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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 22 - The A-Hole That Killed Halloween

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The Man That Killed Halloween


Halloween
Vintage Halloween

We have all grown up to always check our Halloween candy. We might have done it with a groan about it thinking it was stupid or our parents didn’t trust us enough and they would do it ourselves. You could have grown up in a city big enough that law enforcement would set up candy checkpoints or the hospital would X-Ray your sugary haul but, as children, all we could see was a mountain of Reese’s cups, Kit-Kats, and Skittles. To our parents, all they could see was broken glass, razor blades, and cyanide after one man by the name of Ronald Clack O’ Bryan would change Halloween nationwide in 1974 and become known as the man that killed Halloween.


Ronald Clark O’Bryan was born in Houston, Texas to William and Elise O’Bryan. He would have two children, eight year old Timothy and five-year-old Elizabeth with his wife Daynene. Not much is really known about his background other than he had trouble holding down jobs and moved his family to five different cities. That he also worked as an optician for Texas State Optical in the Sharpstown District in Houston. He would also be a deacon at the Second Baptist Church, where he sang in the choir and ran a local bus program.


After relocating to an apartment in Deer Park, Texas. The O’Bryans would befriend the Bates family, father Jimmy daughter Kimberly and wife, whom they met at their church.


On rainy Halloween 1974, the Bates family would invite the O'Bryan's over for a pork roast dinner and trick or treating in a neighboring town of Pasadena, Texas. As the Bates and O’Bryan children would go door to door to collect their candy they would come to a home that had no lights on and it appeared that nobody was home, the kids still rang the doorbell but got no answer. Jimmy Bates would continue on with the four children down the street, and O’Bryan would hang back and later catch up to them. Unbeknownst to Jimmy Bates and the children Ronald O’Bryan has been hiding Piky Stix in the sleeve of his raincoat. Now, these aren’t the smaller paper tube Pixy Stixs O’Bryan has been hiding five of the 21-inch plastic tube versions. He would claim that the house they stopped at that had no lights on had given them to him. He would give all four of the O’Bryan and Bates children one and a 10-year-old boy he had recognized from their church the fifth one, Whitney Brown.


After returning home Timothy would ask if he could eat some of his candy according to Ronald, Timothy would choose the giant Pixy Stix. Timothy would struggle to get the candy out so Ronald would help his son knock the powder loose. Timothy would tell his father it didn’t taste right and it was bitter. Trying to be a good father and help his son he would get him some Kool-aid to wash the bitter taste from his mouth. It was almost immediately that Timothy would complain of stomach pains and run to the bathroom to vomit. By the time he would reach the bathroom, Timothy would beg to vomit and start convulsions. Timothy O’Bryan died en-route to the hospital less than an hour after eating his Pixy Stix. Hospital staff would say that O’Bryan would be seen beating his hands on the walls and screaming “Please God doesn’t take my son” Doctors would become concerned that he may have been poisoned as well with his behavior. Doctors would tell him that he needs to lay down and go get his stomach pumped and suddenly would be calm and collected and said no I'm fine. Bates would learn of Timothy’s death while on the job for the power company when his wife called to let him know about Timothy’s death and Kimberly wasn’t feeling well, he would rush home by rush I mean rushed he would say he probably drove at least 110 mph to be with his children. Fortunately, Kimberly only had a headache.


As word of Timothy’s death from the candy spread through Deer Park, Texas parents would fear for their own children’s safety and would turn their candy in to the police fearing it was laced with poison as well. At first, O’Bryan wasn’t a suspect to police until Timothy’s autopsy report came back that he consumed cyanide. When he was questioned by police he would tell them he was given four or five of the 21 in. Pixy Stix. Police would recover 4 of the 5 stix and Warren Brown’s parents would become hysterical when they couldn’t find it after being notified by police. Thankfully after rushing to Warren’s room they would find him asleep with the Pixy Stix in hand unopened since Warren wasn't able to get the staples off the wrapper. Mark Bates, did want to eat his right away since it was the biggest piece of candy he had ever had but, their mother told him and his sister Kimberly to wait until tomorrow outside since she had just finished cleaning their home. As for Timothy’s younger sister she had luckily been so tired from trick or treating had gone to bed when they had returned home.


