Ottis Elwood Toole (March 5, 1947 – September 15, 1996) (sometimes misspelled Otis) was an American who was convicted of six counts of murder and at one time admitted to four more murder charges. However, he recanted and restated a number of confessions during his time in prison. Police believe he was responsible for the murder of Adam Walsh in 1981.
Toole received two death sentences but on appeal they were commuted to life in prison. He died in his cell from liver disease.
In 1976, Toole met Henry Lee Lucas at a Jacksonville soup kitchen, and they soon developed a sexual relationship. Toole later claimed to have accompanied Lucas in 108 murders, sometimes at the behest of a cult called “The Hands of Death”. Lucas later recanted his confessions, saying he made such statements only to improve his living conditions in jail.
In April 1983, Toole was arrested on an arson charge in Jacksonville. Two months later in June his accomplice Henry Lee Lucas was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm. It was then Lucas began boasting about the murderous rampage orchestrated by the two. At first, Toole had denied involvement but later began backing up Lucas’s confessions.
On October 21, 1983, he confessed to the 1981 murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh. A few weeks after Toole made the confession, however, police investigating the case announced that they had lost Toole’s impounded car and machete. John Walsh, Adam’s father, continued to maintain that he believed Toole to be guilty. On December 16, 2008, Hollywood, Florida, police announced Toole as the murderer, and the Adam Walsh case was closed. The police did not reveal any new physical evidence and pointed out that they still had no DNA evidence. Toole confessed that on that same day he ambushed and killed 46-year-old Joana Holter in her home while she was attending to groceries with the same machete which he used to decapitate Adam Walsh.
On January 12, 1982, Toole barricaded 64-year-old George Sonnenberg in his own home and set the house alight, killing him. In April 1984, Toole was convicted and sentenced to death in Jacksonville, Florida for Sonnenberg’s murder. Later that year, Toole was found guilty of the February 1983 strangulation murder of 19-year-old Silvia Rogers, a Tallahassee, Florida, resident, and received a second death sentence; on appeal, however, both sentences were commuted to life in prison.
Experts at his trial had testified that Toole suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. While serving his sentence, Toole briefly stayed in the cell adjacent to serial killer Ted Bundy in Florida’s Raiford Prison. After his incarceration, Toole pleaded guilty to four more Jacksonville murders in 1991 and received four more life sentences.
In 1984, Toole confessed to two unsolved northwest Florida slayings, including one of the I-10 murders. During an interview, he admitted to killing 18-year-old David Schallart, a hitchhiker he picked up east of Pensacola. Schallart’s body, bearing five gunshot wounds in the left side of the head, was found on February 6, 1980, approximately 125 feet off I-10’s eastbound lane, five miles east of Chipley. The second confession involved the death of 20-year-old Ada Johnson. Toole confessed that he shot her in the head on a road outside of Fort Walton Beach after kidnapping her at gunpoint at a Tallahassee nightclub. Psychiatrists Dr. Urbina and Dr. Sanches, testified at Toole’s 1984 Florida Supreme Court appeal that he was extremely impulsive and exhibited antisocial behavior as a result of a personality disorder and that he was a pyromaniac. The court found sufficient evidence that Toole was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
On September 15, 1996, at the age of 49, Ottis Toole died in his prison cell from liver failure. He was buried in a prison cemetery, because no one claimed his body