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The Candyman Killer: A True Halloween Nightmare

Halloween is the time for scary decorations, spooky costumes, and stories that chill you to the bone. But I’m a huge fan of horror all year round, ranging from movies to television shows and even to just sitting on YouTube for hours listening to true crime cases. I was listening to one of my favorite true crime channels, Eleanor Neale, and she discussed a case known as “The Candyman Killer”, or “The Man Who Killed Halloween”. This story immediately intrigued me, and since it’s that time of year for dark content, here is the true story of The Man Who Killed Halloween (Credit to Eleanor Neale for most of this information, definitely go check her channel out☺)

Ronald Clarke O’Bryan was born on October 19th, 1944. He lived in Deer Park, Texas in 1974 with his wife Diane, his 8-year-old son named Timmy, and his 5-year-old daughter named Elizabeth. On Halloween night in 1974, Ronald and a neighbor took his two children and the neighbors two children out trick or treating. The first few houses were fine, but at one point they got to a house where the person didn’t come to the door. Everyone else went ahead to the next house, except Ronald, who stayed behind and waited. A few minutes later, Ronald caught up to them again and said the person finally came to the door and gave him 5 pixie sticks. Two of them he gave to his children, two to the neighbor for his children, and one other to another little boy he passed on the street that he recognized from church. There was a lot of heavy rain that evening, so they only went to about two streets and decided to head home. Once home, Timmy and Elizabeth wanted to eat their candy and Timmy decided he wanted his pixie stick first. He tried opening it on his own, but there was actually a staple holding the candy together, so he asked his dad if he could open it for him. Ronald proceeded to open the candy, and then hand it back to Timmy. Timmy started eating the candy, but quickly he said that it tasted funny and that he didn’t want it anymore. Soon after, Timmy started complaining of a stomach ache, and minutes later started projectile vomiting and seizing in their bathroom. Ronald went in to help him and called an ambulance, and less than a half an hour after eating the candy, Timmy died.

Timmy O’Bryan.

News spread rapidly that a house in the neighborhood was giving out poisoned candy, and most parents in that neighborhood confiscated their child’s candy in fear they had been to this house. Luckily none of the other children that were given the pixie sticks had eaten them. After police figured out that the sticks were the poisoned candy, all four others were confiscated for testing. They tested the candy and found it had been laced with cyanide, enough to kill 3-4 adults in each stick.

Pixie Stick.

Of course, Ronald was one of the first people to be questioned, as he was one of the adults that was there with the children while they went trick or treating. When being questions about where he got the poisoned candy from and what the person looked like, he said he couldn’t remember. This was very odd, considering he only went to two streets that night, so surely he could remember which house he had gotten it from. Ronald eventually did remember and told police which house it was, but he said the person just stuck their hand out of the door with the candy in their hand, so he didn’t see who the person was.

The person who owned that house claimed that they were an air traffic controlmen, and that they were working until 11pm the night of Halloween. After interviewing over 200 workers at this airport, every single one corroborated their story. So…who was in their house? After this realization, police really began investigating Ronald at this point, since none of his story seemed to make a lot of sense. Not long after their investigation started, they realized that Ronald was in $100,000 of debt, and that just months before Timmy’s death, Ronald had taken out two life insurance policies on his children. These life insurance policies amounted to $60,000 per child.

When questioned about these, Diane, his wife, had absolutely no idea the children had life insurance policies. The life insurance agency told police that the day after his son’s death, Ronald called them asking how he could receive the money for Timmy’s life insurance. A chemical supply store came forward to tell police that Ronald had tried to buy a large amount of cyanide from them, but since it was way more than they would ever give someone who did not have a license to carry that much cyanide, he walked away with none. On November 5th, just 5 days after his son’s death, Ronald was arrested for murder.

Ronald’s mugshot.

The police charged him with capital murder, making him eligible for the death penalty. During the trial, relatives of Ronald stated that at the funeral for his son, he was “bragging about how much money he was going to get from the life insurance policy”. Many others testified that Ronald, for at least a year before these murders, had incessantly been asking questions about cyanide and trying to obtain cyanide. On June 3rd, 1975, the jury found him guilty of one count of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder. His wife divorced him shortly after this, obviously.

Interestingly, Ronald’s death was postponed 3 times before the 4th time, when he was finally executed. His first date of execution was set for March 1980, then the second in May 1982, the third in October 1982, and finally the fourth in March 1984. All three times his attorney had it postponed for unknown reasons. Ronald was killed with lethal injection, and even right as he was about to die, he maintained his innocence and said that he believed “the death penalty is wrong”. 300 people came to see him be executed.

That is the story of the infamous “Candyman” killer, although there are many famous serial killers who are nicknamed the Candyman. Check your candy twice, you never know what might hide inside it. 

It’s always Halloween in my book. 

Tyra Gwalthney is a Junior Dual Major in Law and Justice and Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management in the Honors Concentration. Alongside HerCampus- and being a HerCampus Trendsetter- she also is the Vice President of the Animal Advocacy Club, and enjoys volunteering as often as she can. She loves dogs, summer, the beach, and anything involving chocolate. Want to chat? Email: gwalthnet0@students.rowan.edu 
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