Texas

Father poisons children’s candy to collect insurance

October 31, 1974
Pasadena, Texas
Ronald O’Bryan gives poisoned candy to his children, 2 of the neighbors’ children, and a child he recognized from church; his son Timothy dies from the candy

O’Bryan, his children Timothy and Elizabeth, and other children went trick or treating around the neighborhood. They came to a house and grew impatient when no one came to the door, and the group left to another. However, O’Bryan stayed behind and caught up with the group while holding five 21″ Pixy Stix which he handed out to the children. Later, he met another child whom he recognized and handed him a candy as well.

Later in the evening, Timothy asked to eat a candy before bed and requested the Pixy Stix. He complained about the bitter taste but O’Bryan gave him a soft drink to help wash away the taste. Timothy soon became ill, vomiting and convulsing. He was taken to the hospital but died en route, less than an hour after ingesting the candy.

Parents, in a panic, brought their candy to police afraid they had contaminated products as well. An autopsy performed on Timothy revealed a fatal dose of Potassium cyanide which was found in the other 4 Pixy Stix surrendered to authorities. It was found the tubes had been opened and the top 2 inches of candy were replaced with cyanide powder then stapled shut. The amount of cyanide in Timothy’s tube was enough to kill 2 adults while the other tubes contained enough to kill 3-4 adults. None of the other children opened their Pixy Stix, thankfully, and were safe from harm.

Police did not immediately suspect O’Bryan, though they did grow suspicious when he could not remember which house the candy cane from, despite the fact he and his group ended their trick or treating early due to rain. Upon further investigation, it was found O’Bryan was $100,000 in debt and, in the months leading up to Timothy’s murder, had taken out several life insurance claims on both his children totaling $60,000. He also contacted the insurance company the morning after Timothy’s death to attempt to collect. It is speculated the other children were given tainted candy to throw the trail off himself.

O’Bryan was arrested November 5. During his trial, he attempted a defense of the urban legend regarding a “mad poisoner,” a legend insisting a person or people hand out candy laced with poisons or drugs, or containing needles or razor blades. The defense was unsuccessful and O’Bryan was convicted of one count of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder after 46 minutes of deliberation. He was executed by lethal injection on March 31, 1984 with groups of anti-death penalty protestors and counter-protestors outside the prison, the counter-protestors yelling “trick or treat!” or showering protestors with candy.

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