Our society is at once intrigued and repulsed by serial killers. Popular TV shows like Dexter, Hannibal, and Bates Motel feed into our morbid fascination with murderous psychopaths, while at the same time, true crime stories and graphic news headlines remind us of the disturbing and terrifying realities of such crimes.
The FBI defines a "serial killer" as a person who has committed at least two murders on separate occasions. With over 2,625 documented cases, the United States has produced more serial killers than any other country. And Texas, in particular, has produced some of the most notorious.From the Servant Girl Annihilator in the 1880s to the Candyman in the 1970s, Texas law enforcement officers have been burdened with many high-profile serial murder cases over the years. Here are the most notorious serial killers from Texas.
In the spring of 1946 in Texarkana, TX, the Phantom Killer murdered five people and injured three others during a 10-week period. His MO involved shooting young couples parked on secluded lovers' lanes late at night. The first couple survived the attack and described the assailant as wearing a white sack with holes cut out for his eyes. To this day, the Phantom Killer's identity is still unknown.
Between 1970 and 1973, Dean Corll murdered at least 28 young men and boys in the Houston area. With the help of his two teenage accomplices, Elmer Wayne Henley and David Brooks, Corll abducted, raped, and tortured his victims before burying their bodies. He was called the "Candy Man" because he once worked at his mother's candy factory and would hand out candy to local kids. In August 1973, Corll's sadistic spree finally came to an end when Henley shot and killed him.
After his arrest in 1983, Henry Lee Lucas boasted that he had claimed the lives of thousands; however, the majority of his confessions are believed to be false. Only three murders can be linked to Lucas with certainty, and these include the 1960 stabbing death of his mother and the 1982 murders of 15-year-old Becky Powell and 82-year-old Kate Rich in Texas. On March 12, 2001, he died of heart failure while serving a life sentence in prison.
The Servant Girl Annihilator (aka the Austin Axe Murderer) was an unidentified serial killer that terrorized Austin in the 1880s. Of his eight victims, five were African-American women employed as domestic servants. The killer's MO involved attacking his victims with an axe while they were asleep and then sexually assaulting them. Some theorists believe 19-year-old Nathan Elgin committed the murders, while others believe the Annihilator moved to London and became Jack the Ripper.