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Serial Killer Takes His Own Life

October 13, 1988 GMT

CANON CITY, Colo. (AP) _ The patriarch of a nomadic, backwoods Texas family responsible for some of the nation’s first serial killings hanged himself with an extension cord in his prison cell, authorities said.

Sherman Ramon McCrary, 62, died Sunday at the Fremont Correctional Facility, just an hour after he spoke with guards making their rounds at the medium-security prison.

″I’m just old and tired and tired of doing time,″ he said in a suicide note to the prison superintendent that was left in his cell.

McCrary was serving a life sentence for the 1971 murder of a Lakewood doughnut shop employee. He would have been eligible for parole in 1997.

He and his family were suspected in 21 other murders, mostly of young women in a series of ″doughnut shop″ killings, primarily in Colorado and Utah, nearly two decades ago. The slayings were considered among the nation’s first serial killings.

Seventeen years ago, police from Florida to Oregon were battling to get McCrary into their courtrooms on murder charges by the time he was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of 20-year-old Leeora Looney of Thornton.

McCrary and his son-in-law, Carl Taylor, were serving time in California’s Folsom Prison in 1972 when Colorado authorities implicated them in Looney’s death. Looney, a waitress at a Lakewood doughnut shop, was kidnapped, strangled, raped and shot in the head.

Looney’s death matched a string of rape-murders committed by the family. Lakewood police Detective Joe Fanciulli said McCrary’s wife Carolyn, son Danny, and Taylor’s wife Ginger all watched quietly as Looney was raped and killed.

He also recalls McCrary’s and Taylor’s attitudes when they confessed. ″They’d consider killing a person the same way you and I would consider stepping on an ant. They were classic sociopaths. Absolutely no regard for human life,″ Fanciulli said.

For the next five years, Fanciulli, now a Lakewood police sergeant, made the Looney murder and the McCrary clan a full-time job. He worked with other departments around the country and co-authored a book on McCrary, ″Death Roads.″

McCrary confessed to Lakewood police of murdering three women in Texas, but the statements were not admissible under Texas law. Sgt. A.L. Morris of the Potter County, Texas, sheriff’s department visited McCrary a year ago, hoping to persuade the 62-year-old to confess again, but McCrary refused.

Lou Hesse, superintendent of the Fremont Correctional Facility where McCrary was housed, described him as a good inmate.

″He didn’t have any disciplinary problems and had a good relationship with the staff and inmates,″ Hesse said.