Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole claimed to having killed hundreds of people together. During the 1970's, the couple set off on a murder spree across the United States. They raped, killed, and cannibalized victims wherever they set foot. And if Henry Lee's words were to be believed, they killed more than 600 people together.
In reality, nobody knows how many people the pair killed together. After they were arrested, police were eager to hear them confess to the murders, which assisted them in closing a number of unsolved cases.
Later it was revealed that the two were not exactly being truthful about the crimes. This would cause them to go down in history as the "Confession Killers." But, even with their lies and their terrible truths. Henry Lee and Ottis did kill violently and indiscriminately.
Henry and Ottis met in 1976 at a soup kitchen, they quickly became lovers. Their relationship was based on a mutual attraction, a mutual desire to kill.
Both of the men were raised by abusive mothers who forced their sons to dress as girls. The two of them faced sexual trauma before the age of 10, and by the time the two met, they were already murderers.
Henry had already served 10 years in prison for the murder of his mother, he had killed her in 1960, when he was only 23-years-old.
"All I remember was slapping her alongside the neck," Henry would tell police, "When I went to pick her up, I realized she was dead. And I noticed that I had my knife in my hand and she had been cut."
Henry despised his mother for her abuse. She was a sex worker, which Henry had also grown to despise, she would force him to watch as she serviced her customers. And at age 10, Henry would lose an eye due to his mother ignoring an infection that he had developed. And by the time he hit puberty, he would channel his rage into torturing animals and even sexually assaulting his own brother.
Ottis's childhood was just as bad, if not worse. He was assaulted by every person he thought he could trust. His mother would dress him up as a girl, and his older sister raped him before he was 10-years-old. His father prostituted him to a neighbor when he was only 5-years-old.
When Ottis was 14, he killed someone for the very first time. His victim was a travelling salesman who attempted to pick him up for sex. Ottis ran the man over with his own car.
Drawn together by their shared childhood trauma, the pair fell in love rather quickly. This was when they realized they both had desires to kill, so they embarked on a cross-country killing spree.
Their Murdering Spree
The two lovers traveled across 26 states during the 70's, killing wherever they went. They would prey upon anyone they could find, ranging from hitchhikers, sex workers, and migrants. For the pair, killing was just a way for them to bond. They would speak about it openly, comparing notes and giving each other tips.
Henry would later claim that he would coach Ottis on how to get away with murder. "he was doing his crimes all one way," Henry explained, "I started to correct him in his way, in doing the crime where he wouldn't leave information."
The two didn't just kill, they would often rape and torture their victims before they acted out the murder. After their victims were dead, they would mutilate the bodies. Henry said that he never felt guilty for their actions. He even joked that he crossed two state lines with a victim's severed head in the backseat.
The couple even went as far as cannibalism Years after their arrest, they were caught discussing cannibalism over prison phones. Ottis almost sounded nostalgic about the occurrences. "Remember how I liked to pour some blood out of them?" He questioned Lucas. "Some tastes like real meat when it's got barbecue sauce on it."
It may seem that the two were destined for each other, but their relationship fell apart when Henry developed an interest for Ottis's teenage niece, Becky Powell. Henry liked having someone look up to him, so he ran off with her and left Ottis alone. Ottis was left so upset that he allegedly killed nine people to let off the steam of being left behind by his lover.
Henry and Becky didn't make it very far, however. While the pair settled down on a ranch in Ringgold, Texas, the two soon got into a heated argument, which led to Henry luring Becky into an isolated field to kill her, he then dismembered her body and scattered the remains. He then lured the woman who owned the ranch out into the same field and killed her, stuffing her body into a drainage pipe.
Henry was soon arrested in Texas in 1983, all while Ottis was separately imprisoned in Florida in 1984 for burying a 64-year-oldman alive. After their rampage, the serial killer couple was behind bars.
Henry Lee Lucas wasn't arrested for murder, he was instead arrested for possession of a deadly weapon. But, once he was in custody, he started to discuss his murders with any officer who would listen.
As for Ottis Toole, he was more reluctant to speak on his crimes at first. But, once he learned that Henry was taking cops on guided tours of their murder sites, he started to back up his ex-lover's claims. He claimed 108 murders, including 6-year-old Adam Walsh, the son of future America's Most Wanted host John Walsh.
Ottis insisted that he was the murderer of the young boy. He even argued with officers when they doubted his claims. "Oh, no, I killed him, too. There is no doubt about that," He told officers.
According to Ottis, he snatched Adam from the Sear parking lot in 1981, after he decapitated the young boy with a machete, he drove around with the head in his car for so long that he ended up forgetting it was there. When he later came across it, he tossed it into a canal.
Adam Walsh was perhaps one of the most well-known victims killed by Ottis or Henry, since his murder would result in new child protection laws as well as leading his father to getting into television and criminal justice.
On the other hand, Henry confessed to more than 600 murders. He had his own motivations for doing so, far beyond bringing the truth out. "I made the police look stupid," He later bragged. "I was out to wreck Texas law enforcement."
Henry would later admit, confessing to crimes earned him extra privileges. The police would often bring him to the scene of the crime and even let him get fast food on the way. He was sentenced to death row, so confessing to more murders only allowed him to spend some time outside.
The Truth Behind the Lovers' Murders
Police took Henry and Ottis' word as the truth for a long time. Henry's confessions were so plentiful that they led the Texas Rangers to establish a "Henry Lee Lucas Task Force," Assigned to oversee his crimes.
Henry offered rangers grisly details of every murder he confessed to. He would even draw detailed pictures of his victims, much like prolific serial killed, Samuel Little. Henry's pictures were so precise that they even included eye color.
But, soon, his confessions began to slowly unravel.
Officers started to pick up on discrepancies in Henry's timelines and DNA testing begun to contradict some of the stories. And on top of it all, Henry didn't have much evidence to back up his farfetched tales.
Later it was revealed that some of the members of the task forced assigned to him secretly started to provide him with evidence and asked him questions in an attempt to get more confessions from him. That being said, some Texas Rangers were still convinced that he was telling the truth, at least about some of the murders.
"I remember him trying to cop to one he didn't do," Glenn Elliot, retired Texas Ranger, said about the confessions, "But there was another murder case where I'll kiss your butt if he didn't lead us right to the deer stand where the murder took place. Ain't no way he could've guess that, and I damn sure didn't tell him."
Henry later admitted to exaggerating and making up stories, "I only got three murders," He claimed, "But, they're goin' wild every time I tell them about some more."
Given his habit of lying, it is truly impossible to know what his real victim count is. The same goes for Ottis. And in 2019, a docuseries called The Confession Killer tried to get a little closer to the truth. But, no one is exactly positive on how many people the pair killed.
The Confession Killers' Horrific Legacy
There is no way to tell how true Henry and Ottis' story is. Ken Anderson, a district attorney, who prosecuted Henry said that he believed the murderer had killed anywhere from three people to a dozen.
"I don't think he knew exactly," Ken said, "It is 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."
Ottis passed away in prison in 1996 to liver failure. Henry later died in 2001 due to heart failure. They took the truth to their graves.
Many people are still searching for the truth of the bizarre story. The real number of murders may never be known, and tragically the potentially fake confessions from the two have had horrifying consequences for the familes of victims. They went from feeling closure when they overheard that the two where behind bars to questioning if the men even killed their loved ones in the first place.
In the worst-case scenario, the real murderers of some of the fake confessions may still be out there. And it is no wonder why some of the families have been lobbying to get their cases reopened.
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