As far as we know today, Burkhalter is finally enjoying the farm in the Fredericksburg, Texas countryside. Although his life was surrounded by violence and accusations of criminal conduct for years, his name is no longer in the headlines of Texas newspapers.
He was called the “candy man” by his fellow inmates. He lived on death row in Texas for nearly ten years after being convicted of murdering his eight year old son. When his death was announced on the night of his execution outside the Walls Prison Unit in Huntsville, Texas, the crowd chanted “Trick or Treat”.
On Halloween night of 1974, in Pasadena, Texas, Ronald Clark O’Bryan distributed five Pixie Stix candies to five children, including his son and daughter, whom he had volunteered to take trick or treating. Not long before that Halloween night, he had taken out insurance policies on both his children. He had also opened each of the Pixie Stix tubes, filled them with cyanide before stapling the ends closed and giving them to the children.
Later that night, O’Bryan told his son Timothy, he could have one piece of candy before going to bed; then he sat beside Timothy and encouraged him to choose the Pixie Stix. Within minutes Timothy was ill and vomiting. He died shortly thereafter at a hospital emergency room.
Another was trying to open his with a knife in the kitchen when his father interrupted him and insisted that he go to bed. It was also reported that, in the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, attendant David Malone was prepared to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if Timothy had stopped breathing. Doctors later said that there was enough cyanide in Timothy’s mouth that it might also have killed Malone.
|Execution night in Huntsville|
O’Bryan never confessed to the crime. He maintained that a person at one of the houses he took the children to, gave them the poisoned candy. However, he could not identify the house or the street it was on, though they had only visited two streets. He eventually changed his recollection and identified a house after being pressed by investigators. But police learned that no one was home at that house on Halloween, as the man who lived there was working at the time, surrounded by 200 witnesses.
The jury took only 45 minutes to convict O’Bryan and 70 minutes to assess the death penalty. The musical group Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded a song, Candyman, on their album Tinderbox, about O’Bryan and his infamous deed. The song can be heard on YouTube.
But in this case, as in most murder cases, the murderer knew his victims. It was not the random act of some Halloween Murderer, but that of an evil man who had been a sperm donor. He should never be called a parent or a father.
By 1936, Hoover was familiar with Oklahoma lawmen, having been arrested for robbery or burglary, maybe both. In any event, he found his way into the military and served as an infantryman during World War II. He then migrated to Pasadena, Texas, where, it appeared for a time, his criminal life would be left behind.
Sam Hoover found Pasadena to be an accommodating community. He served for a time as the Chamber of Commerce manager and was elected Pasadena’s mayor in 1948. He served for four years, enrolling in law school while mayor. He ran twice for county judge and lost, but was soon making a name for himself practicing criminal law. Some said had he applied his skills solely to the practice of law, he might have rivaled famous Houston lawyer Percy Foreman. But it wasn’t to be.
In physical appearance, Hoover was an unlikely criminal mastermind. He was describe by a columnist for the El Paso Herald-Post in 1964 as a slight clerical-looking criminal lawyer recently indicted on enough points to electrocute him on the one hand, or send him to prison a la Al Capone, on the other.
Hoover had bonded Laird out of jail in La Grange, Texas a month before the note was written. Lawmen believed Hoover did this to keep Laird from telling officers what he knew about a robbery Hoover had planned. Once out of jail, Laird agreed to allow Hoover to apply for a life insurance policy on him, a policy that was apparently never issued. But it obviously caused Laird to begin to mistrust his lawyer and to write the note found by investigators. Sam Hoover was arrested, but was never charged with the murder, although the other two crooks mentioned in the note were.
The former Mayor’s next, and most infamous involvement in a life of crime, came in 1964. In March of that year, the wealthy owner of a dairy and wholesale grocery supply business, Mair Schepps, his wife, infant child and a family nurse maid were abducted and tortured as they were held captive in the Schepps River Oaks home. The robbery was set up by Sam Hoover, who never appeared at the crime scene, but gave continuing telephone instructions to the three criminals as they attempted to extract information from the victims about the location of a large sum of cash that Hoover believed Schepps was keeping in the home.
The victims were bound and sadistically tortured for three hours. Mrs. Schepps was burned with a butcher knife that was heated on a stove and by cigarettes, wired to an electrical cord and shocked when it was placed on her teeth, breasts, and “private parts.” When later arrested, they named Sam Hoover as the mastermind. Of course, Sam claimed to be only their lawyer. But this time, he wouldn’t beat the system.
At trial Hoover was found guilty and sentenced to sixty years. One of his accomplices became an informant and was given immunity. The other two were sentenced to die by electrocution, but their lives spared when the Supreme Court invalidated Texas’ death penalty.
While Hoover’s conviction wound its way through appeals, the federal government stepped in to prosecute him on tax evasion. That trial took place in Laredo, Texas and he was again convicted. Soon, Sam Hoover was an inmate in the Texas Prison System. He had been 57 years old when the torture and robbery of the Schepps family occurred. But Sam Hoover’s criminal escapades were far from over.
Almost 19 years later, according to a story written by retired police officer Earl Musick and published in the Badge & Gun, a publication of the Houston Police Officers Association, Hoover was back on the streets and again engaging in crimes, particularly, home invasion robberies much like the Schepps case.
When Hoover and his accomplice tried to set up a ransom payment by the victim of one such robbery, Houston Police, for the first time in his Texas criminal career, arrested Sam Hoover at the scene of his crime. He was sent back to prison at the age of 76. This may not have been his last criminal act, but it was the last one he was tried for. Sam Hoover died in 1992.
|Easily recognized local theater|
|The Gilleys, Cryer, & his mate|
|A Klan ad|
|Innocent Jack Marion on the gallows|
|Jack Marion shortly before his execution|
|The murderer Edward O’Kelley|
|Officer Burnett’s tombstone|
|William Patrick O’Malley|
|Sylvia Dickey Smith|
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