Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Henry Lee Lucas (Cont. 2)

Killing Mom

Lucas was born on August 23, 1936 in the backwoods of Virginia to a man who'd lost both legs in a train accident (some sources say this was his stepfather) and a woman named Viola, a half-Chippewa who made a living for her small family with prostitution and bootlegging.  Reportedly she was mean when she drank. Lucas said that she would entertain clients in front of him, his brother and his father. (Some sources indicate he had eight siblings.)  He even claims (difficult as it is to believe) that when he walked out one time in disgust, his mother found him and beat him for not watching her with a client.  He also said that she used to dress him up as a little girl, which humiliated him.  Egger says that a half-sister claimed to have a picture of Henry with curls and wearing a dress.  Psychologists who later evaluated Lucas indicate that his hatred of his mother was the source of his violent misogyny. Lucas's father reportedly dragged himself outside into the snow one day and contracted a fatal case of pneumonia.

Henry Lee Lucas as a boy.
Henry Lee Lucas as a boy.
Once when he was five, his mother struck him in the head with a wooden board.  He claimed that she knocked him out for a period of three days (some sources say one day, others indicate eleven hours), and thereafter he suffered from headaches, dizzy spells, and blackouts.  He also took a knife wound to his left eye, which left him with a vulnerable area on his face that was soon hurt in an accident at school.  His damaged eye was replaced with a glass eye that left him with a drooping eyelid.  According to Egger, children who knew him found him sullen and antisocial. 
Another story Lucas told is that one of his mother's lovers got him interested in bestiality with the slain carcasses of dogs and sheep.  He first killed someone, he said, just before he turned fifteen in 1951. The reason he murdered this teenage girl was to see what it was like to have sex with a human, or so the story goes.  Lucas certainly enjoyed the reactions his tales received, and interviewers duly wrote them down.

Henry Lee Lucas, young
Henry Lee Lucas, young
In 1952, Lucas got into trouble with the law.  On June 12, 1952, he burglarized an appliance store and was sent to a reformatory for two years.  Upon release, he committed a felony and got four years at the Virginia State Penitentiary.  He escaped, stole a car and made his way to Michigan, where he was arrested and returned to prison.  When he was finally done with his sentence, he went to live with his half-sister in Tecumseh, Michigan.  Then his mother came for a visit.  She was 74 at the time.
On January 11, 1960, after drinking too much, Lucas and his mother got into an argument, supposedly over a woman Lucas wanted to marry.  He grabbed a knife and plunged it into her neck.  (He remembered only that he knocked her a little and she had a heart attack.)  Lucas was convicted of second-degree murder and sent to the state prison in southern Michigan.  There he tried to commit suicide and was transferred to a forensic psychiatric hospital.  For his mother's murder, he served ten years of a twenty-year sentence.  But then as soon as he was released, he got three and a half years for trying to kidnap two girls.  Once he was out, he moved to Pennsylvania and got married in 1975, but abandoned his wife when she accused him of molesting her daughters.  That's when the one-eyed killer started to travel.  In Florida, he took up with Toole and they went cross country together.

Taking Becky

Becky Powell
Becky Powell
For a while, Toole's orphaned nephew and niece, Frank and Becky Powell, came with them.  Lucas had started having sex with Becky when she was only 12, while they'd been rolling around on a bed, tickling each other.  She seemed willing to do anything to be with him, and he later said he grew to love her.  He liked that she seemed to accept everything he said.
When Toole's mother died in 1981, he started drinking and taking drugs.  Around this time, on July 27, six-year-old Adam Walsh disappeared from a shopping mall.  On August 10, his head was found in a canal ditch in Vero Beach. Toole later claimed to be his killer, and this murder precipitated the show, America's Most Wanted, hosted by Adam's father, John Walsh. (The assistant police chief believed him, but then later cleared him as a suspect, and he did recant this crime.)

John Walsh
John Walsh
Lucas took Becky with him in 1982, because he wanted her to himself, and Toole was so angered by their betrayal that he allegedly killed nine people in six different states in the course of thirteen months.  He was caught in Florida burning a building and was imprisoned with a twenty-year sentence.  He admitted to having set some forty fires.
But that did not bring back his former lover or his niece.  In fact, Toole would never see Becky again.

The House of Prayer

In the meantime, Lucas had wandered around Texas with his "child bride," finally settling with Kate Rich.  However, relatives disliked them and kicked them out, according to the American Justice documentary. They found a new home near Stoneburg in a Pentecostal commune (a former chicken ranch) known as the House of Prayer.  The head of the group, Ruben Moore, was both a lay minister and a contractor, so he gave Lucas and Becky, who claimed to be husband and wife, a shack to live in (Egger says a trailer) and hired Lucas for some odd jobs.  Max Call indicates that Lucas left Florida when he did to avoid implication in the murder of a female school teacher, and he also writes that the new digs in Texas had connections to the Hand of Death cult in which Lucas was supposedly a member.  Call also described Kate Smith as a member, suggesting that she paid Lucas for activities involving organized crime.  There is no reason to suppose any of that was true.
According to the story Lucas told, Becky eventually tired of the living conditions and wanted to return home.  On August 24, 1982, the day after Lucas's birthday, Becky argued with him, saying she missed her family, but Lucas was afraid that he would lose her if they went back, so he resisted. He also knew he faced a warrant for stealing a truck. But Becky would not give up.  She pouted and cried, so he finally relented and told her to get ready to go. 
Because he had no license plates on his car, he decided they should hitch-hike, and they got a ride as far as Denton, Texas, north of Dallas.  Lucas then got a six-pack of beer and tried again to persuade Becky to give up the idea.  She argued back, which reminded Lucas of his mother, and then Becky slapped him.  He'd reacted by killing her with a meat-carving knife, shoving it straight into her chest.  He was angry, he later said, that she just would not take responsibility for herself.  To his horror, she died quickly: "She was gone before I knew it." 
Then right next to the Interstate, on a blanket that Becky had spread for them to sleep, he raped the corpse.  He thought it was the best sex he'd ever had with her.  He then removed her head, dismembered her (removing her hands with special care), and cut the trunk of her body into two large pieces.  The person who once had been Becky now lay there in nine pieces.  These he placed into a pillowcase, but then removed them and just scattered them around a nearby field.  He also dumped Becky's purse and small suitcase.  No one knew them around these parts, he figured, so no one could trace it.  Later he expressed regret, because he claimed that he'd truly loved Becky.  Once he'd cleaned off her blood, he hitched a ride back to the House of Prayer and told Moore and the others that Becky had gotten into a truck and left him. Then a couple of weeks later, he returned to the area to bury some of the remains in a shallow hole near a copse of trees.  Within another week, he was contemplating another murder.