All five of the pixy stix in question would be tested and come back positive for cyanide. During the investigation of the candies, they would find that approximately two inches of the original candy were removed and replaced with the poison. Pathologists estimated there was enough cyanide between the remaining four to kill up to four adults.


Jimmy Bates didn’t suspect that Ronald could have done something like this his first reaction was this had to be some “psycho or dopehead” learning the candy was poisoned. It wouldn’t be until two days later at Timothy’s funeral that he became suspicious of Ronald O’Bryan. Bates would say in an interview that Ronald wasn’t despondent in any way. One of the bigger things that made Jimmy Bates suspect Ronald was that during the funeral while the organist sang and played their music, Ronald walked right past Timothy’s casket with no hesitation. Bates would say right there it clicked in my brain I could feel it was Ronald.


When law enforcement questioned O’Bryan where he got the candy from he would claim he couldn’t remember or what street it was on and he had only seen a hairy arm pass him the candy


Officers were suspicious of him because O’Bryan and Bates had only taken their kids on two streets since it was raining. Finally, O’Bryan would select a house saying it was that one which belonged to Courtney Melvin. Unfortunately for O’Bryan Courtney Melvin had an iron-clad alibi as he worked as an air traffic controller at a nearby airport and wouldn’t return home until 11 pm. Melvin had more than enough witnesses to say he was there at the airport.


During the progress of the investigation of his son’s death police would learn that Ronald Clark O’Bryan was in debt for over 100k dollars (645k today in 2023). They would also learn that he would hold over 21 jobs in ten years. Defaulted on several bank loans, their home was foreclosed on, his car was to be repossessed, and fired from his current job for theft.


Police would also discover that O’Bryan would take a life insurance policy out on Timothy and his sister in January of 1974 for 10k per child (64,557 in 2023). And one month before Timothy would be killed he would take an additional 20k policy on each child (129k 2023) totaling out to 60k (387k in 2023). His insurance agent would find this odd as he was reducing his and his wife’s own to increase his children’s policies and O’Bryan would ask his agent to keep this between the two of them.


Tips would start coming in after more and more details surrounding Timothy’s death became more public, these tips would come from friends and co-workers that Ron had taken an interest in Cyanide, and ask questions like how much it would take to kill someone and how long it would take. The morning of Timothy’s death police would learn that O’Bryan called his insurance company inquiring about collecting the policies taken out on his son and that he had visited a chemical supply store to buy cyanide before Halloween. After learning these facts would make Ronald Clack O’Bryan their main suspect. This entire time Daynene, Ronald’s wife stayed by his side the entire investigation believing it was someone else until they both were brought in for questioning about the insurance policies, and that's when it all changed for her. Up until she was brought in for questioning she had no clue that these changes had been made.


November 5, 1974, Ronald would be arrested and indicted on one count of capital murder, and four counts of attempted murder. With Daynene’s weekly visits while he was innocent of everything and was almost convincing but she knew he was lying.


