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Hey there, 2020 podcast listeners.


This is Deborah Roberts, co-anchor of 2020. We're back with season 2 of Wild Crime, a series from ABC News Studios about the elite investigative teams that solve dangerous crimes in our national parks. Here's, murder in Yosimity, episode 1, a gruesome discovery.


Secrets in the Wild. Brutal murders. Beautiful, yet treacherous places. These are the stories of the investigators who solve crimes in the wilderness.


I was really hoping this wasn't human remains.


Who is this person? This was not just some isolated individual that not another soul on this planet cared about.


Was it a murder? Was it a suicide?


You always assume foul play.


There really did seem to be a rise in these serial killers.


A woman alone ain't safe at all.


They have a person down here who's confessing to killing people in national parks.


Is he telling the truth? Is it possible another suspect killed her? Absolutely. It was a true mystery.


I was like, Oh, my gosh, she got a name.


Who would have thought that her son would come back in the same position that she was in and solve the case?


I don't think there's much of Yosemite I haven't seen in my lifetime or piped into. And that's how I grew up, and that's how I wanted my kids to grow up. We always made a full day trip to Yosemite. We would take off and have a picnic down in the main valley. We stopped at Summit Meadow, and we let the kids go, and they scattered like a quail. I was walking with my friends, and And he and I stumbled on what looked like two bones. The boy started digging it out. He kept trying to get him to leave in I was on the phone, I could see the length of the fingers that came out on it. It was pretty obvious that it was a human hand. I knew I had to get a hold of law enforcement, get somebody be up there to look at it.


My name is Don Coelo. I'm a retired National Park ranger. In June of 1983, I got a radio call from another Park ranger. He said a family and some children found what they felt were partial human remains. Summit Meadow was my area of responsibility. That It's located on the Glacier Point Road, and that is the road that goes out to one of the most spectacular scenes in the National Park Service. I was concerned immediately, and to be honest with you, I was hoping it was going to be a bearaw all the way up there. I was really hoping this wasn't human remains. And without seeing it yet, I didn't know one way or the other. The only way to find out is go out and take a look. I had medical training, And when I saw it, I realized this was not a bearaw. This is part of a human being. Is this a homicide? Is it a suicide, a missing person that we didn't know about. I called in other rangers to help me. I took over the crime scene itself, and Kim took over identifying what our evidence was at that point.


My name is Kim Tucker, and I was one of the two primary investigators on the Summit Meadow case. We had no idea of the who, what, when, where, why, or how this Anne had come to Summit Meadow.


At this point, we secured the Meadow. We didn't know what was out there. Part of the forearm and the hand were lying exposed near some running water and mud in the Meadow. There was a light-colored bandaid, not still on the finger, but touching one of the fingers. It had obviously been frozen and thawed, which is normal in the Meadow at that time of the year. We were hoping we would get a blood sample or a hair sample that might tell us male, female, maybe race, maybe not. It was obvious it wasn't fresh.


It was a true mystery.


The challenge was we're in a wilderness area in a National Park. You're not on a city street somewhere.


Some of us went through the Las Vegas Police Academy, I being one of them. We were taught about a lot of the crimes that were going on in Las Vegas.


We do ride-alongs and so forth. But now coming to Yosemite, very similar things were occurring, but they were occurring in a very rural wilderness environment.


You're talking wilderness.


In wilderness areas, a person can walk off a cliff. A person to fall into a crevasse or down a creek bed, and nobody knows where they are.


You could encounter partial bodies that were found by visitors that may have been predated on by wildlife, bears, coyotes, it is a whatever.


You could have individuals who had been raped or beat up, and maybe they're on a trail.


So you really had to investigate the scene You had to investigate it and do all that you can to determine what is this puzzle telling us.


Whenever you find any human remains, you always assume foul play unless proven otherwise.


Our job next would be to start looking for the body.


We call the Mariposa County Search and Rescue Volunteer Teams, and a lot of their volunteers were teenagers.


If somebody found something, it would be photographed, cataloged, taken as evidence. I felt there has to be something else around here.


