Longform

Ghost Story

Page 6 of 9

In fact, except for Lucas's original three confessions to the murders of his mother, Frieda Powell and Kate Rich, "there is a notable lack of physical evidence linking Lucas to the crimes to which he confessed."

It was noted that in addition to the murder confessions, Lucas had made a number of completely outlandish claims. For example, he'd told police that he was responsible for the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa and that he'd delivered the poison that cult leader Jim Jones used in the mass suicide in Guyana.

Jim Mattox, Texas's attorney general at the time, asked local police to take another look at their Lucas cases. "I hope that through our efforts, the real murderers of innocent victims can be brought closer to justice by a careful reexamination of Lucas's contrived confessions," he wrote. "I urge any jurisdiction with a case in which Henry Lee Lucas is a suspect to polygraph Lucas or conduct a sodium Pentothal examination and to very carefully scrutinize his confession."

But that left the question as to how Lucas had come up with the eerily specific details he revealed in his confessions, including his statement about Holly Andrews.

"Our conclusion is that most of the information was obtained by Lucas through the interview process," was the answer given in the report. "This occurred when numerous officers interviewed Lucas about the same crime, when Lucas was shown written crime reports and photographs of crime scenes, or when Lucas was helped to 'find his cases.'"

Whiteside recalls that in order to get appointments to interview Lucas and Toole, the CBI had to forward its files to authorities in Texas and Florida, who would then review the cases with the two men to see if they seemed familiar.

Whiteside says he doesn't want to make unfounded accusations that other law-enforcement agencies were feeding information to Lucas and Toole, but, he says, "the only explanation that you can come up with is that [Lucas and Toole] had the opportunity to review the facts of the case before we got there."

However, Gillespie's affidavit shows that Lucas probably gleaned the information from Whiteside himself in exactly the way that the Texas report suggested. Lucas confessed to Holly's murder only after he had already been interviewed once by Whiteside; during that first interview, the CBI agent had shown Lucas a photograph of Holly, and Lucas said she looked "familiar." During the second interview with CBI officials, Gillespie again showed Lucas photographs of Holly while she was still alive, and this time, Lucas identified one of the photographs as that of a girl he had killed. The CBI investigators also showed Lucas photographs of the crime scene, which could have given him much of the detailed information he provided in his confession.

And while some of Lucas's statements were accurate, some were purely speculative. "Lucas described victim as a wild type girl -- high spirited," Gillespie wrote, before summarizing Lucas's statements about Holly: "She kept trying to act sexy, playing up to me, laughing and joking. Kept asking me if I liked girls and what I like to do. She was kissing all over me and playing with me. She was a good teaser."

Gillespie concluded: "Fits what is known of victim's personality and general background."

Others statements simply didn't fit the evidence. Lucas couldn't remember the month or year in which he said he had killed Holly. He said that he had stabbed her twelve to fourteen times with a knife with a one-inch blade; she had been stabbed seven times with a knife with a three-quarter to half-inch blade.

Most important, there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. There were no fingerprints found on the beer cans that were taken from the scene (Lucas claimed he had been wearing gloves). And at the time of Lucas's 1983 confession, Whiteside says, "DNA wasn't even on the radar screen." The closest thing investigators had was blood typing, which showed only that Lucas couldn't be excluded as the killer.

Lucas had a clear motivation for lying: As long as he continued to confess, he received special treatment. He had his own cell, a color television, an unlimited flow of cigarettes, coffee, and cheeseburgers, and the opportunity to travel extensively with the Texas Rangers to "identify" crime scenes around the country. He also received constant attention from law enforcement, reporters and the public; he has since been profiled in numerous books and television programs (including Jerry Springer) and was the subject of a film called Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

Lucas had grown up poor in a rural Virginia town; he says his mother, whom he stabbed to death with a penknife, was a prostitute, and his father a double amputee who sold pencils. For Lucas, the lifestyle that resulted from his confessions was a huge step up from his past existence.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Megan Hall