"The Eyeball Killer", a.k.a. "The Dallas Slasher" or "The Dallas Ripper", was a serial killer and enucleator who killed at least three women in the 1990s. While a man named Charles Albright was convicted of one of the murders, the evidence against him was a bit slim, leading some to suspect that he was wrongly convicted.
Brief Case History
The first victim attributed to the Eyeball Killer was Mary Pratt, who was shot and killed on December 13, 1990. When the body was autopsied, the coroner made an even more startling discovery; the eyes had been skillfully removed from their sockets. The mutilation was kept out of the media and the case went cold. On February 10 the following year, another victim, Susan Peterson, was found dead and mutilated the same way. The media dubbed the killer "The Dallas Ripper". Even though law enforcement increased patrols in the area where the killer was active, a third victim, Shirley Williams, was found on March 18. Once again, the killer had removed the eyes, but there were some differences from the two previous murders. Williams had facial bruises and a broken nose as though she had been punched. Also, the eyes hadn't been removed with the same precision as the previous victims; the face was slashed and the tip of an X-Acto knife was found in the eye socket. A ballistic comparison of the bullets found in the body were matched to the ones found in Mary Pratt's, indicating that the same weapon had been used to kill both. Also, a pubic hair from a Caucasian male was found on Williams' body.
Charles Albright was born in Amarillo, Texas on August 10, 1933. As an infant, he was adopted by Fred and Delle Albright. Whenever his aunt was around, she would give him dolls and make him wear dresses. He was difficult to control. His mother, a schoolteacher, was very strict and overprotective and pushed him in his education, allowing him to skip two grades. When he was a teenager and got his first gun, he made a pastime of shooting small animals such as squirrels and rabbits. He enjoyed stuffing them and wanted to become a taxidermist. His mother encouraged him and helped him stuff the animals, though she couldn't afford the glass eyes used by professional taxidermists. Instead, she let him use buttons; psychologists later theorized that essentially being forbidden from using eyes played a part in forming Albright's criminal pathology. He also helped her with her real estate business. At the age of 13, he was convicted of aggravated assault, the start of a criminal career. At the age of 17, he was found guilty of theft for stealing some handguns and $380 in cash and served six months in prison. After his release, he enrolled in the Arkansas State Teacher's College, majoring in premedical studies. He was an active student, excelling in subjects he enjoyed, learning a few languages and being a member of several clubs.
Albright was also an active thief and held down a number of odd jobs, including bullfighter, baseball bat manufacturer, carpenter, and hairstylist. During his first year, he broke into a girl's dorm to steal some nude photos. In one notable incident, he cut out the eyes of photos of a friend's ex and pasted them onto photos of another girl and on his walls. When he was 19, he manipulated a girl, Bettye Nestor, into giving him keys to the entire college. In 1954, aged 20, he married her just after Christmas. After breaking into an office and stealing some equipment, he was expelled. Albright and Nestor, who became a teacher, formed a family and conceived a daughter together, but domestic life didn't change him. In 1961, he was arrested for receiving and concealing stolen goods, but no charges were pursued. In 1968, he forged excellent credentials from the Arkansas State Teacher's College and used them to become a high school teacher, but was sentenced to probation for forging official records two years later. In 1975, he and Nestor separated, though they didn't officially divorce until 1987. Over the years, he was frequently arrested for theft, forgery and, following the death of his adoptive mother and a visit to his birth mother in 1981, child molestation. Around the time of his first known murder, he dated a woman named Mary White, but she broke it off after three years. In 1986, his father passed away and he inherited almost $100,000. The same year, he moved in with a woman named Dixie Austin, with whom he stayed together the rest of his free life.
Albright first came to the police's attention when a woman tipped the police off about him, saying he and Pratt had been acquainted and that he was known to have an obsession with knives and eyes. When a number of prostitutes reported that he had assaulted them, it was enough for the police to get a search warrant for Albright's home. In addition to an S&W .44 Magnum revolver and several X-Acto knives, they also found a red condom (though his wife was past menopause), the same color of a condom found on Shirley Williams' crime scene, some books about serial killers and Nazi literature and (according to one source) several dolls whose eyes had been removed. Though Albright's wife, who up until then had been unaware of her husband's criminal past, claimed he had been home every night, he was arrested. Unfortunately, the gun found in his house turned out not to be a match to the one the Eyeball Killer used in the killings of Pratt and Williams. Nor did the investigators find any bloody clothes, though they did find socks and underwear soaking in bleach. Additionally, Albright's wife provided garage receipts proving that their car had been unavailable during the first two murders. On Albright's blankets and inside his vacuum, they found hair and fibers that could link him to the murders. In the vacuum, there were hairs that were consistent with those of Shirley Williams, though there weren't enough to perform a DNA analysis with the technology of the time. When samples of Albright's own hair were taken, they were matched to the hair found on Williams' body, though the sample couldn't be used to link him to it uniquely.
Albright was charged with the three Eyeball Killer murders as well as an unsolved 1988 murder of Rhonda Bowie, a prostitute who was stabbed to death, though her eyes hadn't been removed like those of the previous victims. On December 2, 1991, the trial began. As it went on, the prosecution's case began falling apart; a yellow raincoat that Shirley Williams had been wearing when she was killed had been thrown away from evidence, though the jury had seen it, a prostitute who earlier had claimed that Albright had attacked her withdrew her story, claiming she had been coerced by the police to make it up, and Albright's neighbor supported the claim that his car had been unavailable. The case came to rely heavily on the hair evidence, which linked Albright to three murders. Though the same evidence also linked him to the murder of Rhonda Bowie, he was cleared of it since he had an alibi for it. Ultimately, Albright was convicted of killing Shirley Williams and was sentenced to life in prison. His defense tried to appeal, citing a lack of evidence, but it was overruled. Albright is currently being held at the Texas Department of Corrections in Amarillo and, according to official sources, still has a fascination with the human eye and takes great interest in news stories in which eyes have been cut or gouged out. Whether or not he was actually the real Eyeball Killer and was responsible for all three murders, or even just that for which he was convicted, is uncertain.
Abright died in 2020 at the age of 87.
The Eyeball Killer's victims were prostitutes. After killing them by shooting them with a .44-caliber handgun, he would remove the eyes with surgical precision and take them with him. The bodies were then dumped in open areas with their shirts pulled up to expose their breasts or completely nude.
- December 13: 1990: Mary Lou Pratt, 33 (shot in the back of the head)
- February 10: Susan Peterson, 27 (shot three times)
- March 18: Shirley Williams, 41 (shot in the head and face; Albright was convicted of her murder)
On Criminal Minds
- Season Five
- "The Eyes Have It" - While the Eyeball Killer was never directly mentioned or referenced on the show, the case appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Earl Bulford - Both were serial killers and enucleators, both Buford and Charles Albright (the main suspect in the case) had interests in taxidermy, committed an assault and animal cruelty in their early years, committed their crimes after the deaths of their parents (though it was a stepmother in Albright's case), both Bulford and the Eyeball Killer primarily targeted women (though Bulford also killed men), had near surgical precision, and were given nicknames by the media.