Within the gruesome annals of lovers’ lane murders there are few that break the common MO of hit and run type of spontaneity. The Zodiac Killer’s attack on a couple at Lake Berryessa is one such example where a couple was taken on close up, hands-on sort of way. The Phantom of Texarkana killed one of his couples that way in 1946. But there aren’t many examples. Usually the victims are shot at and the perp races off, leaving little evidence.
A rare example of a hands-on couple’s killer at a petting spot in more recent times occurred on August 22, 1990. For years the double and savage murders of Cheryl Henry (22) and Andy Atkinson (21) stood as a solitary crime. Because of this the theories were that it could have been revenge. Both worked within the exotic club atmosphere, and many twisted minds find release in such dark and sometimes anonymous places of legal voyeurism. Perhaps it was even a homicidal maniac passing through Houston. But it wasn’t.
Finally, DNA made a match. Some 18 years after-the-fact backlog rape kits were finally processed. The rapist and murderer of Cheryl Henry was the same man who had raped a woman in Houston just two months before and relatively nearby to where he would murder the young couple. He was now a serial, and probably more prolific than the evidence showed.
Hands-on lovers’ lanes killers are usually the gutsiest and most violent. They are also usually the most premeditated. The same rings true here. Let’s look at the circumstances of Houston’s silent stalker.
It was 2 a.m. June 20, 1990. The victim was an exotic dancer at GiGi’s. She just returned to her boyfriend’s house at 7826 Terra Cotta Drive, in west Houston. She went upstairs. There suddenly appearing in the doorway to the master bedroom was a man in a fishnet stocking mask. It distorted his features. It distorted his lips and voice as he snarled at her. He held a gun in his left hand. It had a long barrel. He demanded: “Where’s Randy?”
This was her boyfriend’s name. He knew her boyfriend’s name. He had done some work. Various terror-laced indignities now followed. The hands-on home invaders always seem to like that stuff. They have the time here. We must look at it a bit because it sheds some light on how this maniac must have acted with Henry and Atkinson two months later.
The creep did a number of things. According to reports he taunted her with death. He put the barrel of his pistol to her head and cocked it more than once. He later tied her wrists with duct tape, then sealed her mouth and eyes with it. He shoved a pillow case over her head and then robbed her purse. Then, of course, the swine raped her. Verbally, he was “very vulgar.” Exact words unknown.
I don’t think this guy was too skilled yet. Obviously, she had seen him and he knew that was compromising. As a result, he taunted her that she wasn’t too observant, not noticing he had on a military uniform. The police think that he was trying to convince her she hadn’t seen what they believe was a security guard’s uniform.
After he finished raping her, the usual threat came. He told her to lie on the floor and forewarned her not to move, because: “I may be in the house for an hour or for five minutes.” It’s the usual warning so the victim won’t try and get free and call the police quickly. To make sure of this the assailant had removed the receiver from the phone cradle and stuffed it under the mattress.
He had covered his bases to some extent, but there are a few clues here we have to consider in light of what we know he would do 2 months later. He knew the victim’s boyfriend by name. He could have learned this rummaging in the house. He stationed himself in the master bedroom, the obvious first place one of them would go upstairs. He probably wasn’t afraid to take them both on.
Although he may have learned the boyfriend’s name from some document within the house, he had likely come across her at GiGi’s. He wanted her bad and he was ready to take on the boyfriend if he had to. But would he have murdered her and her boyfriend if they had been together?
This we don’t know, but it is a big jump in crime strategy to go from a single rape in a victim’s house to being fully prepared to bind a couple at their car at a petting spot on the fringes of Houston’s rural area. From what it sounds like with his first known victim, he really enjoyed his “fun.” With Henry and Atkinson, he would bind them both, lead them into the woods (100 yards apart), rape her, and then cut both their throats, the boy’s so deeply he almost took off his head in his bloodlust.
All that we have is DNA on this Kolchakian style “Night Strangler” type of villain I have labeled the Houston Stalker. The sketch that opens this blog article was done 18 years after-the-fact, and you may take it for what it is worth. The victim insisted the assailant was: “white man in his mid-30s, about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds with brown hair, brown eyes, a possible mustache and olive skin.”
One thing seems evident: this was no ordinary rapist and lovers’ lane assailant. He’s probably responsible for more missing women, but he made sure there was no evidence (bodies never found, of course). His two mistakes are his first rape (presumably first) in west Houston and then the double murder of Henry and Atkinson.
It is time many researchers started looking into reports and files– crimes on individual women home alone or couples where they were not murdered (yet), and then on couples murders, then missing women associated with the nightclub circuit, to see via MO how many links can be made.
In our next post we will probe into the murders of Atkinson and Henry.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.