During his trial evidence would show that these particular types of Pixy Stix are heat sealed and not stapled as where O’Bryan’s fix candies were cut and folded over and stapled shut again. Also while searching their home investigators would find scissors with sugar residue that matched Pixy Stix as well as an adding machine with all of his current debits with handwritten amounts on the tape equaling the same value he had taken out on his children. A chemist that was an acquaintance of O’Bryan would testify in the summer of 73 O’Bryan would ask him about cyanide and how much would be fatal he had to ask friends and co-workers as well. A chemical supply salesman would also testify that he was contacted by O’Bryan on how to purchase the chemical. O’Bryan’s sister and brother-in-law would testify that Ronald O’Bryan would state during his own son’s funeral using the money from his son’s life insurance to take a vacation and buy other items. Also during the trial, it would come up that Ronald O’Bryan “envied his son as he is in a better place and didn't have to face the trials of life as he did. Elisabeth, his wife would state during her testimony that Timothy didn’t want the pixy stix and that Ronald had forced him to eat it. During his trial, Ronald would maintain his innocence. It had only taken less than an hour to find Ronald Clark O’Bryan guilty of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder and would sentence him to death by electric chair originally but later would lethal injection.


O’Bryan’s trial for killing his son would receive national attention and would become known as the man who killed Halloween or the Candyman nationwide and in the Houston area. Even though some sources stated that inmates gave him the name Candyman but being a child killer let alone his son O’Bryan was shunned and despised by other death row inmates. Even the death row inmates petitioned to hold an organized demonstration on his execution date to express how much they hated him.


O’Bryan’s original execution date was set for August 8, 1980, but was successfully petitioned for a stay of execution. A second date was set for May 25, 1982, and this was also postponed but I was unable to find out why. A third date was set for October 31, 1982, on the eighth anniversary of his crimes and Judge Michael McSpadden would offer to personally drive him to the death chamber. This date of October 31st would have made O’Bryan the first Texas death row inmate to be executed by lethal injection, but of course, the best date possible to end this story with was postponed again by the Supreme Court to give O’Bryan a chance to pursue an appeal and retrial and his execution was rescheduled for March 31, 1984. Even though his lawyers tried for a fourth stay of execution based on lethal injection was cruel and unusual the stay was denied. On March 31, 1984, Ronald Clack O’Brayn would finally be put to death.


Last meal of T-bone steak (medium to well done) french fries and ketchup, whole kernel corn, sweet peas, lettuce, and tomato salad with egg and french dressing, iced teas, saltines, Boston cream pie, and rolls. wanted his corneas donated to an eye bank.


It would only be eight steps from his cell to the death chamber where O’Bryan would be strapped to a gurney, winked, and nodded at some of the witnesses before giving his last words.


"What is about to transpire in a few moments is wrong! However, we as human beings do make mistakes and errors. This execution is one of those wrongs yet doesn’t mean our whole system of justice is wrong. Therefore, I would forgive all who have taken part in any way in my death. Also, to anyone I have offended in any way during my 39 years, I pray and ask your forgiveness, just as I forgive anyone who offended me in any way. And I pray and ask God’s forgiveness for all of us respectively as human beings. To my loved ones, I extend my undying love. To those close to me, know in your hearts I love you one and all. God bless you all and may God’s best blessings be always yours.”


Even up to the point of death, He would maintain he was innocent and at 12:01 am, March 31st O’Bryan would yawn deeply with a heaving chest, eyes closing to slits, and a death rattle Ronald Clark O’Bryan finally has answered for killing his son and a beloved holiday for many.


So what happens outside during a death row inmate execution? Well with how unique this crime is I was able to find news reports on what happened.


When the 24 witnesses emerged from the death house the crowd of 300 people cheered and some shouted trick or treat. As others showered anti-death penalty protestors in candy. Along with this, there are usually candlelight vigils held for the victims but news stations reported those that who gathered held these candles for the opposite reason wanting the condemned to die. Even one of the videos I had watched showed a lady lighting her cigarette from the candle seems like a bad bitch move being in Texas after all and the crowds would cheer as the hearse would roll by carrying O’Bryan’s body.


Daynene would go on to remarry four years later after all this and her daughter would be adopted by her now husband. Daynene’s new name was never revealed as she wanted a clean slate and put this nightmare behind her with a brand new beginning. Even though she did receive 31,000 for Timothy’s life insurance but she never cashed it she would say “I can get by without it rather than have to spend money with blood all over it.”


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