Texas Atty. Gen. Jim Mattox said in 1985 and 1986 that the more than 360 confessions of Henry Lee Lucas were a “grand fraud” and that polygraph tests showed the “mass murderer” was a hoaxer who may have killed no more than three people.
In releasing a 60-page report after a yearlong investigation, Mattox took law enforcement agencies to task, saying that, in order to clear their books, they had ignored mounting evidence that Lucas was confessing to murders he did not commit.
While Lucas was confessing to hundreds of murders, lawmen did nothing to bring an end to his hoax, Mattox said, adding: “Even as evidence of the hoax mounted, they continued to insist Lucas murdered hundreds of persons.”
After the confessions, law enforcement agencies cleared more than 200 killings from their books by attributing them to the one-time drifter. Last year, Lucas recanted all but three murders.
Mattox called on police agencies in Texas and the rest of the country to reopen any case closed with a Lucas confession, pointing out that, where cases have been wrongly closed, murderers remain free.
“I’m concerned about the ones he did not kill,” he said. “The trails to them are getting very cold.”
Mattox said polygraph tests showed that Lucas had committed at least three murders: the slayings of his mother in Michigan in 1961 and of two other women, Kate Rich and Freida Powell, in North Texas in 1982. He said the yearlong investigation showed that, on numerous occasions, Lucas could not have committed the murders he confessed to because he was in another part of the country.
Rangers Defend Selves
This is not the first time that Mattox and others have questioned the thoroughness of police investigators in the Lucas case. Last year, the Dallas Times Herald printed an exhaustive study that drew many of the same conclusions as the report issued Wednesday by the attorney general’s office. The Texas Rangers, who coordinated the investigation, were cited by Mattox’s office earlier for sloppy police work. The Rangers defended themselves by saying they only assisted other law enforcement agencies in their investigations.
Col. Jim Adams, the head of the Rangers, said there was little new in the Mattox report.
“Little effort appears to have been made to explore and report on those many cases where the investigative agencies involved still believe Lucas to be the prime suspect,” he said. “I don’t know of one case that has been cleared by a law enforcement agency attributed to Lucas where some other person has subsequently been charged with a crime.”
Lucas has been convicted of 10 murders and received the death penalty in one of them. Adams said about 160 cases remain in which Lucas is considered a suspect
But Mattox said it appeared that investigators spoon-fed Lucas information about various murder cases before he confessed to them. He said also that Lucas was never able to lead authorities to a body that had not already been found. Further, he said, there was no physical evidence to connect Lucas with any of the murders except the three in Texas and Michigan.
“It is inconceivable an individual could have committed that many murders without leaving some physical evidence,” Mattox said. “He did not commit the majority of these cases.”
Case after case against alleged serial killer Henry Lee Lucas has unraveled, and many investigations are being reopened, say authorities in states where the convicted killer had been implicated.
Authorities say nearly half the murder cases the Texas Rangers attributed to convicted killers Lucas or Ottis Toole are under investigation again or were never closed.
Lucas, considered the deadliest serial killer in U.S. history after he began confessing to hundreds of murders after he was arrested in Texas in l983, is now widely viewed as the perpetrator of a gigantic hoax.
He ″took a lot of people for a ride,″ said Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox.
A Dallas Times Herald survey of lawmen in charge of investigating 191 murder cases closed by the Rangers-led Lucas Homicide Task Force shows that 90 now are considered unsolved.
Forty-three of those crimes had been attributed to Lucas, 14 to Toole and 33 to both men acting together.
The Times Herald, which reported on the investigation Friday, earlier challenged the validity of their confessions in an investigative series that revealed evidence placing them far from the scenes of many of their alleged crimes.
Mattox, who has completed an investigation into the Lucas affair, said last week he believed ″sloppy police work″ made it possible for Lucas to pull off the hoax.
″If I were the police officers around this country, I would reopen virtually every case that was cleared by Henry Lucas’ confessions,″ Mattox said. ″I would rather have an uncleared case than to have one closed based on a Lucas confession.″
Many officers are standing by their decisions to accept the confessions. Col. Jim Adams, Texas Department of Public Safety chief and commander of the Texas Rangers, said he remains convinced that Lucas killed ″a substantial number of people.″
But nearly as many lawmen now acknowledge there were problems with Lucas cases.
-In San Antonio, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department recently reopened six murder cases it had attributed to Lucas last April.
-Houston police have reopened nine murder cases.
-Grand juries in the Central Texas counties of McLennan and San Saba declined to indict Lucas in four slayings to which he had confessed, and the Lubbock County district attorney asked a district court judge to throw out three indictments against Lucas because of ″additional evidence″ that came to light in the Times Herald investigation.
-In St. Tammany Parish, La., a grand jury refused to indict Lucas and began an investigation into the conduct of the officers who obtained four Lucas confessions and claimed to have evidence linking him to the crimes.
The evidence turned out to be either fabricated or non-existent, the newspaper said.
The report on Mattox’s investigation has not been made public, but it may be the epilogue in the controversy surrounding Lucas and Toole.
Mattox’s office has conducted the only official in-depth probe into Lucas’ whereabouts during the eight years he was supposed to have been criss-crossing the country on a crime spree of unmatched fury.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted a similar, but more limited, investigation of Toole, and the two agencies reached similar conclusions.
″It’s as obvious to me as it is to professional law enforcement individuals that Henry was taking a lot of people on a ride and that it appeared some of them wanted to be taken on a ride,″ Mattox said.
″At the very least … there was a massive amount of sloppy police work done,″ he added. ″That’s assuming that there was no intention to deceive anybody. That’s the very best light in which it can be looked at.″
Lucas was convicted of killing his mother in 1960. Since 1983, he has been convicted of murder in five cases, and pleaded guilty in five more, including the slaying of a West Virginia highway patrolman killed in 1976. One of his convictions, in the 1979 slaying of an unidentified hitchhiker near Georgetown, Texas, was on a capital murder charge, and he was sentenced to death by injection.
Toole was convicted of murder in a boardinghouse fire in Jacksonville, Fla..