It was about three weeks after Becky's demise, on September 16, that things went sour with Kate Rich.  Lucas went into Ringgold where she lived, knocked on her door, and asked if she wanted to help him look for Becky, or so he told the Rangers.  She agreed to go, happy to get out of the house, and Lucas stopped first for beer.  On the car seat between them was a butcher knife.  Lucas clearly had something else in mind, since he knew that Becky was dead.  Whether or not Kate questioned him about going north, the wrong direction, is anyone's guess.
Lucas had downed a lot of beer when he said he was seized with the idea of killing Kate.  He drove down a dirt road past a campground and then stopped the car.  He grabbed the knife and shoved it into Kate's left side, pushing her against the door.  He pulled the knife out and went around to the passenger side.  When he opened the door, Kate fell to the ground.  She was dead from a wound to her heart.  Lucas was immediately aroused, so he pulled the corpse down an embankment and removed the clothing.  "I got naked," he told the Rangers, "and screwed her until I finished."  He then dragged her to a large drainage pipe near the road.  He shoved both the corpse and the clothing into it as far as he could, until he felt certain no one would find her. 
The next day, Lucas left the House of Prayer and took off, getting as far as Needles, California before the car gave out.  But Lucas wasn't finished with Kate.  He drifted for a month, and then returned to where he had hidden the body.  He learned that he was suspected in her disappearance and endured a polygraph examination, but he got away with it.  No one arrested him.  Lucas retrieved the decomposing remains and put them into a stove at the House of Prayer to incinerate them.

Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas
After his confession, investigators went to where Lucas had indicated he'd killed Kate and found the drainage pipe, a broken pair of women's glasses, and a pair of panties.  Back at the House of Prayer, in the wood-burning stove, they found ashes and what looked like human bone and burnt flesh.  In another area where Lucas had dumped ashes, they also found bone fragments.  Lucas also showed them where he had thrown Kate's purse — exactly the spot where it had been found months before.
Officers, including Texas Rangers, then took Lucas to the Denton area to try to find Becky's remains.  He went right to the copse of trees where he had buried her and pointed to several areas on the ground.  They dug at seven different locations and found clothing, bones, a skull and decomposing remains.  The corroboration of two murders, both of which appeared to show experience with killing and hiding evidence, made the possibility that Lucas was telling the truth about others — even a hundred others - seemed more likely now to at least some of the officers. 
Lucas wanted to clear his conscience entirely, so after he was convicted of Becky's murder, he wrote Ottis Toole a four-page letter to inform him of Becky's death and to get his assistance in recalling the details of the murders they had committed together.  He said that he hadn't yet mentioned Toole (although he had) and would leave it up to him as to whether he wanted to be involved.  In fact, the Jacksonville police had already been contacted about murders in their area committed by these two losers.


The letter went to Toole in prison.  He had heard about Lucas's confessions, and he readily backed them up, adding gruesome details of his own.  Toole offered details that seemed to clear some two dozen murders in eleven states, and he agreed that he had participated with Lucas in over one hundred killings.
In one disturbing phone call they were allowed to make (their first contact in two years), Toole urged Lucas to go ahead and "spit it out" if there was a crime that he'd had a hand in.  Toole also tried to goad Lucas into admitting to cannibalism.  On a documentary made for American Justice, he was quoted in a taped conversation as saying, "Remember one time I said I wanted me some ribs?  Did that make me a cannibal?" He indicated that they both had "fileted" some meat from the bodies and mentioned that he'd poured out some blood so he could see what the male victim tasted like.  Lucas responded, "I've seen bodies cut up worser than you've ever seen bodies cut up."  Ottis ignored this one-ups-manship and indicated that with bar-b-que sauce it tasted like real meat. 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.  "You and I have become the same thing that people look at as animals," Lucas stated, as quoted in Cox's book.
After about half an hour, they said good-bye to each other, apparently having thoroughly enjoyed the repulsive show they'd put on for law enforcement.  Bob Prince, from the Lucas Task Force, spotted the game and believed it decreased their credibility.  Despite Lucas's claim to want to do the right thing, he simply took too much delight in what he was doing.  Later the "partners" were brought face to face when Lucas was taken to Jacksonville to talk with officers there, but said nothing of substance.  Toole forgave Lucas for killing Becky, shrugging it off as her time to die.
With new information supplied by Lucas, Toole received a death sentence when it was determined that one of the fires he had set had killed a man.  He received a second death sentence for the murder of an elderly woman, but both were commuted to life.

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