A to Z Challenge: O (serial killers)

Ottis Toole

Fast Facts:

  • Born in 1947, died in 1996 in Florida
  • He confessed to killing over 100 people and to cannibalism
  • He was caught on charges of arson and confessed while in custody
  • Originally charged with 1 murder, another 4 charges were added
  • He was convicted and originally given a death sentence, however that was commuted to life in prison

After Ottis Toole’s father deserted the family he was raised by a single mother. Reported to be cruel, his mother and grandmother had extreme religious views. Diagnosed as developmentally disabled he dropped out of school and turned to petty crime. Toole’s first murder occurred at the age of 14 when a travelling salesman picked him up and asked for sexual favours. Toole ran the man down with his own car.

More of his crimes turned fatal, although the exact number of killings is unknown. Eventually, Toole found a partner in crime, Henry Lee Lucas with whom he had a homosexual relationship. Toole married a year after meeting Lucas, but the couple soon separated.

Toole was caught setting a fire and while in custody confessed to the murder by arson of another victim. He was sentenced to death for that murder, but later charged and found guilty of another 5 murders. He eventually confessed to killing, and committing cannibalism, over 100 people with Lucas, although some doubt has been raised about this number. He was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted to life in prison.

14 comments on “A to Z Challenge: O (serial killers)

  1. 100 people? And cannibalism? Yuck and very sad.


  2. It makes you wonder if he had a happy day in his life. Certainly doesn’t sound like he could have.

  3. This is probably the only one so far that I’ve had some sympathy with because of his childhood. He’s still a rotten person, don’t get me wrong, but would he have been that bad if he’d had a decent upbringing?

    • It’s a good question, Lauren. How much can nurture change nature, or was he like that purely because he missed out on nurture?

  4. I find myself in the weird place of both agreeing with Lauren’s sympathy for Ottis’s early life and thinking of this guy as one of the more depraved of the serial killers we’ve met so far. Perhaps it’s the reference to cannibalism that is pushing me toward the second opinion!

  5. I agree with the other comments that the cannibalism makes this story particularly tough. And the number. I do hope that 100 is an exaggeration!

    • The problem with serial killers is they often target marginalised groups, like homeless people or prostitutes. Sadly, this means they aren’t missed when they are killed. I guess we’ll never know if 100 is a true tally. I hope it’s not that many!

  6. I know some cultures eat humans to get their strength or spirit but that wasn’t this guy’s goal. Yuck!

    • And none of those cultures kill before eating (they use the bodies of people who have died).

  7. Just no.

    I refuse to “excuse” or “understand” because of his childhood. Millions of kids are being born and raised under unfortunate circumstances. They struggle, but they work hard and get by.


  8. That’s so true, Tamara.

  9. If only he’d been given help as a child and not turned to crime he might never had turned out the way he did. People often learn to value others by the way they have been valued, and he clearly wasn’t at all.
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Movie Monsters

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