more than any other place in the earth.”
According to his confession Lucas claimed he and Toole would pick up most of his victims along the interstates: “Just about everyone I pick up, I kill ’em. That’s the way it always turn out.” Toole, who at the time was incarcerated in Florida on an arson murder, confirmed many of the claims, adding his own details. According to Ottis they picked many more hitchhikers when he wore a dress. Not surprisingly the confession became morbidly bizarre with episodes of necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism on account of Toole’s taste for human flesh.
Later, when he recanted his confessions, he said he wanted to make police “look stupid”, which after all is said and done, he did. “That’s just a bunch of garbage I put together,” Lucas said of the confessions in a 1998 interview with The Associated Press. “I’m not some kind of saint, but I do believe I’ll go to heaven. And I do believe those who did the killings will be punished by God.” He blamed the confessions on a steady diet of tranquilizers, steaks, hamburgers and milkshakes fed to him by investigators, along with crime scene clues he said he parroted back to detectives. Unfortunately for the victims and their relatives, many of those murder cases were never reopened.
Lucas toured the country as a star killer looking for evidence of his handiwork for avid police departments. Curiously, not a bit of evidence was uncovered by the excursions. But as Henry continued rambling on about murders another police department invited him to their jurisdiction hoping to pin whatever they could the garrulous confessor. In 1985, Dallas Times-Herald journalist, Hugh Aynesworth, claimed their reign of terror was a hoax and that overzealous detectives fed the would-be killers many details of their crimes. Henry and Ottis confessed to a huge amount of murders in 26 states. Henry even claimed to have carried the poison to Guyana as a favor to his good friend Jim Jones.
Many investigators still believe that Lucas was responsible for between three and twelve killings and the real criminals were the officers who fed him information on unsolved cases and coerced confessions. Serial killer expert Robert Ressler believes Henry might be responsible for as little as five killings. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
To many investigators’ surprise one of Henry’s earliest alleged victims, a Virginia schoolteacher, was found alive and kicking after he was charged with her murder. Not one to hold back his most outrageous boasts, he claimed to have committed murders in Spain and Japan even though there’s no evidence suggesting he ever left the United States.
Some of the crimes, he said, were committed under orders from the Satanic cult, the Hand of Death, who recruited them to help out with the human sacrifices. “They take a live girl and put her on the table and split her open and take all of her organs out,” he told police, adding that sometimes they would take the entrails and “put them in a pot and cooked ’em.” The Hand of Death has also been mentioned by Charles Manson and New York’s infamous Son of Sam as the true masterminds behind their crimes. It is unclear if the group actually exist or its mythical reality has become transcendental.
Meanwhile back in Florida, Ottis was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and his death sentence was commuted to six consecutive life terms for an arson murder. Ottis too got the confession bug and claimed to have killed 6-year-old Adam Walsh, whose 1981 disappearance outside a Hollywood, Florida, mall set off a nationwide manhunt and launched the TV career of his father, John Walsh, as the creator and host of the Fox television series “America’s Most Wanted.”
On September 15, 1996, Ottis died in a prison hospital of liver failure. Walsh, who repeatedly criticized the police handling of his son’s case, questioned why investigators did not try to interview Toole on his deathbed or try for another confession. Speaking from prison after Ottis’ death, Lucas said Toole killed Adam and later showed him the remains of the boy in a shallow grave. “I got sick about it. I said let’s get the hell out of here.”
On March 31, 1998, Texas State District Judge John Carter set June 30 as the execution date for Henry Lee for the 1979 murder of an unidentified female hitchhiker known by law enforcement as “Orange Socks”. The victim was so named because the socks were all she was wearing when her body was found in a ditch off Interstate 35 near Georgetown, north of Austin.
On June 27, 1998, the then Governor (now president) George W. Bush spared Henry’s life because of overwhelming evidence proving that the drifter was not in Texas when “Orange Socks” was murdered. Although Lucas confessed four times to killing her, work records and a cashed paycheck indicated he was working as a roofer in Florida at the time of the murder. Bush — who as governor executed 152 inmates — issued the only reprieve in his career on the recommendation of the state parole board. “I can only thank them for believing the truth and having guts enough for standing up for what’s right,” Lucas said from death row. After the commutation, Lucas predicted that there was an “80 percent chance” he would walk free someday.
“Henry Lee Lucas is unquestionably guilty of other despicable crimes which he has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison,” said Bush, in Brownsville for a conference of U.S.-Mexico border state governors. “However, I believe there is enough doubt about this particular crime that the state of Texas should not impose its ultimate penalty by executing him.”
Besides the life term for the Orange Socks killing, Lucas was serving five other life sentences and 210 years in prison for three other slayings. The district attorney who prosecuted the Orange Socks case, Ken Anderson, said Tuesday he believes Lucas killed anywhere from three to a dozen people. “I don’t think he knew exactly,” Anderson said “He had no reliability. He had such a chaotic life. It’s difficult to imagine you can rely on anything he said, but the fact remains he was a serial killer even though we’re unable to pinpoint the exact number.”
In 1999, Henry made it in the news again when he told reporters he had become fascinated by drifter Angel Maturino Resendiz, the Railroad Killer who has been connected to at least eight slayings in Texas, Kentucky and Illinois. “If this was 1983, I’d claim these murders, too,” Lucas told the Houston Chronicle. He told the paper he admired Resendiz and thought he was playing a “brilliant” cat and mouse game with the FBI agents trying to track him.
In Death Row in Huntsville Henry became born-again and spent the last 18 years of his life making guard uniforms. According to prison personnel, he was model prisoner and an ace on the sewing machines. Henry died the night of March 12, 2001 in Huntsville Prison’s infirmary. He was pronounced dead of natural causes at 11:16 p.m. Lucas was a chain smoker and had a history of heart disease. He had recently complained of breathing difficulties and spent two nights in the prison hospital. Officials said he will be buried in the inmate cemetary if no family members claim his body. He was 64 at the time of his death.
On Tuesday, Dec. 16th Ottis Toole was officially declared the kidnapper and killer of little Adam Walsh.