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Ghost Story

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She found no answers.


In 1983, Colorado investigators got a break.

On June 11, a 47-year-old drifter named Henry Lee Lucas was arrested in Montague County, Texas, for carrying a weapon in violation of his parole. Soon after his arrest, he was charged with the murder of eighty-year-old Kate Rich, with whom he had lived as a boarder for a time in the Texas town of Ringgold.

It wasn't the first time Lucas has been charged with murder. In 1961 he was convicted of the stabbing death of his mother and sentenced to between twenty and forty years in prison; he did his time in a facility for the criminally insane before being paroled on June 3, 1970. A little over a year later, he was arrested for attempting to kidnap two young girls in Michigan, and he served his four-year term for that crime in the Michigan State Penitentiary, from which he was paroled on August 22, 1975.

While he was being asked by a judge if he was mentally competent to stand trial in the Rich case, Lucas made a shocking statement: He suggested that he had killed "hundreds" of women in the eight years between his release from the Michigan penitentiary and his Texas arrest. After that, he started making confessions, and he didn't stop. The Texas Rangers formed a special task force devoted solely to Lucas and his admissions. Law-enforcement officials in at least 22 states ultimately "cleared" more than 215 cases based on Lucas's confessions.

Soon after Lucas started talking, he implicated Ottis Toole, his traveling companion, as his accomplice. Toole, who had been arrested in June and charged with an arson death in Jacksonville, Florida, was also incarcerated at the time. (Toole gained notoriety by confessing to the murder of six-year-old Adam Walsh, whose father would later host the television program America's Most Wanted.)

Lucas painted a picture of himself and Toole as a ruthless, murdering duo who were constantly in motion, crisscrossing the country and killing hundreds of people -- mainly women, but also men and children -- in every imaginable way. Newspaper reports at the time proclaimed that the two represented a "new breed" of killer who indiscriminately murdered huge numbers of strangers. By June 22, 1983, Lucas had claimed responsibility for 156 murders. His final tally was over 600. In January 1984, police from around the country gathered in Monroe, Louisiana, for a three-day conference to pool information on Lucas and Toole.

By that time, Lucas and Toole had confessed to thirteen Colorado murders and were suspects in as many as sixteen. Investigators from Aurora and Pueblo and El Paso and Summit counties, along with several CBI agents, attended the Louisiana conference. Colorado police would ultimately charge Lucas and Toole with three murders.

Carl Whiteside, then deputy director of the CBI, first heard about Lucas and Toole through police contacts and started looking at Lucas as a possible suspect in the January 1980 murder of 21-year-old Helene Pruszynski, a Michigan girl who'd been working as an intern at Denver's KHOW radio station. She had been stabbed to death and raped.

Like many other investigators throughout the country, Whiteside went to Georgetown, Texas, to question Lucas. He brought along the Pruszynski file and several other unsolved murder cases, including that of Holly Andrews, hoping to get some answers. On September 8, 1983, Whiteside questioned Lucas about Pruszynski. Lucas told him he didn't know anything about it.

But twenty days later, Lucas told an Abilene, Texas, police detective that he wanted to talk to the CBI.

Over the telephone, after waiving his Miranda rights, Lucas told a senior CBI agent named James Jordan -- not Whiteside -- that during the late winter or early spring of 1976, he had raped and murdered a young woman of about seventeen and had disposed of her body off of I-70 west of Denver. Lucas elaborated, saying he had picked up the young hitchhiker -- about five feet, nine inches tall with brown hair and wearing a jacket, jeans and hiking boots -- and stabbed her in the back and chest. Investigators were convinced that Lucas was describing Holly Andrews.

Whiteside returned to Texas on December 21 for a second interview with Lucas. This time he was accompanied by CBI agent Howard Gillespie, who was in charge of the Andrews investigation and had gone to the crime scene in 1976 with officers from the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office.

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Megan Hall