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This is Deborah Roberts, co anchor of 2020. Welcome back to Wild Crime. Murder in Yosemite. Here's episode two. A suspect.


Secrets in the wild. Brutal murders, beautiful yet treacherous places. These are the stories of the investigators who solve crimes in the wilderness. We had a human being laying dead up there. How did she get there?


Henry Lee Lucas has been confessing that he may have done a homicide in Yosemite.


The reason for bringing him here was for local law enforcement to solve these crimes. My victims never knew what was gonna happen.


He started talking about the little triangle signs.


This guy has been to the crime scene.


I was told to not do anything further with the case. I was done.


Then the Dallas Morning News published the expo. Some of those confessions were bogus.


Lucas could not have been the killer in all the cases. I realized that there was a murderer out there, and we don't know where that murder is.


And then the skull was found.


Yosemite is magnificent. It's mammoth and it's humbling. It's a magical place to any of us that have worked there.


I would go out into a meadow and just lay there looking up at the stars or the sky, and I would say, I'm getting paid to do this. From the giant sequoias to the waterfalls, to the sublime evenings in the high country at sunset. It's an amazing place. I met my wife and was married in Yosemite National park, at the base of Yosemite Falls. So it almost feels like home to me. I was working the south end of the park, and one day in 1984, Kim Tucker calls me and says, we've got this detective from Sacramento Sheriff's department, and they have a person who's confessing to killing people in national parks.


He didn't say, yeah, he did it at a certain time, a certain place, but he did say he had killed many victims in different scenarios. At a mountainous national park in California. We all sat down and just started talking about it. We just intuitively couldn't match a case with one of. He was saying, other than the potential of the summit meadow case.


I can't speak for Kim, but at that point, I had never heard of Henry Lucas.


When Jim Boutwell first arrested Henry, he was convinced that Henry knew about killing. He knew it because of the crimes he'd already confessed to. He killed his mother, stabbed her in the neck. He killed his common law wife, Becky Powell, 15 years old, stabbed her in the chest, and then he dismembered her with Kate Richard. He killed her, and then he burned her body in a makeshift stove out beside the shack where he was living.


He was callous. He was indifferent to the suffering of victims. He had no long range plans. He used people to gratify his personal needs. And he was sadistic. So it made him a very, very dangerous man.


In Texas, Lucas has been charged in 22 murders, received seven sentences. So far, he's under the death penalty for a Williamson county murder, serving four life sentences for murders in Denton, Coffman, and Montgomery counties, and has 275 year terms for killings in Montague and Terry counties.


Henry was guilty of committing murders across the country, not just Texas, but in other states as well.


I've had shootings, knifings, strangulations, beatings. And I participated in actual crucifixions of the humans. All across the country, there's people just like me who set out to destroy human life. As Lucas started confessing to more and more crimes, his fame grew.


When I was hired to work on the article for Life magazine, it was the first of its kind, a feature on serial killing. It was considered a new phenomenon.


You can't help wondering how many people like him might be loose in America right now, killing without being caught.


You're absolutely right.


Lucas got national and international media attention. He did become a celebrity. He did live tv interviews. I've tracked them from over the United States almost. I'd follow them on the highway. I'd go around them, play with them, back up, and let them go. By me. A woman alone ain't safe at all.


Mister Lucas, what you say sends a chill through my bones. I do nothing but travel alone.


Yeah, but just think if I was out there.


People are fascinated with serial killers. We know there's evil and danger in the world, but if we can encapsulate it in a name and an identity, somehow that helps us understand it.


Everybody at a point was caught up in Henry Lee Lucas. I think Lucas enjoyed the notoriety that he had achieved. You know, for the first time, he really amounted to something.


Henry was asked why he had confessed to all the crimes. Henry's response was, look at all the friends I've got. I never had those before. Now I've got friends.