Maybe somebody would find some piece of evidence, something that could give us the next clue. Anything that might help us learn who is this person, how did they arrive here, when did they arrive here.


We found a lot of bones inside dens for Bobcats, dens for bears, dens for coyotes. Turns out none were human.


When we knew we had a fatality, but we didn't have any our own missing people from the immediate area. So it was very difficult to think, well, what is the next thing we should do?


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Soon after the remains were recovered at Summit Meadow, I took the evidence to a forensic anthropologist to provide any information about gender, age, race.


In the Summit Meadow case, all I had was a forearm. I can, with my hands and eyes, examine the bone surface to generate information about an individual's weight, height, race, sex. I told investigators that this is somebody who has died recently. They still had tissue. The hand and the forearm were relatively small and appears to be a slightly built female, weighing maybe 110 pounds. Her wrist and her elbow area suggested that she was at least 25 years of age at time of her death. There was no evidence of cuts, cut marks.


I couldn't find any.


How they died could not be determined.


There are a lot of people that fit that profile. Given the information we had available to us, it would be unlikely we would identify the victim. I thought probably the victim might have died in the fall of 1982, but I thought it was conceivable that the bone had been out there for at least a year. I came from a conservative rural background. My father worked for the Forest Service, and we lived in very remote areas of Northern California. I had just turned 19 when I started working for the National Park Service. I was the only woman working in the office at the time. The winter of 1974, before my supervisor had gone to the FBI Academy. While he was there, he was asked, We're getting pressure to get women into law enforcement in National Park Service. Do you know anyone who might want to go to the law enforcement training center? He said, Well, maybe my secretary. That's where I was headed.


And the war in Vietnam. Bring the troops up.


The '70s and Yosemite were very much like '70s elsewhere, I think. A lot of social forces changing. We had war in Vietnam, civil rights movement. We had the Women's Equality Movement. Women, join us. But it was a pretty tumultuous period of time for the country.


During the 1970s, early '80s in Yosemite, there was a lot of drug use, drug sales, and drug-related crime. There was a lot of that craziness.


I started 1974.


Because I was a criminal justice major, they put me undercover immediately. Everything from violence to sexual assault. Criminals go on vacation, too.


There was a small number of people working together in the law enforcement office at that time. There were three permanent investigators, myself and two others. Our attention was on the summit metal case, but we had very little to work with.


We had a bifurcated case. Who is the victim? How did the victim die? There was no DNA. The Internet hadn't been invented yet. It was all phone calls, and it was all paper. We wanted to find the rest of that person to let somebody's family know that their loved one was found in Yosemite.


We have visitation in Yosemite from all over the world. Someone could come from anywhere.


Does anybody know if somebody who went to Yosemite never came back? Does anybody have a car parked at a trailhead outside the park or any other vehicles that were unattended that possibly possibly could be related to this?


Over a year's time in Yosemite, we would get half a dozen, possibly missing people. Some would be runaway. Some would be who came up with their boyfriend. But some would be to do away with themselves because they felt they couldn't face the life they had lived wherever they came from. We did have a young teenager who had been reported missing in July of 1981 at another location in the park. Her name was Stacey Aris. She had gone hiking to one of the backcountry high Sierra camps with her father.


It was a highly suspicious disappearance of a girl up in the Sunrise area. It doesn't fit a place that someone would normally disappear in an evening in a location in a backcountry environment where there's other people around, but you're far away from civilization.


She went missing from a section of the park that is off the Tioga Pass Road. That was quite a distance from Summit Meadow. She would have had to have gotten out onto a main road, somehow gotten to a very different environment in the park. I thought it was unlikely, not impossible, but unlikely, that the remains that were found in Summit Meadow were the missing person from July of 1981. I ruled her out, and I think most other people did, too.


We had to get word out to other agencies and other departments.


We searched with the California Department of Justice. We searched on a national database.


Kim and I realized that if we had a homicide, we We don't know where that murder is.


Yosemite National Park, and likely others, can attract people who are drifters, who are not known Don't want to be known.


