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Attorney General Linked Him to Killings : Lucas Likely Innocent in 2 State Deaths

Times Staff Writer

At least two of the 15 murders attributed to Henry Lee Lucas by state Atty. Gen. John D. Van de Kamp last September probably were not committed by the self-proclaimed mass murderer, according to local law enforcement officers.

Lucas--who has “confessed” to hundreds of murders across the United States--was able to glean corroborating details about the two slayings from police, and he later used those details to convince investigators of his involvement in the murders, the local officers said.

And Van de Kamp’s office, anxious to “solve” as many California cases as possible, may have listened too eagerly to Lucas’ tales of his involvement, according to one local officer, who asked to remain anonymous.

Dog-and-Pony Show

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“You know, they brought Lucas here, and they had this traveling dog-and-pony show, with the Texas Rangers, the local sheriffs and the guys from the AG’s office,” said the officer, whose department was asked to look into several of Lucas’ confessions. “The AG’s office said, ‘If it’s close enough, let’s close on the guy.’ It’s called, ‘Look what a good job we’re doing.’ ”

A spokesman for Atty. Gen. Van de Kamp’s office, John Marquis, denied that there was any attempt to inflate the numbers or mislead the public, and said the discrepancies were probably due to a change in conclusions by the local investigating officers.

The questioned two cases on Van de Kamp’s list were investigated by officers from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Bakersfield Police Department.

One of them involved the death of Deanna Musquiz, a 16-year-old whose body was discovered in a field near her home in Hemet on July 19, 1982. She had been raped and strangled.

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Officers Went to Texas

“A couple of officers went back to Texas with some photos of the area where she was found,” Howard Rush, a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department detective who worked on the case, said last week. “Those pictures were better than road maps. . . . When he came out here, he led us right to the spot on the pictures. . . .

“I was never satisfied that Lucas did it,” Rush said. “He gave us fine details, but they were all completely off base. I told the AG, I told the Texas Rangers--I told them unequivocally that no, that was not our murderer.”

Marquis said the attorney general’s office had relied on the conclusions of the local investigating agencies before announcing in September press conferences that 15 California murder cases had been solved as the result of the 4,000-mile tour of the state that Lucas had made with law enforcement officers last summer.

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“At the time our agents left the scene in Riverside County, they were under the impression that the Riverside officers considered the case closed,” Marquis said. “Apparently, at some later point . . . after the press conferences had been held . . . the Riverside officers decided that murder could not be attributed to Lucas. . . .

“We had gone to considerable lengths to keep Lucas’ trip here a secret (while it was in progress),” Marquis said. “It certainly wasn’t any dog-and-pony show.”

The other disputed case involved the death of Gayle Ann Peterson, a 15-year-old runaway from British Columbia whose body was found in a dry riverbed near the Stockdale Highway in Bakersfield on Dec. 12, 1982. The girl had been shot twice in the head.

Assistant Bakersfield Police Chief Bob Patterson said that because of attention drawn to the multiple murders that Lucas claimed to have committed, “one of our investigators went to Texas to talk to him.”

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Gave Some Details

“Lucas played games,” Patterson said. “He got a lot of information from the investigators.”

As a result, the assistant chief said, Lucas was later able to describe some details about the murder that indicated he might have committed it, “and it’s possible that some of our people told the AG that the case was cleared.”

Subsequently, however, investigators changed their minds, concluding that “Lucas couldn’t come come up with anything independent at all,” Patterson said. Lucas is no longer considered a serious suspect in Peterson’s death, and the murder is still listed by Bakersfield police as unsolved.

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Detectives said Lucas confessed to another Hemet murder that he probably did not commit--and that Van de Kamp never included on his list--the killing of 65-year-old Elizabeth Crossman, whose body was found in her mobile home on Jan. 17, 1980.

“Lucas said he stabbed her, but she wasn’t stabbed, she was strangled,” said Detective Robert Taylor of the Hemet Police Department.

“What he said and what happened--there was nothing similar at all,” Taylor recalled. “The time of day, the weather--nothing coincided.”


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