Ottis Toole: biography, creativity, career, personal life

An early biography


Ottis Toole was born and raised in the town of Jacksonville, Florida. The boy’s father was an avid alcoholic and his mother suffered from a personality disorder. As a child, a woman would dress a child in girls’ clothes and call him Susan. Toole went on to claim that at a young age he had been the victim of sexual abuse several times by many close relatives and acquaintances. In addition, his maternal grandmother was a member of the Satanic sect. The woman tried to teach her grandson “diabolical” practices and rituals.

When Ottis went to elementary school, he was found to have mild mental retardation. He was also ill with epilepsy, which led to frequent attacks. Toole would often run away from home and sleep in abandoned buildings so as not to meet members of his family. Wanting to be entertained, he periodically began to set fire to ownerless objects and buildings.

At a young age, Toole realized that he was homosexual. At 12, he had already maintained a romantic relationship with a neighborhood boy. In ninth grade, Ottis dropped out of high school and began attending gay bars. A little later he started working in elite establishments as a model, and in 1965 at the age of 17 was convicted of trying to sell a dance club employee into slavery.

From 1966 to 1973, Toole engaged in prostitution in the southwestern United States of America. In early 1974, police officers began to receive the first complaints about the man, and then discovered that Ottis might be involved in unsolved murders.


Toole became one of the prime suspects in the murder of 24-year-old American woman Patricia Webb in the mid-1970s. Shortly after the investigation began, he briefly settled in the town of Boulder, Colorado. Ottis concealed his actions in every way, so for lack of evidence he could not be imprisoned.

Just a month later, Toole is credited with a new crime — the murder of 31-year-old Ellen Holmen, who died on October 14, 1974. But the court again failed to gather enough evidence to punish the maniac.

In early 1975, Ottis competed in amateur drifter events in the Southern United States, after which he returned to his native Jacksonville. Here he married a local girl, but already a few days later the couple separated.

In 1976, Toole met Henry Lee Lucas. The maniac later claimed that together they had committed 1008 murders at the behest of the unknown Hands of Death cult. However, police officials denied an unsubstantiated claim that this religious organization existed. On 4 January 1982, Ottis Toole barricaded 65-year-old George Sonnenberg in a boarding house in Jacksonville, then set fire to the building. The elderly man died a week later from injuries sustained in the fire. However, police did not file charges until a year later. After the confession, Toole was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

During the investigation, the maniac also confessed to the murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, which he committed back in 1981. According to Toole, he met the boy in the mall parking lot. The man told the child he had candy and toys. Adam willingly agreed to go with a stranger. Walsh soon demanded Ottis take him back; however, in response, the maniac punched the toddler in the face. The boy started crying, irritating Toole. When they went out to a deserted place, the perpetrator took out a machete and beheaded Adam. He threw the body into the nearest canal, and fled the scene of the murder.

In addition, police revealed Toole was the culprit for two unsolved murders in northwest Florida. Ottis later admitted that he had actually killed 18-year-old traveler David Shallat, as well as 20-year-old Ada Johnson.

Before his final sentence, Toole took part in a psychiatric evaluation. She testified that the man suffers from impulsive personality disorder. It was this, doctors said, that pushed him into crimes against society. The court found enough evidence to formally ascribe Tula with antisocial syndrome.

The maniac was eventually sentenced to life in prison. Already in prison, he told investigators about four more murders committed. Yet his punishment remained the same. Toole died in Florida State Prison of cirrhosis on September 15, 1996 at the age of 49. He was buried in the local cemetery.

Personal life

Attempting to hide his unconventional orientation, on 14 January 1976 the offender married a woman who was 25 years older than him. However, after three days she realized that Ottis was homosexual, after which she left her sweetheart forever. During an interview for an American newspaper, Toole admitted that it was a peculiar tactic for society to consider him a normal person.

From 1976 until his imprisonment, Ottis maintained a romantic relationship with his accomplice Henry Lee Lucas.

Image in work

There are many characters created in popular culture whose fate is based on the biography of a famous maniac. For example, the series “Law & Order” describes the murder of Adam Walsh by Ottis in 1981. Beyond this, Toole’s story formed the basis of such acclaimed films as Tom Towles’s “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and James Swan’s “No Good Deeds”.

In the late 1990s writer Willis Morgan wrote the book “The Frustrated Witness” where he reviewed the worst crimes Tula. The author conducted his own investigation of several murders and tried to analyze the main motives of the famous maniac.

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