I was the special assistant to the attorney general of California, a man named John Vandykemp. Based on the corroboration that we've obtained thus far, we're talking now about 175 murders around the country. 15 here, maybe more. To my knowledge, it's by far and away the greatest mass murder committed by any single individual in this country. I think he claimed in California, we're talking about dozens of murders. California police, their pressure and their passion is to clear their cases. They don't care what's going on in Texas. It became very apparent that agencies weren't communicating with each other. There was territorial issues, and there was nobody really able to put together. Wow, we just had two deaths in this county. And, hey, there's another one up in a park. Gee, I wonder if we have somebody traveling around killing people. He learned in his early years that successful criminals did not have identifiable mos. So he did stabbing, strangulation, the use of guns, mutilation, necrophilia, decapitation. You name it, he did it.


We see the same cycle over and over again where they go through terrible abuse, and in the end, they present themselves as powerful people. I'm a powerful person. I'm someone in port. Pay attention to me. I've killed a lot of people.


That was death on women. Didn't feel they needed to exist. I hated them, and I wanted to destroy everyone I could find. My take on Henry Lee Lucas was that he enjoyed killing, enjoyed the creation of misery, that he somehow derived pleasure from this. And that he was the personification of evil. So now we have some missing people. Yes, we have some remains of a human. We need to go figure out what's going on here. Could he possibly have been the person there that killed somebody at Summit Meadow? I don't remember any time in my life ever hearing about an agency saying, we'll bring the killer to you. But they did.


They told us they were bringing him to California. He was going to have a tour in California.


It's called a tour, which is a little sensationalistic, but it was somewhere between ten days and two weeks. Covered a lot of mileage, I think about several thousand miles within California. But it was essentially the last ten days to two weeks in August. So you went down that way? Yeah.


The California Department of Justice worked with the state of Texas justice officials to bring him to California. Because there were many cases that were unsolved.


The attorney general used his office to make it happen. We didn't know whether this was going to bear fruit. Lucas was with a sheriff's detective, and they were going to drive around to different spots. Where he led the investigators to places that he committed crimes. Yeah, I remember I did both, except one was up next just to see the kind of areas. Some were open fields, some were homes or apartment complexes. On December 4, Elizabeth Mary Wolf, 27, was brutally stabbed to death in her apartment in Davis. Lucas led officers to the apartment house and was able to satisfy officers that he had definitely committed the crimes.


They did not bring him to Yosemite. We ended up meeting with him in the Sacramento county jail end of August.


Of 1984 because his notoriety in what he said he'd done, there was a lot of security.


Until I actually sat down face to face with him. I had no idea what he was like personally.


I wasn't expecting some frothing maniac screaming in a jail cell, but he looked just a normal late 40 year old man who, in this case, he was a suspect in multiple homicides.


If he had been cleaned up, had clean clothes on, had a good haircut, brushed his teeth, he wouldn't have thought anything of it.


He looked normal until he opened his mouth, and then you could tell that there was something off here. I got two bodies that made something else in horns.


Do the authorities know about those?


They're two girl hitchhikers, both killed at the same time. When he talked about killing people, like you and I might be talking about what we had for breakfast this morning, he was cold and matter of fact, he said, well, you're a park ranger. You know I happen to kill people. I was at, let's see, what do they call it? Yosemite. It's a national forest. I've been there.




Yeah, Yosemite. I had one that had dropped off someplace. She was just stabbed to death and thrown out of the car right along the hard road. And all of a sudden, it really hit home. This guy might be for real.


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We had very limited time. Take your number. You have an hour to talk to Henry Lucas. So we knew we were going to have to interview him again.


We didn't want to plant information with him. We wanted to hear what he had to say. And then take the information that he gave us and see if we could make that match what we knew of our own case.


I had a map of one of the park brochures saying, okay, if you came into Yosemite, do you remember which road you drove in on?


He was pretty cagey. I did think he was trying to evaluate us and probably every other officer who talked with him.


Kim was one of very few investigators who were female.


I was the only woman working in the office at the time.


Honestly, there were people that did not feel women should be in this type of occupation.


