This week on our Wrongful Death Serial Series, we’re going to be talking about American serial killer Ottis Toole. Ottis was an American drifter who was convicted of six counts of murder in the late ’70s alongside his companion Henry Lee Lucas. Toole is one of the only serial killers that we have covered to have committed crimes alongside a companion, making this case especially disturbing. Let us delve further into Toole’s life and see what led him down the dark path he chose to follow.
Toole’s Early Life
Toole lived through a traumatizing childhood. His father was an alcoholic who was abusive toward him and his mother and ultimately ended up abandoning them. Unfortunately, the abuse didn’t end there, Toole’s mother also abused him, and he claimed that his mother would dress him in girls’ clothing and call him Susan. Toole also spoke out about being a victim of sexual assault and incest at the hands of many close relatives and acquaintances. Toole’s abuse stemmed from him coming out as gay to his family.
Another disturbing aspect of Toole’s childhood is that his grandmother was a Satanist who exposed him to Satanic practices, eventually dubbing him, “Devil’s Child.”
Some difficulties that Tooele dealt with during his childhood had to do with conditions like epilepsy and mild retardation, achieving an I.Q. of 75.
The Beginning of the Murders
Toole committed his first murder at age 14 after being propositioned for sex by a traveling salesman. The wrongful death of the traveling salesman occurred after Toole ran him over with his car.
In 1976, Toole met Henry Lee Lucas at a soup kitchen, and soon they developed a sexual relationship. Disturbingly, Toole later claimed to have accompanied Lucas in 1008 murders, sometimes for a cult called, “The Hands of Death.” This was then discounted by the police, who uncorroborated any claims of the cult’s existence.
Later in 1982, Toole murdered George Sonnenberg by barricading him in a boarding house and setting it on fire. On April 28th, 1984, a jury found Toole guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death. Later that year, Toole was found guilty of the February 1983 strangulation murder of a 19-year-old woman.
After his incarceration, Toole pleaded guilty to four more murders in 1991 and received four more life sentences. Toole also confessed to the high-profile case of the 1981 wrongful death of six-year-old Adam Walsh. In 2008, 27 years after the 1981 murder of Adam Walsh, authorities officially named Toole as the likely killer.
Ottis Toole died at Florida State Prison of cirrhosis on September 15th, 1996 at the age of 49. To our knowledge, no one has sued Toole’s estate for wrongful death.