Henry Lee Lucas was a serial killer from Texas who would ultimately be convicted of eleven murders however he would confess to over a hundred. Henry Lee Lucas case would change how authorities looked at confessions. In this article on My Crime Library we will take a closer look at Henry Lee Lucas.
Henry Lee Lucas Early Years
Henry Lee Lucas was born in Blacksburg Virginia on August 23, 1936. Henry whose mother worked as a prostitute was forced to watch her with her clients and reports were made that she made Lucas to dress in drag and attend school.
Henry Lee Lucas would lose his left eye after getting into a fight with his brother and the eye would get infected.
When Henry Lee Lucas was thirteen years old his alcoholic father would die from hypothermia after he got lost walking home in a blizzard. Lucas would drop out of school and began drifting around the country at the age of thirteen.
Lucas would be arrested in 1954 for a number of robberies in Virginia and would be sentenced to four years in prison. Henry Lee Lucas would briefly escape from prison but would be recaptured days later. In 1959 he would be paroled.
Henry would meet a woman through correspondence while in prison and would travel to Michigan to live with his half sister and his new fiance. When Henry mother came to visit she disapproved of his fiance and demanded Lucas move back in with her in Virginia.
A couple of months later during an argument with his mother on whether or not he should move back to Virginia to take care of her the argument turned violent. Henry claimed his mother hit him over the head with a broom handle and he responded by stabbing her in the neck with a knife causing her death. Henry Lee Lucas would plead self defense however he would be convicted of murder and sentenced to twenty to forty years in prison for second degree murder. After ten years Henry was paroled due to overcrowding.
After getting out of prison in 1970 Henry Lee Lucas would travel around the United States and end up in Florida by 1971 where he would be charged after he attempted to abduct three schoolgirls. Lucas would be sentenced to five years in prison. During his time in prison Henry would meet another woman who he would marry in 1975 upon his release. The marriage would fall apart after the woman’s daughter claimed he sexually abused her.
Henry Lee Lucas And Otis Toole
Henry Lee Lucas would meet Ottis Toole in Jacksonville Florida and would later move into the home Toole shared with his parents and his fifteen year old niece Frieda “Becky” Powell. Otis Toole who would later make a number of false confessions of his own would also say that his home was filled with abuse and that he was sexually assaulted by family members when he was young.
In 1982 when Frieda “Becky” Powell mother and grandmother died she was placed in a shelter however Henry would convince her to run away with him. She complied. The two would work as assistants to an elderly woman, Kate Rich, however when the two began to steal from the woman they were fired.
Around this time Frieda “Becky” Powell became homesick for Florida and Lucas would tell authorities he dropped her off at a bus stop however he would later confess to her murder along with the elderly woman the two were paid to take care of.
In June 1983 Henry Lee Lucas was arrested on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm. While in custody Henry Lee would confess to the murders of Frieda Powell and Kate Rich. Lucas would lead them to an area where two bodies were located however the identities of the two remains could not be identified.
Henry Lee Lucas Confessions
Henry Lee Lucas would be transferred to another jail in Texas where he would confess to the murders of twenty eight people. According to reports the Texas officers were able to clear 213 previously unsolved murders.
Later on when investigators looked back at the false confessions they realized there were a number of problems including that Henry Lee Lucas was given files of unsolved murders that he would later confess too.
Henry Lee Lucas would be sentenced to death for a murder of an unidentified woman in Texas, the woman was identified in 2016 as Debra Jackson. Later authorities learned at the time that the woman was killed at a time Lucas was working in Florida. Henry death sentence would later be commuted to life in prison.
Henry Lee Lucas Death
Henry Lee Lucas would die from a heart attack at the age of 64 on March 12, 2001. He was an inmate at the Huntsville Unit in Texas
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Henry Lee Lucas More News
Henry Lee Lucas wouldn’t shut up.
In the claustrophobic police interrogation room, the one-eyed drifter was ready, willing and able to take credit for hundreds of homicides in the fly-over states as his own sordid handiwork.