You still had some egos that wanted to resist having women. But I think if you think about Jenny Russo or Kim Tucker, those rangers brought a certain kind of enforcement style that was less intimidating. There are a number of times in this case where Henry reacted a little bit more openly to Kim than me as a man.


We were encouraged that Henry would probably do better if we brought some cigarettes. I was lighting cigarettes for him. I was pouring drinks for him. I mean, I was thinking, he's probably enjoying all this personal service.


He indicated that he had picked up a female hitchhiker out of the park. She was on the road hitchhiking, and.


I picked her up in town or.


Down somewhere about 25 miles, I guess, from where that was at.


Typically, the victims of the stranger violins were people that were vulnerable and people that were outside alone.


Hitchhiking culture in those days, whether you were a hippie or a hippie wannabe, hitchhiking was the cool thing to do. It was normal to see people hitchhiking, whether it be off of freeways or in the mountains.


There were people that were up and down the coastline. And just because of the culture and the time, it wasn't unusual for them to trust people and just go with them after they just met them for a short period of time.


They described her as being a hitchhiker. White female, 17 to 18 years old, five foot, 2110 pounds. And I thought, with a description could fit the profile of our victim.


He wasn't real specific. He thought possibly she was blonde. His statement was that they had consensual sex. After they had sex, he strangled her, left her there with shrubs and brush over. Okay, that's all, with your hands. And I took her from there, picked her up, carried her on back in the edge of the brush in there and throw her down.


I felt like he was trying to provide information that would keep the conversation going because we'd light them a couple cigarettes.


When you're in prison, particularly in prison for life or on death row. A milkshake, you know, a steak at Sizzler is the height of luxury, and Lucas got a lot of that.


He was the star of the show.


It wasn't enough where we felt, aha. There's no aha moment there at all.


I noted in my report that he mispronounced the word Yosemite.


What do they call it? Yosemite.


It made me wonder, does he really know what he's talking about?


We didn't want to draw any conclusions at that .1 of the things that you want to do is you keep your mind completely open.


We had enough to make us think, well, we need to look at him further. If there is more investigation that we can do, we need to do it.


There's a tremendous pressure both then and now in law enforcement to clear cases. In some places, it's even the metric by which success is measured. Every police agency in the United States has unsolved murders, and for many police entities, they hate that even worse than having tried somebody and lost the case, because the case is not pinned down. Some of it is very human to identify a victim and be able to bring some degree of finality and resolution. The major reason for bringing him here was for local law enforcement to solve these crimes, to clear them up, as Lucas said himself, so that at least the families would know finally what had happened to their particular loved ones. But with the books closed on 15 murders, there are dozens more in which Lucas is a suspect. California authorities believe if they can bring him back from Texas again, they'll find many more who fell victim to the hands of death.


We went back and we talked with assistant United States Attorney in Fresno Ivan Abrams.


The name Henry Lucas was familiar to me already. I was aware of the universe of serial killers. The rangers and I discussed how we could develop the case and what we would need to have a prosecutable case today. We'd have the DNA, we'd have an identification. Fairly decent case. But this was before DNA analysis was very well developed. We had a confession of sorts, but there were things missing. One of the things I know I wanted was an identification, if possible, of the victim.


The United States Attorney's office were very interested in pursuing it, but not so much in the other. Here and outside.


The park managers didn't want these heinous crimes information that occurred in their park to get out because it's going to suppress visitation.


There was certainly an interest in not fanning any kind of flame, that Yosemite or other parks were a dangerous place. To be.


But Henry told us enough where it appears that he had visited Yosemite. We've got the human remains as summit Meadow, and we realized that we've got to talk to our bosses so we can go to Texas so we could spend as much time as we wanted with them.


There was resistance from my immediate supervisor, but the chief ranger for the park did support the whole effort.


We need to get another interview as soon as we could.


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I had never been to Texas.


