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Ottis Elwood Toole (March 5, 1947-September 15, 1996) (sometimes spelled Otis) was an American criminal. Though he claimed to be a serial killer and cannibal, and was the suspect in several unsolved murders, he recanted and restated a number of confessions.

Toole was twice convicted of murder, and confessed to four more murder charges before dying in prison.

He was perhaps best-known as a suspect in the murder of Adam Walsh, son of John Walsh, host of the television program America's Most Wanted, and as the reputed partner of Henry Lee Lucas.


A native of Jacksonville, Florida, his father left the family when Toole was young. He claimed his mother was a religious fanatic, and that his sister dressed him in girl's clothes. Toole also claimed his grandmother was a satanist who exposed him to various practices and rituals in his youth.

Toole ran away from home repeatedly. He claimed to have started fires in abandoned homes from a young age.

Toole claimed to have committed his first murder at the age of 14. After being propositioned for sex by a traveling salesman, he ran over the salesman with his own car. This claim is unverified.

Toole's first arrest as an adult was in 1964, on a charge of loitering.

Toole & Lucas

About 1978, Toole met Lucas in Florida. Both would later claim to have committed many hundreds of murders, sometimes at the behest of a secret cult called "The Hand of Death" Lucas would recant his confessions, saying he made such statements only to improve his living conditions in jail. Though some authorities have argued there is significant doubt as to Lucas' guilt, Toole is still generally seen as a serial killer.

Adam Walsh

On October 21, 1983, Toole confessed to the murder of Adam Walsh. He claimed to have kidnapped and killed the boy, and then fed the body to alligators in a nearby swamp. A few weeks after Toole made the confession, however, police investigating the case announced that they no longer considered him a suspect. John Walsh, Adam's father, has said repeatedly that he believes Toole to be guilty. [1]

The end

In April 1984, Toole was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1982 arson incident that killed 64-year-old George Sonnenberg in Jacksonville, Florida. Later that year, Toole was judged guilty of the 1983 murder of 19-year-old Tallahassee, Florida, resident Ada Johnson, and received a second death sentence; on appeal, however, both sentences were commuted to life in prison.

Toole pleaded guilty to four more murders in 1991 and received four more life sentences.

Toole died in September 1996 in prison from cirrhosis of the liver.

Park Journee Estep

In 1974, Park Journee Estep was convicted of the murder of a female massage parlor operator in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The victim, Sun Ok Cousin, was attacked along with a fellow female employee, Yon Lee. Lee survived being stabbed and slashed in the throat, although both women were set on fire. In her testimony, Lee described her assailant as clean-shaven, 6' 2", 195 pounds, and driving a white pick-up truck.

Estep steadfastly maintained his innocence until he was released on his first parole bid. At the time of the murder he was supposed to have been wearing a mustache, 5' 10", 150 pounds, and driving a red pickup truck. His name was not officially cleared, but the unusual behavior of the parole board is generally seen to be an unwilling admission of a mistake.

In 1984 defense investigators turned up what appeared to be important evidence to support Estep’s claim: a confession to the crime by Ottis Toole. However, in a report by Toole's mother from the day of Cousin's murder, she stated that her truck tires had been slashed by vandals, and Ottis Toole was there as a witness when police answered the call. Confronted with the report, Toole recanted his confession.

Toole’s description of the circumstances surrounding the crime supported his story. The confession ignited a flurry of activity by both the defense and the prosecution involved in the original trial, including interviews with Toole and Lucas.

On January 23, 1985, a documentary entitled Park Estep: A Reasonable Doubt aired on KKTV in Colorado Springs, discussing the recent changes in evidence. It was submitted for a “George Foster Peabody Award” and information about it can be found in the Peabody Award Archives at the University of Georgia Main Library.

Popular culture

  • A character based on Toole was portrayed by Tom Towles in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.


  • In 1974, Toole was briefly housed next to Ted Bundy in Florida's Raiford Prison.

See also

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.