Henry Lee Lucas once confessed to killing a woman in Millard County and another woman in Provo. He has since recanted both confessions, along with hundreds of others he made to Texas authorities.
The serial killer now sits on Texas death row. He was scheduled to die early Monday morning for the murder of an unidentified woman known in the Texas media as "Orange Socks," but a state appeals court indefinitely stayed the execution on Thursday so the court could review issues raised by his attorneys.Despite his claims he never killed anyone in Utah, Provo Police Capt. Paul Markling is certain Lucas is responsible for the death of Marla Rae Scharp. And Millard County Sheriff Ed Phillips said he is sure that Lucas killed an unidentified woman there.
"I'm convinced Henry killed Marla," said Markling. "If we were to bring Henry here, there's no doubt in my mind that we could get a complaint against him and get a conviction for murder."
The 25-year-old BYU coed was found strangled in her Provo home on June 29, 1978. She had been sexually assaulted.
Donna Scharp, Marla's mother, said Tuesday that she feels Lucas is the one who killed her daughter and feels confident that Provo police officers did their job.
"It was a big relief to know he (Lucas) did it," said Scharp from her Farmington home on Tuesday. "It gave us comfort to know that the killer was caught and couldn't kill someone else."
Scharp said she didn't know about a Texas attorney general's report that revealed Lucas could not have killed the more than 200 people he confessed to murdering because he was elsewhere at the time of some of the killings.
The report, prepared by Attorney General Jim Mattox, stated that Lucas confessed to killing Marla Scharp and that a friend, Ottis Toole, was with him. But investigators discovered that Toole was working in Jacksonville, Fla., the day before Marla was killed.
Donna Scharp said that Lucas may have been mistaken and that Toole wasn't with the serial killer when her daughter was strangled. "I doubt that Henry killed all those people, . . . but I believe he killed Marla," she said.
Capt. Markling is certain, too. He said he traveled to Texas to interview Lucas and walked away fully convinced that Lucas killed the young woman because Lucas knew details that only the real killer would know. Markling said Friday there is physical evidence to link Lucas to the murder, but he said, "I don't know if we could convict him without the confession.
"We've had arguments with the Texas attorney general's office," said Markling. "They've called us two or three times and tried to tell us Henry didn't kill Marla. We're a holdout."
Phillips also said he traveled to Texas to talk with Lucas, and he, too, walked away fully convinced that Lucas killed an unidentified woman whose skeletal remains were found off I-15 in August 1979 in Millard County. "We never did identify her," the sheriff said.
The body had been lying off the interstate for an undetermined amount of time. She had been shot twice in the chest.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Lucas killed her," Phillips said. "The task force called me and said Lucas and Toole had traveled extensively in Utah, and they (Lucas and Toole) said they had killed six people in Utah.
"Maybe he copped to a few murders he didn't commit," Phillips added, "but I'm 100 percent thoroughly convinced he killed her." He also said Friday, however, his department had no evidence to link Lucas to the murder and said the only thing he had to rely on was the killer's confession.
"There would be some problems with the case without the confession," said Phillips.
Lucas was sentenced to death for killing "Orange Socks." He confessed to that killing but later recanted the confession.
The woman, in her 20s, was found strangled Halloween Eve 1979 off I-35 in Williamson County. She was nude, except for the pair of orange socks that were pulled over her feet.
Lucas also once confessed to killing Carolyn Cervenka, a 19-year-old Taylor, Texas, woman who disappeared on June 2, 1982.
Lucas told law-enforcement officials that he had kidnapped a woman near Taylor, driven her car and the victim to California, where she was killed and buried. Lucas described jewelry and clothing similar to Cervenka's.
A Lucas task force, made up of Williamson County, Texas, Sheriff Jim Boutwell and Texas Rangers Clayton Smith and John Prince, chalked it up as another killing by the admitted murderer and placed Cervenka's name on the victim list that comprised more than 200 people task force members said Lucas killed.
Lucas claimed he and Toole went on a 30-year killing rampage throughout the country and at one time said he and Toole may have killed up to 600 people. Officers from around the country and Canada went to Georgetown, Texas, to interview Lucas, and when all was said and done, more than 200 unsolved murder cases were cleared due to the killer's confessions.
But the task force's findings began unraveling when Cervenka's body was found in her car in a dry creek bed almost two years later, not two miles from her Texas home.
Cervenka was last seen making a telephone call at a convenience store in Round Rock. She had called her family to let them know she would be home within an hour. Her body was found between Taylor and Round Rock. The cause of death was later ruled undetermined.
Then questions surrounding the method of obtaining confessions from Lucas started surfacing, and Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox began his own investigation. Lucas recanted all of his murder confessions.
Following months of work, Mattox released a report on his findings and accused law-enforcement agencies of feeding Lucas information just so police could clear unsolved murder cases from their books.
The report was titled "The Lucas Report" and was released to the media in May 1986. The report chronicled the whereabouts of Lucas from his release from the Michigan State Prison in August 1975 to his arrest eight years later in Montague County, Texas, on June 11, 1983.
The 53-year-old snaggled-toothed, one-eyed drifter was first sent to prison for murdering his mother in 1960. He was later taken into custody in Montague County for killing his 15-year-old common-law wife, Becky Powell, and landlady, Kate Rich, in 1982. Becky was Toole's niece.
Mattox told the media that his investigation revealed that Lucas could not have killed all those people because his investigators had proof that Lucas was elsewhere when some of the killings occurred.
Calling the confessions "contrived," Mattox urged law-enforcement officers to reopen their cases and take a closer look at Lucas' "so-called" confessions.
"There is no doubt that Henry Lee Lucas is a murderer, but it is highly unlikely that Lucas could have committed many of the murders to which he confessed." Mattox said he feared some of the real killers were still running loose and would kill again if not apprehended.