Crime increased dramatically in California from 1960 into the mid '80s, in this thing called stranger violence. That's a violent crime that occurs amongst people that don't know each other. So that's the scariest crime.


In the 1970s and the 1980s, there were a number of serial killers that were operating in California. Based On the data, there really did seem to be a rise in these serial killers.


I'm going to kill you.


Particularly serial sexual killers whose motivation is for sex. And Typically, their victims are people that they don't know. These are strangers to them. And these are what we call human predators. They drive around literally looking for new victims. And that was really a phenomenon that had not really existed or been identified before the '70s and then into the '80s.


At that point, as an investigator, you keep searching, searching, asking questions, but we had negative results. Just a lot of dead ends. Once the snow came in, that was it. There's no way we could get back up and do any more searches at all.


We've had no inquiries from other agencies, other people. We just have to wait. I I think it's what any of these officers around the world talk about a cold case. So you have to triage your time, your energy, your resources. But that doesn't mean you ever stop thinking about it. In the spring of 1984, we were contacted by the California Department of Justice, and they said they had a person who was claiming to have been responsible for homicides in many jurisdictions all over the country. He said he had murdered people in a mountainous National Park in California. So of course, Yosemite could be that mountainous National Park.


When I got Kim's call, she was obviously excited that we may have a break in the case.


So that's how we first learned of Henry Lee Lucas.


In the spring of 1984, Kim called and said they have a new lead. There's a serial killer who's confessing to killing people out of the United States. It Henry Lucas.


We had no knowledge about Henry Lucas at all. Is he telling the truth? Dawn and I were both feeling like he could be responsible for this unidentified woman in Yosemite.


My name is Phil Ryan. I'm a retired Texas Ranger. What the Texas Ranger do is assist local law enforcement. You have an assigned territory. Mine was four counties. One of my counties was Montague, and it was one of my poorer counties. Montague is a real small town. The Sheriff called me about a missing person. In September 1982, he felt like foul play might have been involved. It was a 82-year-old woman named Kate Rich out of Ringo, Texas, and her daughters hadn't heard from her, and they I noticed that she had a pet cat that hadn't been fed, and that never happens with Kate. So we started out initially just surveying the house. Then, the Highway Department employee found her purse on the side of the road. So that told me that she's dead. We just got to find her body. We got contacted by two or three daughters of Kate Richies, and they said that they'd run a guy by the name of Henry Lee Lucas and a little girl by the name of Becky Powell out of their mom's house.


They were supposed to keep the house clean and do her bookkeeping. What the relatives discovered was they were siphoning funds.


Henry was 46. Becky was 15 years old, and they were passing themselves off as has been a wife.


Becky Powell was a little girl who came from a dysfunctional family where there was nothing most of us would consider a normal lifestyle. She gravitated toward Henry, we think, because he watched after her. He would take care of her. I think the relationship started that way.


Lucas, at that time, was living in the House of Prayer. It was an old chicken farm that was turned into a church. First thing I did with my part of the investigation was interview everybody at the House of Prayer Church. And that's when I also found out that Becky Powell was also missing. Henry left with her and came back without her. We pulled up there, and I told him we were investigating the missing Kate Rich. He said, Oh, no, I love that woman. Henry was unkept, usually had body odor, and he had one eye. My sense is Henry had a low IQ, but a high street smart, and conning people. He kept changing his story. He told me Becky had left and went to Florida. And he said Kate and Becky both were in California with Kate Rich's daughter. I knew he was lying. In the back of my mind, I thought that Henry got mad and killed Becky. And then Kate figured it out, and then he had to kill her. I could prove he was lying, but with no evidence. What do you do? I knew only a confession was my best bet.


Eventually, found out that Henry had been in possession of a fire arm. In Texas, if you're a convicted felon, it's against the law.


When he was arrested, he says he was put in a cold cell, and that was to get him so uncomfortable that he finally said to the jailer, I've done some bad things, and he wanted to record it.