We went to the Georgetown, Texas jail where the Texas Rangers had them in custody, and they were expecting us. They had an interview room set up for us. There's a case in California, in National park. Officers from any agency could come and had a legitimate reason to talk to him.


The Texas rangers were very welcoming. I remember Bob Prince pretty vividly.


They asked us if we were armed, and I said no, because we weren't allowed to fly armed at that point. And this Texas ranger says, well, you gotta be armed if you're gonna go interview Henry Lucas. He goes, here, take my gun. That was the first of like, wow, okay, this is kind of different. I consider him very dangerous, had extremely quick hands, and I'd also advise each officer, make sure that you don't let your weapon be close to him. They had Henry come out of the cell and he remembered us.


We thought we could probably prompt his discussion or maybe his memory by showing him some photographs. And we had the map of the area.


One thing we did show him was the picture of the view from Glacier Point, half dome, Yosemite Valley. Just a beautiful view in general, thinking that would stir his recollection. And it did. He said, yeah, I remember seeing it. So at that point, we asked him, did you still have the victim with you? Oh, yeah. And I said, okay, describe where you stopped. And he drew us a really sketchy little map as to his best recollection of where they stopped.


He provided further description about how the crime occurred.


They decided they were just going to have lunch. One statement, he said he had four cans of Budweiser beer and fried chicken wrapped up in tin foil. He said they had beers and then they had sex. And then he said it was time to go. She indicated that she didn't want to leave. So he said, well, then I'll just leave you here. And then he said, I strangled her and killed her. Strangling is a particularly personal way of killing people. Hands on strangling and looking somebody in the eye. You have to be incredibly sick to do this kind of stuff.


He said he left some food wrappers, and there was a canteen at the site and part of a jacket, the victim's jacket. He was providing further description about the scene. But I also, sitting there, I thought, well, he could be guessing. He could be recounting something he's told somebody else, and it's generic enough that it could fit something else.


I said, what was remarkable about the area? Nothing. It was a field. And then he said, oh, I do remember one thing, is there were these signs nailed up in the trees about 1015ft up in the trees. I'm thinking, what are you talking about, signs? And he said, yeah, they had numbers on them. The light bulb went off with me. Those are what's called nordic ski trail signs for backcountry nordic skiers.


John and I both knew what those were. We thought, well, that's something that an ordinary person, if they hadn't been there, wouldn't have commented on.


I mean, I must have driven up that road a thousand times while I was working there. You don't just go nail signs of trees in a national park. The only place that we had any signs in the trees there were the nordic ski trails. So I'm thinking, oh, my God, that would be summit meadow. That would be the spot. It's like this guy has been to the crime scene. That's when it hit us. I'm pretty sure I went like that to you. And I'm thinking. Cause my mind was going a mile a minute at that point. I'm thinking, I gotta get back to summer metal. I gotta get back there now.


We both reconvened in the park. I think on November 1, when we pulled up to the area, that it was a natural place to pull off the road. And there are not a lot of pullouts there. I think both Don and I realized that it was the pullout described by Henry Lucas.


I got out of the car and looked up. That was the real aha moment. Oh, my God, there's what he's talking about right there. There's the nordic ski trail signs right there in the trees. We followed the creek bed up to the tree line, which wasn't very far, you know, maybe 25, 30, 40 yards at the most, probably.


We went up and looked around at the scene, tried to find the area that he described, and that's where we did find some of the items.


We found a couple of Budweiser beer cans and a wrapped up piece of tin foil that obviously animals had kind of chewed on a little bit. It looked like it was a fried piece of a chicken leg. And that was it. We're thinking, okay, here we go.


The canteen was in the same general area.


I think you found it.




Found the canteen. So documented, it photographed. It took measurements. At that point, we found the piece of. It was a piece like this of a forest green jacket. The nylon those jackets were made of.


I don't know that what we found was proof, but I felt like we had found the scene that he described.


I thought, oh, shit, we got him. Wow. I can't believe it. This has got to be the spot. What happens next is I find out the next day that Kim has been removed from the case.