And the cops were listening. Intently.
Lucas was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a mosaic of unsolved murders off the books.
And lots of police services did just that. Got a cold case? Blame Henry Lee Lucas.
He told the Texas Rangers that during his time drifting across the U.S., he had shot, stabbed, bludgeoned and strangled a staggering 600 people.
One of the killings the Virginia-born Lucas boasted committing was that of Brigham Young University student Marla Sharp.
On June 29, 1978, Sharp, 26, was discovered raped and murdered inside her Provo, Utah apartment.
For more than five years, the case gathered dust.
Then, Lucas started talking in Texas.
But there was something about the self-proclaimed serial killer’s tale Marla Sharp’s family never quite bought.
“I have never believed that Henry Lee Lucas committed the murder,” Sharp’s cousin, Valerie Colgain, told ABC News.
Lucas’s endless confessions may have helped cops balance the blood book back in the 1980s but now more victims’ families are casting doubt on the fiendish fabulist’s chronicle of murder and mayhem.
Unfortunately, the serial killer can’t clear things up: He pegged out in prison from natural causes in 2001.
For the record, Lucas was a killer.
He murdered his prostitute mother in 1960 and two more people in 1983. He was sentenced to death but avoided the big adios when his sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Lucas’s outlandish yarns began unravelling when the late, lamented Dallas Times Herald began picking away at his claims.
He was claiming responsibility for murders he couldn’t have possibly committed.
If he was doing a jolt in a Florida jail, killing someone in Oklahoma would have been wildly difficult. Right?
The newspaper found that at least 100 of the murders Lucas took credit for would have been impossible for him to have committed.
The Texas Attorney General’s office concurred. Lucas was a fabulist. A serial false confessor.
Cops in Provo have now reopened Sharp’s murder.
“Her loss was something that I never got over,” her sister, Leah Scharp said. “None of our family ever got over it. Somebody killed my sister and they need to be brought to justice.”
Colgain told ABC she reached out to the Utah Cold Case Coalition and they concluded Henry Lee Lucas wasn’t the killer.
Others are also asking law enforcement to reopen murders Lucas boasted were his.
Janelle Hanna Peet’s father was murdered in Texas in 1980.
Lucas claimed that deadly bit of business as well.
“He was shot four times,” said Peet.
“He owned a convenience store, and it was at closing. They tried to make it look like a robbery, but there was still money under the shelf, under the register. He still had his wedding ring on, money in his pockets. It seems like it was personal, and I would like to know who did it and why.”
Henry Lee Lucas More News
n the mid-1980s, Henry Lee Lucas was a star – at least in the context of America’s exploding fascination with serial killers. The subject of anxious news features and four feature films, Lucas confessed to murdering hundreds of people – at first 100, then 200, then about 600. An odd-jobs drifter with three teeth and a lazy eye, Lucas would recall, often on camera, precise and grisly details about each victim. Police officers from across the country interviewed him for more than 3,000 murder cases, to much fanfare; at least 200 cases were attributed to him, closing them to further investigation and making Lucas the country’s most prolific serial killer.I Love You, Now Die: behind the text suicide scandal that shocked AmericaRead more
Except that it was all a lie, one spun through a toxic brew of people-pleasing, power, and convenience on the part of law enforcement, and documented in the Netflix series The Confession Killer, directed by Taki Oldham and Robert Kenner. Over the course of five 45-minute episodes, the series illustrates how the Lucas story spiraled from a by-the-book murder case – the killings of his housemate, Kate Rich, and girlfriend, Becky Powell, in Texas – into a media frenzy in which Lucas and his handlers, the Texas Rangers (a statewide investigative unit with the most Texas of uniforms) enabled confessions which shut down numerous departments’ botched or incomplete investigations.