He said, I can take you to where Becky's body is. It's not a pretty sight, but I can only show you of what's left of Kate. I'd like you to tell me you're a fool, that place. What happened that night? All me and Becky got in an argument about going back to Florida. We kept arguing and cussing each other. She hauled out, hit me upside the head. That was it. That's when I hit her with a knife. I hit her right in the chest. I doubt if she knew if I did it, really. Do you recall what you did next? Yes, I took her panties and her bra off. I had sexual intercourse. He told me that he had this problem with desiring dead people, sexual dead people, and animals. It's one of those things that I guess you got to be a part of my life. You've got to mask your feelings as best you can when you're taking confessions. But some of that stuff makes you want to reach across the table and strangle them. What happened next? Well, after that, I cut her up in what we can't please him. The first ever criminal trial of a former President is underway in Manhattan.


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Try not to damage the Meadow the best we can. We've got a human being laying dead up there. We don't know really what ever happened to her.


This was not just some isolated individual that not another soul on this planet cared about. It was hard. Summit Meadow is not so heavily trafficked. There are locations where you can get in tree cover, where you are not likely to be observed.


It could be a great place to do a body dump because animals in the wilderness start feeding on human remains and destroy evidence. It doesn't mean that person was killed in the National Park. That could have been killed anywhere and dropped off there. I sat here and just took my time looking into the forest to see if the remains were here, then could there be a body up there?




We didn't know if it was a crime of violence where they chopped the arm off and threw the limbs away from the road.


What happened next? Well, after that, I cut her up in cocaine pieces. I hope that you can find all of her. That's what I hope. Like I said, I didn't leave her in no pretty sight. Henry walked me out to the murder scene of Becky was, and he told me, If you dig right here, you'll find a pellicace with some of her in it, and then her legs will be out in this direction, her head's in this direction. And we were able to locate the whole body. Henry said he disposed a Becky's suitcase up by the rural tracks, and we go up there and we find it. The suitcase, some of her clothes, There was a mathematics book that she had been teaching herself. And I was reading that book, and it was bringing you to tears. If you could tell she was a lonely, misunderstood or abused girl. You're wishing you could have known about all that and got her out of that.


With Kate Rich, he killed her, and then he burned her body in a makeshift stove out beside the shack where he was living.


What's that experience like? Just like burning wood? Like a piece of wood and stone? How did you get pieces small enough to fit inside of the stone when you're talking about the whole body in your whole body. I did not personally know Kate prior to this, but I talked to family members enough to where you get a sense of her. By all accounts, she was nice to people, and Lived a fairly meager life. She lived a ripe age, but nobody wishes that death on a family member or any human.


We When did you start getting handy with a knife?


I started when I was a kid. I've had a knife ever since I can remember.


My name is Mike Cox. In 1983, I was a police reporter for the Austin American Statesman. I come from a family of journalists. My grandfather was a newspaper man, and my parents were both newspaper people. I just didn't know any better. The Austin Police Department had a press room, and I seldom even went to the office. I would go straight to the police station in the morning and listen to the police monitor. So one morning, I hear that they've got a guy in jail up in North Texas who claims that he's killed two women and has sex with the bodies after they're dead. And it looks like it's a pretty big story. When I got there, Lucas was about to be arrained, but I looked on that more as an interruption more than anything else because an arraignment is a pretty routine procedure.


He was asked by the judge, Do you understand that you're being charged with murder? And he tells As a judge, Yes, sir. I got about 100 of them out there.


All of a sudden, Lucas just blurts out, What about those 100 other women that I killed? And as you might imagine, that got my attention pretty quickly. So as soon As it was over with, I wrote my story in the hotel room, and the next morning, had a banner story in the Austin American Statement about Lucas. The Associated Press picked it up, and it went nationwide, worldwide.


When the story that there might be a serial killer in the Monte County Jail broke, the town has never seen so many helicopters, news media trucks, news reporters. In Texas, a former mental patient, Henry Lee Lucas, says he's a mass murderer. So far, he's led police to the bodies of two women, and he claims he has killed many more. You're signing this brilliant volunteer. These two Over here is going to witness your signature. I'll sign your full name there just like this.


