Ronald Clark O'Bryan, a.k.a. The Man Who Killed Halloween and The Candy Man, was an American murderer who fatally poisoned his son on Halloween in an attempt to collect life insurance.

Background

No information seems to exist about O'Bryan's early life, other than the fact that he was born on October 19, 1944. He lived with Daynene, his wife, in Deer Park, Texas. They had two children: Timothy in 1966 and Elizabeth in 1969. O'Bryan worked as an optician at Texas State Optical in Sharpstown, Houston. He was a deacon for the Second Baptist Church, also singing in the choir and being in charge of the local bus program.

Filicide, Capture, and Execution

Timothy O'Bryan.

On Halloween 1974, O'Bryan and another parent took Timothy, Elizabeth, and two other children trick-or-treating in Pasadena, Texas. Upon visiting a particular house where there did not appear to be anyone home, the group moved on; O'Bryan stayed behind in case somebody answered the door. He quickly caught back up with them, holding five Pixy Stix. According to him, the homeowner was simply taking their time to respond. He gave one Pixy Stix each to the children before giving the final one to a child who was not part of the group. When it began to rain, the trick-or-treating was cut short, and the group headed back to their homes.

Before bed, Timothy asked if he could eat some of his candy. His parents agreed, and he started with the Pixy Stix. Not long afterwards, he complained that the candy tasted unusually bitter. O'Bryan helped his son wash away the taste by giving him Kool-Aid. Timothy began having stomach pains, running to the bathroom where he started vomiting and convulsing. He went limp in his father's arms and died on his way to the hospital.

A pathology report revealed that the Pixy Stix had been laced with potassium cyanide; the wrappers had been opened and poisoned before being resealed with a stapler. Timothy had consumed enough poison to have killed two adults. Fortunately, Elizabeth and the other three children had not eaten their Pixy Stix.

Timothy's murder prompted uproar in the community, with numerous parents bringing their children's Halloween candy to police in fear that it may be poisoned. It seemed as if a stranger had been handing out poisoned candy with the sole intention of killing as many children as possible. This was initially believed by the police, but it did not take long for suspicion to fall upon O'Bryan. He could not remember which house he got the Pixy Stix from, despite the fact that the group had only visited a few homes across two streets before it started raining. None of the houses the group had visited that evening had been handing out Pixy Stix. To top it all off, the owner of the house (whom O'Bryan claimed to have only seen his arm, which he described as "hairy") was not even home at the time. It eventually turned out that O'Bryan was over $100,000 in debt and had taken out $10,000 life insurance policies on his children months before Timothy's death. In fact, he kept taking out life insurance policies on them, bringing the total to $60,000. His plan was to fatally poison Timothy and Elizabeth to collect their life insurance and ease his financial woes; he gave the spare Pixy Stix to the three other children in an attempt to cover up his tracks. He was arrested on November 5.

O'Bryan's mugshot.

O'Bryan maintained his innocence during his trial, but the evidence against him was too overwhelming to ignore. He had shown an unusual interest in cyanide, asking where he could purchase some and how much would be needed for a lethal dosage. Meanwhile, his defense relied on the decades-old urban legend of a stranger handing out Halloween candy laced with deadly materials. On June 3, 1975, O'Bryan was found guilty of his son's death, as well as four counts of attempted murder, and he was sentenced to death. Not long after he was convicted, his wife divorced him. While on death row, he was despised by his fellow inmates, who condemned him for killing his own child.

On March 31, 1984, just after midnight, O'Bryan was executed by lethal injection. Before his execution, he continued to insist that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. A crowd of demonstrators gathered outside as he died, some even mockingly shouting, "Trick or treat!"

Modus Operandi

Since O'Bryan only killed one victim, the term "M.O." is somewhat misused. He laced Pixy Stix with potassium cyanide and then handed them to Timothy and Elizabeth in order to collect life insurance. He gave the remaining Pixy Stix to other children to make it look like someone else was indiscriminately handing out poisoned Halloween candy.

Known Victims

  • Pasadena, Texas:
    • October 31, 1974:
      • Timothy O'Bryan, 8 (his son; poisoned with cyanide)
      • Elizabeth O'Bryan, 5 (his daughter; attempted)
      • Three unnamed children (all attempted)

On Criminal Minds

Sources

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