Newspaper Raises Questions about Killings Claimed By Henry Lee Lucas
DALLAS (AP) _ Henry Lee Lucas has confessed to hundreds of murders from California to Pennsylvania, but published reports Sunday raised doubts about the drifter’s admissions - and about authorities’ decisions to close 210 homicide cases because of them.
Some law enforcement authorities said Sunday they stood by their acceptance of Lucas’ confessions because they had additional evidence to implicate him. But in some cases, officials said the confessions would be re-examined.
In a copyright story Sunday, the Dallas Times Herald said Lucas wanted to end the hoax but keeps confessing because authorities told him that once he stops talking, he will go to Death Row to await execution. He was condemned for the 1979 murder of a hitchhiker near Georgetown, Texas, one of at least 10 murders for which he’s been convicted.
Lucas told the newspaper his claims were a hoax ″to show law enforcement doesn’t do its job.″
Lucas said he has killed three people, including his mother in 1960.
″I only got three. But they’re (law enforcement officials) goin’ wild every time I tell ’em about some more,″ said Lucas.
Lucas is jailed in Waco, where District Attorney Vic Feazell said the Texas Rangers’ handling of the Lucas investigation was being questioned by a grand jury that began hearing testimony Thursday on two local killings to which Lucas has confessed.
Lucas himself is due to testify Wednesday.
The Times Herald said evidence suggests that authorities, particularly the Homicide Task Force headed by Texas Rangers, had information that would have exonerated Lucas in many of the murders but failed to pursue it.
Col. Jim Adams, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the parent agency of the Texas Rangers, said reports that authorities ignored evidence were ″ludicrous.″
He said that Lucas has provided both unreliable and reliable information, all of which was made known to appropriate police agencies.
″It was widely reported that a number of murders claimed by him could not be substantiated although about 200 cases have been reported cleared by local investigating agencies who attributed those cases to Lucas, and or (traveling companion Ottis) Toole,″ Adams said.
DPS spokesman Larry Todd said Sunday the agency would review the Lucas case.″It’s going to be real easy to open the books and look at the specifics, and we’re eager to do that,″ Todd said.
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times quoted local officials as saying two of the 15 murders in California that state Attorney General John D. Van de Kamp attributed to Lucas probably were not committed by him.
Riverside County sheriff’s Detective Howard Rush said pictures shown to Lucas by Riverside County officers could have helped Lucas lead the officers to the site of 16-year-old Deanna Musquiz’s killing, but other details did not fit.
″I was never satisfied that Lucas did it,″ Rush said. ″He gave us fine details, but they were all completely off base. I told the (attorney general), I told the Texas Rangers - I told them unequivocally that no, that was not our murderer.″
John Marquis, a Van de Kamp spokesman, denied there was any attempt to inflate the number of murders attributable to Lucas.
Among other killings reviewed by the Times Herald were:
-The Oct. 1, 1982, murder of a Conroe woman, for which the Homicide Task Forec blamed Lucas. But a Texas Ranger chronology said Lucas applied for unemployment benefits or food stamps more than 1,000 miles away, in Decatur, Ill., on the same day.
-A Sept. 12, 1981, murder case in Houston that authorities there closed after accepting Lucas’ confession. At the time of the slaying, Lucas was in jail, 1,400 miles away in Pikesville, Md.
-A Sept. 9, 1975, murder in Tyler, Texas. Rangers and Tyler authorities accepted Lucas’s confession, but records of the Kaolin Mushroom Farms in Avondale, Pa., show Lucas was at work in Pennsylvania on that day. Pennsylvania state police told the Times Herald they had reported the information to Texas Rangers.
Lucas confessed in Pulaski County, Ark., Circuit Court hearing last year to killing convenience store clerk Betty Thornton in Little Rock on Nov. 6, 1981. On the same day, however, Lucas registered an automobile in Jacksonville, Fla., and bought insurance for it, the Times Herald said.
Lucas said in January, when he was convicted of the 1976 slaying of Huntington, W.Va., police officer Clemmie Curtis, that he and Toole were together when Curtis pulled them over.
″I don’t have any doubts at all (that Lucas committed the crime),″ said Huntington police Detective Tom Bevins. ″I can’t speak for the other cases, but as far Clemmie Curtis is concerned, there’s no doubt in my mind.″
But the Times Herald said its investigation and that of the Jacksonville, Fla., police department revealed no evidence the Lucas and Toole knew each other before February 1979.