Henry said victims were easy. He found mostly women who were stranded with their cars, were separated from a group.


Every night when I would leave to go home, I would give him a legal pad. I said, If you think of anything, write it down for me.


And then he started drawing pictures of women that he claimed to have killed.


And he would draw victims' faces and then tell where they'd be, what town it was in. And he would pass those out. Surely we can get these confirmed.


Lucas said, I've been killing everything I can for the last 10 years.


I've been doing this since about 70 The murders that we know Henry committed were gruesome enough to indicate that he wasn't a rookie. He had a fetish that was pretty bloody.


There were a lot of things about him that perfectly fit the profile of a serial killer, how casually he would talk about sticking a knife in somebody.


What does it feel like when you have your knife in somebody?


It's like he would be good. How do you think? Fantastic.


And like any good sociopath, which I think he was, he could be very personable.


How much you smoke?


Three. Three packs a night. What phone calls? When you're working serial killers, they get their own MO. And best I could tell with Henry, it was easy catches on the side of the road of females, more than likely, stabbed. And serial killers can operate like that if there's no connection to the victim and the killer. Where he messed up, he killed two that he had a connection to. People don't do their thing. They do must have did something awful.


Lucas was born and raised near Blacks Bird, Virginia, to a very poor family. His father had been a railroad worker and He lost both of his legs. He just bumped along on his ass. I believe it's the way Henry put it when he told me about his father.


His mother alleged it was a astute and turned tricks in front of him when he was a young boy. The trauma he experienced at the hands of his mother, who physically, emotionally abused him horrifically, really damaged him as a young boy.


He had a terrible upbringing. Playing with his brother in a pocket knife, he lost one of his eyes. They eventually gave him a glass eye, but that one eye was always droopy. So it was easy to tell that he had a prosthetic eyeball.


I guess you want to say a poor family. They didn't have anything. I stole for food, and I made bootleg liquor for a living. My mother was a prostitute, and my dad, he was a drunk. They would make me steal for food and stuff. And if I refused to do it, I was beating for it.


His mother would beat him with a broom. She had done that his whole childhood, growing up with her, and it became a trigger. She hit him, is what he claimed, and he stabbed her in the neck. And when he saw her fall, he was so scared and shocked by what he'd done that he ran.


He was arrested for that, and And while he was in the penitentiary, he did sometime in a mental hospital.


He was interviewed extensively by a prison psychiatrist, and he was released around 1970.


When Henry was He was told he was going to be released because of overcrowding, his response was that he wasn't ready. They forced him out of the prison. Before he left, he told them, You will be sorry if you make me leave.


May the eighth, 1984. We're in the back of the main central police station on 61 Reesner Street. President in the car is myself, Sergeant K.


R. Williamson.


My partner, Sergeant L. B. Smith, and Henry Lee Lucas. We went on several local tours in Texas, and the Sheriff would take custody of him and see if he could find his crime scene. We're still talking to Henry about the Patricia Ann Jones case from Houston.


All of the officers that I ever talked to about it, marbled at his ability to say, Okay, turn left here, turn right here. What did you say now?


It seemed like This is the area.




What do you mean by this is the area? Are you saying this is where you laid her or you went through here? Or what do you mean by that? I believe this is where she was at, where I left her at.Right in here?Yeah. She had been on her back. She had been inside of a tarp.


I did talk to a fair number of cops whose integrity I trust, and they all said, he led us to the scene.


The body was back in behind the tree that's standing up straight. The head was facing that way. The feet were sticking out this end. Wrapped up in a tarp.


They went on all kinds of back roads. They started miles from the site, and Henry got them there.


I'm satisfied this is placeful. If I have a victim in a certain location, I want to put another victim in that location. I'll move that victim somewhere else across the United States.


Calls started coming from everywhere, from officials who wanted to interview Henry for potential crimes in their areas.


Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, New Mexico, Chicago, Colorado, California. We had about a thousand officers come in and talk to him, look at his MO, look at where he was at the time their homicide occurred. We set up a task force, and I was assigned to head it just to assist agencies from other jurisdictions that had unsolved homicides. It might be a little difficult to remember some of these things.


