We seem to be on a roll with nasty child murders committed by none other than pathological parents. In this sad 1974 tale the murderer Ronald Clark O’Bryan, was the father of two young children, Timothy, 8, and Elizabeth, 5. The family lived in Deer Park, Texas. O’Bryan fell on tough financial times; he’d gone delinquent on a number of loans and had been forced to sell the family home in order to pay them off. No problem, he had a solution. He’d kill his kids and collect on their life insurance policies. Strangely he told several friends he was expecting to come into money by the end of the year that would improve his financial situation. It was creepily prophetic that he worked at Texas State Optical, an industry where he could obtain cyanide.
Rotten Ronald also tried to obtain the poison at the Curtin Matheson Scientific Company in Houston. After being told they only sold the deadly poison in large quantities, a salesperson directed him to where he could buy a smaller amount. Don’t you just know that around that time, O’Bryan increased the life insurance policies on his two young children, and by October 1974 they were up to $30,000 apiece. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.
On Halloween night Ryan, his wife and two children went to dinner at the home of the Bates family (oh the irony) in a nearby town, after which they planned to take the kids trick-or-treating. O’Bryan offered to accompany the children and Mr. Bates volunteered to go along with his two children, another adult and a child from the neighborhood. During the trick-or-treating expedition produced five Giant Pixy Stix he said he’d acquired from one of the neighbors and distributed them among his children, the Bates’ two children, and one other neighborhood child who came trick-or-treating with them. After arriving home Timothy and Elizabeth were allowed to have the Pixy Stix before bed. Only Timothy ate the candy and as he swallowed it he complained about its bitter taste. O’Bryan gave his son Kool-Aid to wash it down (was it grape?), and soon Timothy began vomiting uncontrollably and went into convulsions. He died after arriving at the hospital, and cyanide was discovered in his blood and stomach fluids. Luckily, none of the other children who were given the Pixy Stix consumed them. The funeral was a highly emotional experience, especially when the child’s father was the person who gave the eulogy who often wiped his eyes during the speech. People flocked around the family to offer support, feeling terribly sorry for the this father who clearly suffered so grievously over Timothy’s death.
Police searched for the sicko who gave little Timothy the deadly candy. O’Bryan claimed it was someone at the home of the Melvin Family, who opened the door to their dark house on Halloween night only a crack and produced the Pixy Stix. Melvin was able to produce an alibi and he was cleared of suspicion. After surveying other households in the neighborhood to see who may have purchased Pixy Stix, it was discovered that none of the other neighbors had bought that particular brand of candy.
A few days after Timothy’s burial, the police received a call from O’Bryan’s insurance
company to report that O’Bryan had attempted to take out the life insurance policies on his two children without consulting his wife. He didn’t take out an insurance policy on himself or his wife. Naturally O’Bryan immediately became the prime suspect. After questioning O’Bryan’s co-workers at Texas Optical, it was discovered that he’d been asking around about cyanide in the months leading up to Timothy’s death. Truly a diabolical man.
Police then searched the O’Bryan family home and discovered a pocket-knife on which traces of plastic and powdered candy were found. Headlines blazed with the information that the child’s own father had poisoned him on Halloween night. The public was stunned with this information. It was unthinkable that Ronald O’Bryan was the poisonous Candy Man. How could anyone poison his own child?
Rotten Ronald was charged with Timothy’s murder and put on trial, where it was alleged that he distributed the cyanide-laced Pixy Stix to the rest of the children in an attempt to use the frequently-circulated urban legend of poisoned Halloween candy as a cover for his crimes. Not only was Ronald O’Bryan capable of murdering his children for financial gain, he was willing to sacrifice other children to make his foul scheme seem credible. He was found guilty of his own child’s murder and guilty of the attempt murder of his daughter Elizabeth and other neighbourhood children. During the media sensation that resulted, O’Bryan was christened the Candy Man Killer by his death row inmates. When interviewed by a reporter about what he thought of the moniker, O’Bryan smiled benignly.
O’Bryan did even more than murder his own son. He stole Halloween from Deer Park, Texas. He brought to life and affirmed the legend of the poisoned Halloween candy. People began taking their children to shopping malls for Halloween, where stores offered candy treats, rather than taking children door to door. Some families simply kept their children at home, refusing to participate in the holiday altogether. O’Bryan made Halloween a risk and one better not taken. What a shameful slur against Willy Wonka.
“We were all shocked that someone would kill their own son, their own flesh and blood, for a lousy … $30,000 life insurance policy,” said former Harris County Assistant District Attorney Mike Hinton, who prosecuted the case. An 11-year-old boy named Whitney Parker, who was given one of the tainted Pixy Stix was found asleep in bed later than night, cradling the tube of poisoned candy in his arms. O’Bryan had clipped off one end of the package and crudely stapled the straw back together. It turned out to be good karma for little Parker. He had been unable to pry out the staples O’Bryan used to reseal the plastic container. “He didn’t have enough strength to get it open,” Hinton said. “It just sends shivers down your spine. It profoundly affected the whole community, every child of trick-or-treating age.
There’s no question it had a national effect on Halloween.” Before Oct. 31, 1974, the idea of carefully examining children’s Halloween booty might have seemed like a waste of time. After Timothy O’Bryan was poisoned by one of five Giant Pixy Stix with enough cyanide to kill two or three grown men, it didn’t seem paranoid anymore” The following year parents brought their children’s candies to local laboratories to have them x-rayed in case pins or razors had been inserted into them. No incidents were recorded.
O’Bryan was executed nearly nine years later executed via lethal injection, a type of poison….quite fittingly. Many people flocked to the prison on the night of the execution. There were people who upheld the decision to kill O’Bryan and death sentence opposition who claimed it was morally wrong to execute him. Animosity arose between the two groups, but no actual fighting occurred.
The punk rock group Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded a song about Rotten Ronald called “Candyman,” the first track on their album Tinderbox. The trilogy entitled CandyMan was based loosely on the Halloween urban legend.
O’Bryan was executed on Halloween 31, 1984 – Halloween night. His final words were “may God bless us all.”
God had nothing to do with this.