true crime

Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing 600 people. But he was lying.

Henry Lee Lucas was once named America’s most prolific serial killer – that’s certainly how he liked to think of himself, anyway. Among his victims were his own mother, whom he stabbed in the neck, a crime for which he served 15 years in prison.

In fact, investigators inquired with Lucas about his alleged involvement in about 3,000 homicides from 40 states across the United States.

During the 1960s and 1970s, he claimed to have drifted across the country, stabbing, strangling and murdering a total of 600 people along the way. If true, he would have been one of the most prodigious killers in history.

He was able to recount his alleged murders in incredible detail for investigators. He would draw out a portrait of his victims for police, even include the colour of their eyes and the way they smiled.

For detectives, Lucas’ confessions brought closure to the cases and for the grieving families of the victims.

In reality, however, he was a ferocious fabulist. He admittedly lied about the overwhelming majority of crimes he confessed to, most of which were unsolved murders that today remain cold cases.

The story of Henry Lee Lucas is the subject of Netflix’s new true crime documentary series, The Confession Killer.

Watch the trailer for Netflix’s true crime series, ‘The Confession Killer’. Post continues below. 

Video by Netflix

Lucas’ crimes started unravelling when the Dallas Times Herald launched an investigation into the killer’s admissions and critically questioned law enforcement’s seemingly blind acceptance of his confessions.

The publication claimed that it simply wasn’t possible for Lucas to have committed the crimes he claimed to be guilty of, and suggested that officials were withholding crucial information that could have exonerated the man.

Despite his lies for a number of cases, he certainly was a killer. Lucas was convicted of murdering 11 people, and was sentenced to death for his crimes.

According to Dallas Times Herald, Lucas admitted to the hoax, saying he wanted ″to show law enforcement doesn’t do its job.″

″I only got three. But they’re [law enforcement officials] goin’ wild every time I tell ’em about some more,″ Lucas told the publication.

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The New York Times also reported that when Lucas revoked many of his confessions, he admitted he was motivated by the benefits he would receive for assisting the police. Indeed, Lucas was rewarded with things like “tranquilisers, steaks, hamburgers and milkshakes,” the more he confessed. Plus, the more Lucas spoke to the Texas Rangers Task Force, the longer he delayed his death row sentence.

who is Henry Lee Lucas
Henry Lee Lucas being arrested by Texas Rangers in 1979 and in his cell on death row in 1998. Image: Getty.

His death sentence came after being convicted for the 1979 murder of an unidentified woman who was known for 40 years as "Orange Socks", because they were the only pieces of clothing she was wearing when she was found by police after being raped and murdered.

However, George W. Bush, who was then the governor of Texas, saved the life of Henry Lee Lucas by commuting his death sentence, citing inconsistencies with the conviction. It was the only time George W. Bush mad such a ruling during his term.

Lucas died in 2001 at the age of 64 from a heart attack. Many of the crimes which he confessed to, before revoking such admissions, remain unsolved and the closure sought by the families of the victims was never reached.

In fact, director of the new Netflix documentary, Robert Kenner, told People, "If we were to take a conservative estimate, 70 to 100 cases are still crediting Lucas for the crime, whether formally or informally. Probably 160 or 170 were never re-investigated, which is an incredible number."

The five-part series, made in part by Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham, will explore Lucas' confessions, and unpack and debunk the plethora of inconsistencies within his account. Along the way, the documentary will expose the issues within the U.S. justice system.

The Confession Killer will be released on Netflix on December 6. 

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