Childhood & Early Life
Ottis Elwood Toole was born on March 5, 1947, in Jackson, Florida. Toole’s childhood was anything but normal; his father being an alcoholic and mother an abuser. Toole was sexually assaulted as a child by his elder sister, close relatives and neighbours.
Toole’s grandmother was a Satanist. She exposed young Toole to various Satanic practices and rituals, such as self-mutilation and grave robbing. She often called him as ‘Devil's Child’.
Toole had a complex childhood. Given his family members, Toole wasn’t normal either. He suffered from mild mental retardation and epilepsy which caused frequent grand mal seizures. He was a serial arsonist and was sexually aroused by fire. It is said that Toole often ran away from home, seeking shelter in abandoned homes.
Toole’s first sexual experience was at the age of five, when he was forced to have sex with his father’s friend. By the age of 10, Toole realized he was gay and had his first sexual relationship with a young boy from neighbourhood at 12. He visited gay bars often and became obsessed with gay pornography. By his teen years, Toole became a male prostitute.
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Ottis Toole committed his first ever murder in 1962. He was only 14 years of age then. A travelling salesman propositioned him for sex. The incident infuriated Toole so much so that he ran over the salesman with his own car. This led to many more crimes as Toole got on the wrong path. In August 1964, he was arrested for loitering.
Between 1966 and 1973, Toole moved to Southwestern region of America. With no job and no career aspect to fall back upon, he supported himself through prostitution and panhandling.
In the 1974 murder case of Patricia Webb, Toole was one of the prime suspects. Then living in Nebraska, he moved to Boulder, Colorado. His stay in Boulder, Colorado was stained as well. Just a month after leaving Nebraska, he became one of the prime suspect in the case of homicide of the 31 year old Ellen Holman. Despite being accused, Toole left Boulder and moved back to Jacksonville.
In 1976, Toole first met Henry Lee Lucas at Jacksonville soup kitchen. The two had sexual relations. He also accompanied the latter in 108 murders. Later, when Lucas too was imprisoned, the two disclosed many of their murder mysteries and how they executed the crime.
In January 1982, when Toole was living in Jacksonville, he befriended George Sonnenberg. The two also had sexual relationship. One day an argument between the two heated up so much so that Toole set the house on fire. Then, Sonnenberg was aged 64 and was living in a boarding house. He died a week later due to injuries sustained from fire.
In April 1983, Toole was arrested for an unrelated arson incident in Jacksonville. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Two months later, his friend Henry Lucas was arrested for unlawful possession of firearm. It was during their time in prison that the two confessed about their murder rampage.
In October 1983, Toole confessed that he had murdered 6-year old Adam Walsh in 1981. He picked up the boy from the Sears parking lot and offered him candies and toys. The boy went along with him but after sometime cried to go home. He then began punching the boy hard. Toole then drove the car to a rural area where he raped the boy for two hours. Next he decapitated him with a machete.
Police had found about Toole’s involvement in the sudden disappearance of Walsh, but they lost the evidence. Despite losing on the evidence, Adam’s father, John Walsh was sure that Toole had murdered his child. Consequently, on December 16, 2008, Hollywood, Florida, police finally announced Toole as the murderer, thus closing the Adam Walsh case.
In April 1984, Toole was found guilty of first degree murder and was sentenced to death. Same year, he was convicted of the murder of a 19-year-old Tallahassee, Florida woman whom he strangled to death. He received yet another death sentence but later got both the death penalties were converted to life imprisonment.
In 1984, Toole confessed of being the man behind the two unsolved northwest Florida slayings. He admitted that he had killed 18 year old David Schallart. Schallart was a hitchhiker. When the latter’s body was found, it bore five gunshot wound on the left side of the head. He also confessed of killing Ada Johnson, a 20 year old girl whom he had kidnapped at gunpoint from a Tallahassee nightclub. He shot her in the head on the road outside Fort Walton Beach.
Despite being a criminal, Ottis Toole did not remain unmarried. In fact, on January 14, 1976, he married a woman who was 25 years elder to him. The marriage, however, did not last for more than three days. On the third day, upon discovering his homosexuality, she left him. Later, he confided that his marriage was a measure to conceal his sexuality.
Toole breathed his last on September 15, 1996 at Florida State Prison due to cirrhosis. Since no one from his family came to claim his body, he was buried in the Florida State Prison Cemetery.