Henry Lee Lucas

Williamson County, Texas
Date of Crime:  October 31, 1979

Henry Lee Lucas was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of an unidentified woman whose body was found along I-35 near Georgetown, Texas. The case was known as the “Orange Socks” case because the victim was found nude except for a pair of orange socks. Lucas had confessed to the crime. In his videotaped confession, Lucas said that he had consensual sex with the victim, but this statement was edited out when played at trial, because the prosecution needed to maintain that the victim was raped in order to make Lucas eligible for the death penalty. The medical examiner had found no evidence of rape. The victim had an advanced case of syphilis, but Lucas had no venereal disease. It was later proven that Lucas was in another state at the time. In 1998, three days before his scheduled execution, Texas Governor George W. Bush pardoned Lucas.

Besides “Orange Socks,” Lucas is believed to have been wrongly convicted of at least eight other murders for which he confessed. Born in 1936, Lucas was abused by his mother, Viola. She physically beat him many times. She one time beat him so badly that he fell into a coma. Only after three days did she decide to seek medical help. Viola also abused Lucas psychologically. She sometimes curled his hair and made him wear a dress to school. One time Lucas was given a pony and Viola later shot it in front of him as a means of punishment. Lucas learned to be overly compliant. When he was older, he moved away and stayed with his half-sister. But Viola later came to visit for an extended stay. Lucas had become engaged, but his mother demanded that he end the engagement and return home with her. That night in 1960 they began an argument that continued to 2 a.m., at which time Viola started beating Lucas across the head with a broom handle. Lucas defended himself with a knife and ended up serving 10 years for Viola's murder, plus another 5 for violating parole.

In 1982, Lucas was questioned in Ringold, Texas about the disappearance of 82-year-old Kate Rich. He was let go after passing a lie detector test. He was arrested a year later on minor charges. While imprisoned he was questioned again. He was stripped of his clothes, cigarettes, and bedding, denied a phone call and lawyer, and detained in a freezing cell. Lucas soon confessed that he murdered Rich. He also confessed to the murder of his traveling companion, Frieda Powell, and soon said he killed about a hundred more women. Years later Lucas stated, “If they were going to make me confess to one I didn't do, then I was going to confess to everything.” In his jailhouse confession Lucas stated he could not take authorities to the remains or Rich or Powell. Yet he later apparently led police to a one-inch bone fragment as the remains of Rich and to a skeleton, alleged to be the remains of Powell. These remains were never identified as belonging to their respective victims. A truck stop waitress supported Lucas's later account that Powell left him and hitched a ride with a truck driver. A trucking company log also gave some support.

Lucas began confessing to committing other murders as well. His confessions began the biggest serial killer investigation in American history. A Lucas Task Force was created to investigate these murders. The Task Force would later state that he confessed to as many as 350 murders, but the truth is they whittled down the number from his approximately 3,000 confessions. Lucas gained widespread infamy. A race was made to make a buck off of him. Books and magazine articles were cranked out a frantic pace. His captors jockeyed to be first in line to sign a book deal. Law enforcement received many awards and accolades.

Lucas was well treated for his confessions. He was flown around the country in the governor's plane. He was given the best of food and privileges unknown to any convict. In pictures and videos of Lucas with his handlers, he seemed more of a partner than a prisoner. According to one lawman, Lucas even became “cocky,” and started “dictating orders.” Despite allegedly being the most prolific serial killer in American history, he was rarely handcuffed and according to one witness, knew the security code to open the door separating the jail from the sheriff's office.

One time Lucas confessed to murdering a West Virginia man, changing the official cause of death from suicide to murder. This confession netted the widow a six-figure sum. Afterwards Texas Rangers took him back to a room at the Holiday Inn where they threw a $3,000 party, complete with hookers and booze.

Another time Lucas confessed to visiting defense attorneys that he had murdered a clerk at an Arkansas convenience store. Another man, Scotty Scott, the son of an Arkansas state trooper, had been convicted of that crime. Because of Lucas's confession, Scott's conviction was vacated and he was released on bail.

Besides the “Orange Socks” murder, Lucas was convicted of ten other murders for which he received life sentences. Police attributed a total of 214 homicides to Lucas and closed these cases as solved. Lucas was often able to review homicide case files prior to visits by detectives at which he would confess to committing the respective homicides. Sometimes he would lead police to locations where he allegedly left victims' bodies based on clues visible in case photos. Lucas was also talented at extracting information from detectives and using it to convince them of his involvement in whatever murder they were investigating. However, apart from Lucas's confessions there is no clear evidence that he committed any homicide aside from the arguably justifiable homicide of his mother. There is perhaps reasonable evidence that he killed Rich and Powell.

Lucas's confessions generally indicated that he was driven by sex to kill. He often confessed to raping his victims before killing them or to having sex with their corpses. Even in the cases of Rich and Powell, he confessed to having had sex with their corpses. However, other evidence indicated that Lucas was impotent. Prison records documented that Lucas was stabbed in the lower abdomen in 1958. Lucas later told his defense attorneys that medical personnel had told him that the stabbing would most likely render him impotent. Upon hearing this statement, Lucas's attorneys had him tested and found that he was totally impotent. A world-renowned psychologist who examined Lucas stated, “He was living a vicarious sex life through his false statements.” Lucas died of heart failure in 2001.  [9/07]


References:  Henry: Fabrication of a Serial Killer, Videos

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Southeast Texas Cases, Mass Murder Cases, Voluntary False Confessions