The actual year we're talking about is back in '76, which is- once they got to the interview, they received a list of instructions from Bob Prince about how to talk to Henry.


When the investigators would come, I'd always advise them, Don't believe him if you can confirm it. And if you can't confirm it, he's not a credible person. We don't want anything out of you is not true and accurate as best you can recall.


He knew details that people were stunned about.


I picked the ax up. She kept trying to fight to get away from me, and I hauled on hit her.


He did seem to know details that only the killer would have known.


The second blow would have been between the shoulder blades, which I caught her as she was running towards the front door.


He would know what magazine was on the bedside table.


I started going through everything in the bedroom. Dress her. Vanity closet.


Henry was guiding them to a crime site in West Virginia and said, said, I remember the muffler on our car fell off, and they all looked around, and in the brush, they found an old muffler.


He was walking around McNally of the United States. He'd been on every road there ever was. What car did you use when you committed this murder? I was driving a '73 Pontiac Catalina. It was maroon with a cream top. Where did you leave this vehicle? San Jones, New Mexico. San John, New Mexico. If the law enforcement agent had contact us on a murder and had some evidence, we would send out Lucas' information, a copy of fingerprints and pubic hair. The boy enjoyed giving me pubic hair. I don't know why. The first thing I started killing was dogs and cats. I used to take out a shoot. How old was it?


And you were the first time he killed him.


He was being 14.


There were cases where they did actually file charges against him, but I think there were others that were just considered cleared by his confession that he had done it.


How many murders do you feel like that you have committed to your slave in San Jose, Texas? I've estimated 60, but I know there's more than 60. I don't think in doubt he did kill a lot of people. Lucas was convicted of 11 homicides, including his mother, and he actually went to trial, and he was convicted. And we consider that one level of certainty.


The numbers of murders that he claimed just kept going up and up and up.


From the very beginning, authorities have been skeptical of Lucas's confessions. Yet in the course of interviews with 450 law enforcement officers from 30 states, Lucas has so far been positively linked to approximately 150 He was constantly traveling. He said in an interview once, My urge, I couldn't quit it. It was a killing spree, 75 to 83.


You're going to find your victims in many places. You pick the type of home where it's isolated, or you had to pick them right off in the road. A person that you know that's not going to cause you any problems later on.


This case began for us in Yosemite in June of 1983. We had no clue as to who the victim might have been. In the summer of 1984, So Henry had listed a number of places across the country where he was reporting that he had committed homicides. And one place that he specified was a mountainous National Park in California.


At that point, we didn't really know that much about serial killers. You might see something on TV every once in a while or read something in the paper about it, but I didn't really equate it with that.


That was probably my first introduction to an active serial killer that could be real and it could be here. According to the Texas Rangers investigative files, Henry Lucas and Becky Powell were living with Kate Rich's daughter in Hemet, California, between January and May of 1982. In September of 1982, he had a vehicle that was impounded by local authorities in Needles, California.


We searched Henry's car that was abandoned and found a knife and some blood.


It was really critical that the Texas authorities were able to confirm that Henry Lucas had been residing in an area of California that was within a 6 to 8 hour drive from Yosemite National Park. During the time period, we believe our victim was killed.


About 5 % of my cases is sexual murder. What do you mean by sexual? That's why they were killed. Have sex with them.


We just started talking about it. I tried to think, well, what are we really dealing with here?


This was a beginning of a circus that would never leave town.


The fact that we might be able to interview the person responsible for the Summit Meadow, Jane Doe, and that was mind-blowing.


I have specifically across the United States, left evidence to show that I was doing the crimes. This is Deborah Roberts. Wild Crime was produced by Lone Wolf Media for ABC News Studios.


You can catch episode 2 of Wild Crime: murder in Yosimity in the feed next week, or find the series on Hulu. While there, you can also find more from 2020, and of course, tune in to ABC Friday nights at 9 for all new broadcast episodes of 2020.