I was told to not do anything further with the case.


I was mortified. I went to my boss and said, listen, I need Kim back here to help me. She sat there with these interviews with Henry Lucas. We absolutely have to have Kim involved. My boss said, well, I'll see what I can do. He wasn't successful.


They did not want to have people who were working full time as criminal investigators. And when you have a case like this, it was a full time job that would have had a different pay and benefit package that had been previously made available to rangers. What they were trying to do was prevent a tidal wave of employees seeking pay and benefits of a law enforcement officer in the federal government.


The conflict in the National Park Service at that time was that there was management who felt that the function of a ranger was a generalist. They should not specialize.


Kim and dawn, with some other of their colleagues, were amongst a small number of people doing that specialized work at a time which that kind of specializing in law enforcement wasn't the direction the agency wanted to go.


That was it for me.


Of course. I'm standing thinking, this is the deer in the headlights look. I need another ranger to help me or another investigator. Now what do I do?


I transferred into the concessions management branch of the park.


Kim, when she was pulled from that serial killers case, she's a good friend. She was feeling embarrassed that her status as an investigator was diminished.


Of course she felt demoted. Anybody would. When somebody walks up and says, give me your gun and your credentials, that's devastating.


She's a pioneer. And sometimes pioneers that are going to create something better for the future may have to go through crap like this.


To have someone as talented as Kim be displaced. It was like, well, what chance have any of the rest of us?


Within a year, I left the park service and I was hired as a special agent with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


When Don eventually left, the active, part of the investigation stalled.


They are called serial killers. Masks killers, recreational killers. Some authorities estimate they are responsible for more than 2000 of the 20,000 murders committed in this country every year. Serial killers come in all shapes and sizes and forms, but they seem to be able to pick their victims tragically so that they can, by and large, get away with it. It turned out there are lots of serial killers, far more than we ever knew about. Henry Lee Lucas killed at least 175 people around the country during an eight year spree that only ended when Texas authorities caught him last year. Hugh Ainsworth was an old time Dallas journalist. In the early eighties, he worked for the Dallas Times Herald. He and someone else on the staff, Jim Henderson, started looking into the Lucas case early on. They apparently were suspicious that the claims he was making were just simply too outlandish, that could not possibly have traveled as much as he did.


Ainsworth worked for something like a year, interviewing people, collecting information, investigating the records.


They started putting together a timeline of when he claimed to be where. And then they started looking at how long it would take him to drive from point a to point b. If he claimed a murder on one day and the next day many hundreds of miles away, that certainly calls into suspicion whether he could have actually done that.


There wasn't enough time for him to drive between the two places. You worked very hard showing that there were discrepancies, that he was present at a worksite when he confessed that he was somewhere else committing a murder. There were a lot of questions of all of the confirmed cases. When Hugh Ainsworth published the expose, everything came to a halt.


Hugh, let's start with you. You wrote the conclusions in the Dallas Times Herald that there's no way he could have been involved. Tell us just a couple of examples of this. Well, as one example, in 1981 when Mister Lucas was charged and confessed to killing a woman in Baytown, Texas. Three and a half hours later, he confessed to a killing in Texarkana Arkansas. And in fact, we found out he was selling scrap metal that day in Jacksonville, Florida.


It was at that point that the district attorney in McLennan County, Vic Fazell, took note. He was uncomfortable with three cases confirmed in his county.


The Henry bandwagon was rolling, man, and everybody that could jump on it was jumping on it. And I just said, no, no, this isn't right.


At that point, a grand jury had been called by jemmatics and Vic Fazell to investigate all of these confessions.


A special grand jury met in Waco, Texas, today to hear the story of a self described mass murderer. The question they want answered is he really? I can't talk about what the grand jury is thinking or feeling right now or what's being presented to them, but my office definitely has been suspicious. We were able to get witnesses from all over the United States into our grand jury. This lady policeman up in Dallas came down with a fake file, a made up murder with made up pictures, and Henry confessed to it. The DA in Little Rock. He had prosecuted a murderer in Little Rock and had convicted him. Next thing we know, here's Lucas confessing to that murder. Once he got into it and they were buying it and he saw how easy it was, he said, I just wanted to make fools out of them.


