Meet 'the Man Who Killed Halloween'

In 1974, Ronald O'Bryan poisoned his 8-year-old son with cyanide-laced candy
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2015 6:37 AM CDT
Meet 'the Man Who Killed Halloween'
Ronald O'Bryan poisoned his 8-year-old son by lacing Pixy Stix with cyanide on Halloween in 1974.   (Harris County TDC)

He became known among fellow inmates as the "Candyman," but in Houston, Ronald O'Bryan is recalled as "the man who killed Halloween." The Houston Chronicle revisits the story of the father of two, who on the rainy Halloween of 1974 left his horrifying mark on the area when he added cyanide to Pixy Stix candy and gave them to five kids, including his 8-year-old son Timothy and 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth. The Chronicle reports O'Bryan prodded Timothy to eat his before bed and the boy was vomiting within minutes. He didn't make it to the hospital alive. O'Bryan's story that the candy came from a house they trick-or-treated at in Pasadena didn't hold up, especially as it was revealed that O'Bryan had taken out fresh life-insurance polices on his kids, unbeknownst to his wife.

"I found an adding machine tape," Harold Nassif, a former detective on the case, told ABC13 last year. "It had all of his bills written out next to the numbers. It came to almost the exact amount of what he stood to collect." A previous Chronicle article notes O'Bryan's pocket knife was found to have bits of plastic and powdered candy on it; Nassif says O'Bryan hid the sticks up the sleeves of his raincoat as they trick-or-treated. O'Bryan was convicted of murder by a jury in less than an hour and was executed in 1984 by lethal injection after years of appeals, including a letter asking for a stay of execution with the underlined sentence, "I do not want to die!" The Chronicle has this somewhat incredible detail: None of the other four kids ate the candy, but one was found asleep holding it; he had apparently tried to open it, but was unable to get past the staple O'Bryan used to reseal the Pixy Stix. (More Halloween stories.)

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