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Terrifying true story behind Netflix crime documentary The Confession Killer

You are about to have a new true crime obsession.

New Netflix documentary series The Confession Killer follows the bizarre case of 'the most prolific serial killer in the US', Henry Lee Lucas.

Convicted of multiple murders, Lucas had also confessed to hundreds more in great detail, resulting in numerous convictions and open criminal investigations being closed by the authorities.

However, many of these confessions proved to be false, so why did so many believe him?

And is he really not guilty of the crimes he once took credit for?

Here is the true story behind The Confession Killer and its focus Henry Lee Lucas.

Who was Henry Lee Lucas?

Henry Lee Lucas (centre) in custody in The Confession Killer

Lucas was born on August 23, 1936, in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

Lucas' mother Viola was a prostitute who made him watch her have intercourse with her clients and force him into cross-dressing, according to The Line Up.

After being in a fight at the age of 10, Lucas' eye got infected and had to be removed after Viola ignored his injuries for days.

He is then said to have become an alcoholic at the age of 10 and spent his teens torturing animals and engaging in other violent behaviour.

His father Anderson died in 1949 from hypothermia after collapsing outside in a blizzard after getting drunk. He had previously had his legs severed in an accident.

In 1954, Henry Lee Lucas was sentenced to six years in prison on 12 counts of robbery which ended in 1959 when he was released - barring a brief escape in 1957.


Henry Lee Lucas (right)

After being released from prison, Lucas went to care for his 74-year-old mother at her request.

On January 11, 1960, Lucas argued with his mother and stabbed her in the neck, prompting her to have a fatal heart attack. Lucas' half-sister Opal returned to find their mother in a pool of blood and called an ambulance but it was too late.

Lucas later claimed that the drunken fight was instigated when she slapped him first.

Lucas only served a decade of his 20 to 40-year sentence for her murder, having been released in 1970 due to overcrowding.


Lucas was back in prison a year and a half later for the attempted abduction of young girls.

When he was released in 1975, Lucas married a pen-pal named Betty Crawford but was then alleged to have abused his stepdaughter.

The marriage then fell apart and he left their home.

She later claimed his long list of confessions were implausible and according to AP News said in 1985: "They can execute and get rid of him. I haven’t seen him for eight years and I don’t want to see him again."

Ottis Toole and Frieda Powell

After the end of his marriage, Lucas met Ottis Toole in Jacksonville, Florida, a drifter who he befriended and apparently became lovers with.

Some have theorised that Lucas and Toole then went on a killing spree together.

Lucas then met Toole's teenage niece Frieda Powell, who was 30 years his junior and who became his new girlfriend.

There was even some normality for a time, as Lucas got jobs as a handyman and mechanic.

Having lost her mother and grandmother, Frieda was in a state facility when she joined Lucas for a new life in Texas.

The pair's relationship grew tumultuous, with Lucas having been fired for cashing bad checks at a job in Texas, and they then even joined a commune named The House of Prayer.

The couple argued about whether they should return to Florida, which was Lucas' preferred choice of home.

Amidst these disagreements, according to Crime Library,  it is believed that Lucas then murdered Frieda, engaged in necrophilia with her corpse, and then dismembered her body, later burying some of the remains in a shallow grave.

Lucas then managed to persuade his former 82-year-old Texan boss Kate Rich to accompany him to search for Powell, but subsequently murdered her too, engaged in necrophilia with her corpse, and stuffed her body in a drainage pipe.

Despite later denying the killings, it is widely agreed that Lucas indeed killed his lover Frieda and former employer Kate.

When he confessed to the killings and led authorities to the remains of Frieda and Kate, however, forensics and coroners were unable to positively identify them.

Arrest and confessions

Henry Lee Lucas confessed to many crimes

In 1983, despite having remained in Texas, Lucas was arrested for an illegal weapons charge.

It was at this time that Lucas confessed to hundreds of murders in detail, rising from 60 to 100 and then to around 3,000,  prompting the authorities to pin over 1,000 crimes on him.

Eventually, Lucas was convicted of eleven murders, receiving a death sentence for killing an unidentified Texan woman who was referred to as "Orange Socks" and had been found on Halloween in 1979 entirely naked except for a pair of orange socks.

The credibility of these confessions was called into question by the media - particularly The Dallas Times Herald - who found his claims to be outlandish and virtually impossible, such as  travelling tens of thousands of miles in a single month to be responsible for all the murders. The authorities were criticised for using Lucas to close unsolved cases.

While Lucas would go on to retract many of these confessions, saying his motive for the false admissions was to be given freedom to roam crime scenes and enjoy benefits of the outside world, some found his degree of detail regarding the killings too disturbing for him not to be the killer.

Visiting the crime scenes with Lucas, many accompanying officers commented on how easily he navigated and described the specifics of what he had supposedly done to these victims.

However, the media backlash regarding the implausibilities of the confessions led to a report by the Attorney General of Texas and hearing where Lucas revealed he had been given case files on "Orange Socks" to read for a confession. The hearing saw a stay of his death sentence.

In 1998, George W. Bush - who was then Governor of Texas - converted the death sentence to life imprisonment.


Lucas was behind bars when his violent life came to an end and not long after Bush amended his sentence.

He died of heart failure in prison at the age of 64 on March 12, 2001, and is now buried in an unmarked grave due to threat of vandalism.

The doubt remains over many of his supposed killings, even some of which he was convicted of at the time of his death, especially the murder of "Orange Socks" who was recently identified as Debra Jackson and who had last been seen in 1977.

While some of his confessions have been proven to be false via forensic analysis or inconsistencies in his stories, others have not been and some in law enforcement still believe he was responsible for numerous deaths.

The Confession Killer is available now on Netflix.

Have you watched The Confession Killer on Netflix? Let us know in the comments below.

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