|Scene of TJ Darrisaw’s murder, and his killer Quentin Patrick
Every day, someone is murdered somewhere in the world. It may not be in your town or mine, but it happens. People are killed on their birthday, wedding anniversary, vacation, at work, in school, while praying in church, out shopping, and on holidays. Media vita in morte sumus. In the midst of life we are in death. Being that this month is October and the final day is Halloween, aka All Saints’ Eve & All Hallow’s Eve, I thought it was appropriate to post today about murders that took place on Halloween. Most of them are beyond shocking, and all of them are tragic – especially those involving children.
I had only heard about three of the following cases (Chris Jenkins, T. J. Darrisaw, and the Toolbox Killers) before, one of which I learned about when I was watching Paranormal State episodes on Hulu and YouTube. If I did learn of the others, I just don’t remember them. Murder is terrible on any day, but the killing of a child on a day like Halloween, which to most is a time of fun, parties, and lots of candy, is mindblowing. I would never feel the same about 31 October, or Christmas, or Easter, if I lost a loved one on those days. Imagine how the parents of these murdered children must feel every year All Saints’ Eve rolls around.
While the vast majority of Halloween scare stories about razor blades in apples or poisoned candy are either urban legends or moral panics, one story is, unfortunately, completely true. And it had nothing to do with a demented stranger randomly killing children. Eight-year-old Timothy O’Bryan had a packet of Pixie Stix given to him by his father Ronald to cap off his trick-or-treating. He almost immediately went into convulsions, and died an hour later. The death sent the O’Bryan’s small Texas town into a panic, and the police determined that the Pixie Stix that Timothy ate were laced with cyanide. When Ronald’s story kept changing, police began investigating him. They found him to be deeply in debt, and that he’d taken out massive life insurance policies on his children. Police found that other O’Bryan children had also been given the candy by their dad, but hadn’t eaten them. Ronald O’Bryan was found guilty of murder, sentenced to death, and executed in 1984. (O’Bryan is known as the ‘Candy Man’, and I once read a fictional story that was similar to his crimes, only it was a girl instead of a boy, and the candy was Chuckles rather than Pixie Stix, with sugar laced cyanide that the little girl used to sweeten her lime Chuckle before she ate it.)
On Halloween 2010, Ohio teenager Devon Griffin returned home from Sunday church services to find the corpses of his brother Derek, mother Susan, and Susan’s new husband William Liske. The killer had bludgeoned Derek with a claw hammer, shot William five times with a .22-caliber pistol, and raped Susan before shooting her three times. Devon was so traumatized he could only say it was like “something out of a haunted house.” The killer was found to be William Liske’s son from a previous marriage, William Liske Jr., who had a history of schizophrenia and violence. Liske was picked up at a halfway house, and pleaded guilty to all three murders. He committed suicide in prison in 2015.
Yoshihiro Hattori was a Japanese exchange student living in Baton Rouge as part of the American Field Service program. On Halloween night 1992, Hattori and the young son of his host family went to a Halloween party for AFS students. Unfamiliar with the neighborhood were the party was, the boys rang the doorbell of the wrong house. When they got no answer, they started walking back to their car. The owner of the home, Rodney Peairs, then opened the door armed with a 44 Magnum revolver. Hattori turned around and said “we’re here for the party.” Claiming he feared for his life and that the exchange student was “scary,” Peairs shot Hattori at point blank range, hitting him in the chest and killing him. Peairs and his wife then went back into their house and waited 40 minutes for the police, who questioned him and let him go. Only when both the governor of Louisiana and the Japanese consulate got involved was Peairs actually arrested, after which he was acquitted of manslaughter.
Chris Jenkins was a 21-year-old student at the University of Minnesota who was last seen leaving a downtown Minneapolis bar on Halloween night in 2002. Four months later, his body was discovered in the Mississippi River, still wearing his Halloween costume. Since Chris was intoxicated that night and his cause of death appeared to be drowning, authorities initially believed his death was either an accident or suicide. But his parents refused to believe this and pressed for a more thorough investigation. Finally, in 2006, the death was reclassified as a homicide. Police claimed that an incarcerated suspect told them he was present when Chris was murdered, then thrown off a bridge into the river. While the story is credible, there’s never been enough evidence to file charges. However, one possible theory is that Chris Jenkins could have been a victim in the mysterious and unsolved “Smiley Face Murders.” These bizarre killings involved approximately 40 male college students in the United States who all died of drowning. In some of these cases, unexplained “smiley face” graffiti was found near the body of water where the victims turned up. While no “smiley face” graffiti was ever found in connection to Chris Jenkins’s death, the scenario does have a number of similarities to these killings. It remains unsolved. – Ranker
On Chicago’s South Side in 2011, 55-year-old Ledell Peoples blamed his girlfriend for stealing his bag of Halloween treats. An argument ensued and 49-year-old Maria Adams threw a plate at Peoples’s head, which struck him above the eye and caused a gash. Peoples then grabbed a knife and stabbed her multiple times, killing her.
Seven-year-old Tony Bagley was wearing a skeleton costume and trick-or-treating with his sister, mother, and aunt early on Halloween night in 1994 on the north side of Las Vegas. A man in a hooded sweat suit leaped out of nowhere and fired at the family before hopping in a getaway car, which peeled away with its lights off. Bullets hit Tony’s sister in the liver, his aunt in the leg, and his mother in the chest, but they all survived. Tony did not. His biological father, who reportedly never commented to the police on Tony’s death, was arrested a few years later for an unrelated street shooting. Tony’s murder remains unsolved.
On Halloween night in 2008, convicted drug dealer Quentin Patrick of Sumter, SC heard a knock on his door. Assuming it was rival gang members, he grabbed his full-auto AK-47 and blasted at least 29 bullets through his front door at them. Eleven of those bullets hit 12-year-old trick-or-treater T. J. Darrisaw, killing him. T. J.’s father and younger brother were also hit but survived.
Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris were known as the “Tool Box Killers” because they routinely employed implements such as pliers and hammers in their unconscionably vicious series of kidnap/rape/torture/murders of five teenage California girls in 1979. The last of these murders, that of 16-year-old Shirley Ledford, occurred after they spotted Ledford hitchhiking home from a Halloween party. They picked her up in their van, and over the course of hours, they bound and gagged her, smashed her elbow repeatedly with a hammer, sodomized her with pliers, and finally strangled her to death with a wire coat hanger before dumping her on a random front lawn. During the course of Ledford’s murder, they tape-recorded themselves taunting her while she screamed for mercy. Norris was later quoted as saying: “We’ve all heard women scream in horror films … still, we know that no one is really screaming. Why? Simply because an actress can’t produce some sounds that convince us that something vile and heinous is happening. If you ever heard that tape, there is just no possible way that you’d not begin crying and trembling. I doubt you could listen to more than a full sixty seconds of it.” – Thought Catalog