Forty years on, it’s difficult to know the exact number of cases falsely attributed to Lucas, who was far more pathological liar than serial killer. But there are “certainly dozens of cases where either killers are walking free because they’re still credited to Lucas, or dozens more cases that were never properly reinvestigated because it was credited to Lucas”, Oldham told the Guardian. Though the first episode focuses mostly on Lucas – his arrest in 1983 and his relationship with the Texas Rangers taskforce established to “investigate” his ever-expanding claims – the series ultimately explores the larger environment fostering his lies. A respected Rangers department, led by the imposing Sheriff Jim Boutwell, drawing widespread acclaim for “catching” a prolific serial killer. A tragic pattern of unsolved murders, almost all of women, left underinvestigated or ignored. A symbiotic relationship between the Rangers, various investigators and Lucas that ran on easily obtained, low-evidence confessions (the series openly suggests the Rangers fed Lucas information on several cases he confessed to, and Lucas was clearly amenable to the desires of whoever he was talking to), milkshakes and mutual goodwill. Case closed.
But not for many of the victims’ families, several of whom are interviewed throughout the series. The Confession Killer, said Oldham, is a chance to reopen their cases – less a true crime story of Henry Lee Lucas, who died of natural causes in prison in 2001, than a “launching pad for the true work to begin”.
Some of that corrective work is already being done, thanks to advances in DNA technology since Lucas confessed to a spree of killings in the late 1970s that even circumstantial evidence suggests would be almost impossible (as the veteran Lucas journalist Hugh Aynesworth points out in one episode, Lucas would have crisscrossed 11,000 miles across the country on no sleep for his supposed murders in October 1978 alone). Just this year, several cases attributed to Lucas have been reopened or resolved.
The potential to change cases in the present is what drew Oldham back to the story of Lucas, which he originally covered in the early 2000s. Several years ago, “I decided to do a quick Google search and sure enough, I found one or two cases that had been Lucas cases where the real killer had been found,” he recalled. Soon he had a list of about 10, and “a chance to write a new chapter to a story that had kind of been lost to confusion and uncertainty”.
Much of the series is composed of extensive archival footage of Lucas from the height of his confession spree in the 1980s – news coverage as well as internal footage from his defense team and the Rangers, which show his confessions and officers’ interview tactics. But “the more we got into it, the more we began to realize it wasn’t a story about Henry”, Kenner told the Guardian, “because Henry was this cipher where all these people saw in him what they wanted to see, and Henry was willing to be that for everybody”
Thus, later episodes take a number of unexpected twists into interconnected stories which add extra layers to the Lucas confession hoax: an upstart district attorney framed for corruption charges after he challenged the conduct of the Rangers taskforce, more fraud, a power struggle between different departments of Texas law enforcement. Texas Rangers and law enforcement officials who signed on to false Lucas confessions, many of whom defend the methods used at the time, are also interviewed. However, Oldham and Kenner noted that not every department was willing to re-evaluate their association with Henry Lee Lucas. “The reluctance of police to talk about controversial cases where they may have done wrong in the past was certainly something that we encountered,” said Oldham.
The series offers ample evidence that several institutions acted in bad faith at numerous points in the Lucas saga, but Kenner maintains that “we didn’t think it was a conspiracy story; it’s really a human nature story”, one that ultimately focuses on the families who, four decades on, are still searching for justice for their cold cases.
“We met with a lot of victims’ family members,” said Kenner. “They’re still in pain – they want to know what happened to their loved ones. Some of them thought Lucas had been the killer, and now some have found out he wasn’t and they’re feeling betrayed.”
Kenner and Oldham believe that the series has the potential to reopen numerous cases that were not properly investigated because of Lucas’s claims. “Justice was denied by what happened,” said Kenner of the Lucas media and law enforcement blitz. “And there’s a chance to reopen it, and I’m hoping the juries will and the series can bring about some comfort to the victims’ family members.
“We’re really trying to give [the family members] as much of a voice as possible,” said Oldham. “To us, it’s a project and it means a lot, but to these people – this is their lives. They’ve been living with this for 40 years.”
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Henry Lee Lucas Death
Henry Lee Lucas died on March 12, 2001 from a heart attack inside of a Texas prison