October 31, 1974: Ronald O'Bryan Murders His Son on Halloween Night


Happy Halloween, everyone! Hope everyone has some safe, spooky fun this Halloween and DOESN'T MURDER THEIR CHILD. Like the story you're about to read!

On October 31, 1974, Ronald O'Bryan murdered his 8-year-old son on Halloween by lacing his candy with potassium cyanide on Trick-or-Treat night. He poisoned him to gain his life insurance money to ease his financial troubles from his $100,000 debt. In attempt to cover up his crime, he gave poisoned candy to his daughter and 3 other children, but none of those children (thankfully) ate the candy.

In June of 1975, he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, and he was executed in March of 1984 for the murder.


O'Bryan lived in Deer Park, Texas with his wife, Daynene and their 2 children Timothy and Elizabeth. He was an optician in Sharpstown, Houston, as well as a deacon at the local baptist church where he sang in the choir and ran the local bus program. A good guy, right? WRONG!

On October 31, 1974, O'Bryan took his kids out trick-or-treating for the holiday, accompanied by their neighbor and his 2 children. The crew visited a home where the occupant didn't open the door, and the kids grew impatient and ran off, but O'Bryan stayed behind. When he caught back up, he said that the occupant of the house had eventually answered the door and provided 21-inch Pixy Stix. He gave them to his kids and his neighbor's kids, and later, a 10-year-old boy he recognized from church.

Before going to bed, Timothy asked if he could have some candy, and chose the Pixy Stix. He told his father it tasted kind of bitter, and quickly began complaining of a stomach ache. Soon after, he started vomiting and convulsing on the bathroom floor. O'Bryan claimed that he held his son while he vomited until he went limp in his arms. He called an ambulance, but Timothy died en route, less than an hour after consuming the candy.

News spread that Timothy had died from poisoned Halloween candy, and parents were terrified. Parents took their candy to the police, terrified it was poisoned. O'Bryan was initially not suspected of any wrongdoing, until the autopsy revealed that he had died from the Pixy Stix, which had been laced with a fatal dose of potassium cyanide. They tracked down the others who had been given the treats, and none of them had consumed it.

One parent panicked when she was told, because she was unable to find the candy. She went upstairs to find her son holding the poisoned Pixy Stix, unable to open the stapled seal. The cyanide powder had been put inside and resealed, so much so that the child couldn't open it himself. And it saved his life. The dose was enough to kill 3-4 adults.

O'Bryan told the police that he couldn't remember which house he got the candy from, but police became suspicious when his neighbor said they had only gone to a few homes because it started raining. They became even more suspicious when no other children except those who came into contact with O'Bryan had gotten Pixy Stix that night. Eventually, he said he remembered the house but that the occupant just opened the door and stuck his arm out with 5 Pixy Stix, never showing his face. Very normal. The house was owned by an air traffic controller who was at work until 11pm.

As they began to realize he was pretty shady, they also learned that he was in over $100,000 of debt and was unable to hold down a job. He had 21 jobs over the span of the 10 years leading up to the murder. He was close to being fired at his current job for theft, he had defaulted on loans, his family home was being foreclosed upon and his car was being repossessed. And, wouldn't you know! He had just taken out a total of $60,000 in life insurance on his children. His wife claimed she did not know about the policies.

And just as a cherry on top, Halloween morning he called his insurance agent to ask about how to collect the policies taken out on his son. Oh, and he went to a chemical supply store to buy cyanide. He didn't end up buying it there because he could only buy 5lbs of it, and police still don't know where he got the poison.


O'Bryan was arrested on November 5, 1974 and indicted on one count of capital murder and 4 counts of attempted murder. He plead not guilty to all 5 counts, and his trial began on May 5, 1975.

During the trial, a chemist O'Bryan knew testified that he had contacted him in the summer of 1973 to ask him how much cyanide would be fatal. A chemical supply salesman testified that O'Bryan asked him how to purchase it. And, friends and co-workers testified that he had an "unusual interest" in cyanide in the months leading up to Timothy's death and that he talked about how much was needed to kill someone.

His sister-in-law and brother-in-law testified that during Timothy's funeral, he was talking about what he was going to spend the life insurance money on.

Despite all of the evidence that obviously pointed to O'Bryan, he maintained his innocence. His defense team used the old urban legend of a "mad poisoner" who hands out poisoned candy, or puts needles or razor blades in the candy. This fear tactic has persisted, even though there are actually no documented cases of strangers tampering with Halloween candy.

It took a jury only 46 minutes to convict him on all counts, and 71 minutes to sentence him to death. After his conviction, his wife filed for divorce. She remarried and her new husband adopted her remaining child, Elizabeth.

O'Bryan was shunned and hated by his fellow death row inmates, not only for killing a child, but his own child. He was "friendless" in jail (too bad) and the inmates wanted to hold an organized demonstration on his execution date as an expression of their hatred. You're pretty bad when everyone on death row thinks you're the scum of the earth.

He was initially sentenced to die on August 8, 1980, but he was granted a stay. His next date was postponed. His 3rd date was scheduled on Halloween, the 8th anniversary of the crime, but it was delayed again. His final date, and death date, was March 31, 1984.

He maintained his innocence all the way through, and said he forgave everyone involved in his wrongful conviction and death sentence. 300 people gathered outside the prison, yelling "Trick or Treat" and throwing candy.

"I'm glad it is coming to an end," Daynene said of her ex-husband's execution. "It is the end of a nightmare and the beginning of a brand new beginning."

She said she doesn't hate him, but instead feels nothing for him. Despite remarrying and trying to move past the worst ordeal of her life, in an interview, she said she still felt a void without her son, but hoped her daughter could put the ordeal behind her, and that all of her concerns were focused around Elizabeth.

Elizabeth had tried to contact her father on death row, but Daynene prohibited her from doing so. Elizabeth struggled with it, but eventually accepted the fact that her father wanted to kill her, too.

Daynene never cashed in the life insurance policy on Timothy, calling it "blood money".

What a horrible, horrible person. Killing for money is terrible enough, but killing your young, innocent son for money? And trying to poison your daughter for more money, and 3 other neighborhood kids to cover your ass? What an unthinkably horrible human being, one the world is better off without.

The man who was supposed to protect him, the man who held him while he died was the man responsible for his death. Horrific. Rest in peace, Timothy.




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