Back in the eighties, it didn't make sense that someone would plead guilty or confess to these murders that they didn't commit. Psychopaths who are serial sexual killers will embellish and lie about crimes that they didn't commit just to manipulate law enforcement. If you're able to manipulate the police, that's the ultimate in manipulation.


I think the lesson of law enforcement here is don't buy the stuff hook, line, and sinker. Check out everything. Check it out. Just because somebody says they did it didn't mean they did.


Self reported information in a case is the most unreliable information.


I was really hoping that these three cases he confessed to in Waco that I could just get him in, get my picture taken with him, get my good pr, close that case, and move on down the road. So I really understand how the locals could have been sucked into this, because they have their own confirmation bias. They want this case to be solved. They'll interpret it in a way that confirms their bias. That's just easy to do. That's human nature.


Investigators can give the offender information unwittingly, and in fact, that's how many interviewers were trained. Show the picture, you give them information, help to refresh their memory as best as you can, and for most offenders, that might be fine, but for someone like Henry Lee Lucas, you may be giving him the very information he uses to manufacture the case that he never committed.


I didn't want to be letting somebody plead guilty to something they hadn't done. We said there is not enough evidence for an indictment. Texas attorney general says his just completed investigation shows that Lucas could not have been the killer in all the cases, and that law enforcement officers were too willing to accept confessions without checking the facts. There are murders that are walking the streets today as a result of the unprofessional handling of the Lucas matter. I remember that in 1985, the accusations against Lucas were being discredited. A lot of us who were involved in putting together the original grand tours were getting very, very skeptical. When we talked to him, he confessed to a number of other homicides in his senate that just did not exist. We have no record of it. Some of the things that he described to us, I mean, we're so outrageous. Like, that just didn't happen. This guy's pulling our leg or telling us the truth or what my default position on him was. He's lying. Yeah. Unless we could corroborate. Yeah. Our case is circumstantial. I don't think we'll ever have any kind of scientific evidence. The location he spends so much time, parks, that he could have camped there.


I don't know that that would. That just means he's been there. That doesn't mean he killed anybody there. Basically, all you got is his confession until he got down to the beer can. Was Budweiser his beer of choice? Yeah. And that's a fact. Okay. Beer can, check mark. That green jacket. Check mark. Yeah. On a scale of one to ten, probably a four. So, you know, you got two things that would keep you churning, but I don't think you're anywhere close. Although Lucas confessed to a lot of cases in California, and he was taken on the grand tour of a bunch of sites, the bottom line is, Henry Lee Lucas was never prosecuted for 98% of the crimes that he had admitted to. The identification of the victim was something that was, I thought, very necessary. We couldn't identify the victim. We came to the conclusion, and this is within the US attorney's office, that the case just wasn't ready. And so the case became a long term, open, unresolved case.


A few years later, I had twins after I had left the law enforcement ranks. One's a girl and one's a boy. It was a great place to grow up. They had a vibrant school. They lived in a beautiful place. So my life went on.


Somewhere while I was an agent. I got a call one day. I think it was from Kim's boss. Apparently some visitors were walking on another nordic ski trail out to the edge of the Yosemite Valley. And here's a skull laying on the ground.


The skull was found about the same time my son was born.


It was further west from where we were searching. And we're wondering if you think it could be from the summit Meadow case. That's not even something we were expecting. We still wanted identifier.


I thought, well, now this is getting closer.


This is Deborah Roberts. Wild crime was produced by Lone Wolf Media for ABC News Studios. You can catch episode three of Wild Murder in Yosemite in the feed next week or find the series on Hulu. And while there, you can also find more from 2020. And, of course, tune into ABC Friday nights at nine for all new broadcast episodes of 2020.