Pixy Stix Poisoning
Victim: Timothy O’Bryan
Place: Deer Park, Texas
The Crime: After eating a Pixy Stix candy laced with cyanide, eight-year-old Timothy O’Bryan becomes violently ill and goes into convulsions. He dies within an hour of arriving at the hospital.
Background: Ronald O’Bryan was a seemingly normal family man who’d recently fallen on tough financial times – he’d gone delinquent on a number of loans and had recently been forced to sell the family home in order to try and pay them off. Strangely, however, he’d started telling several friends that he was expecting to come into more money by the end of the year that would improve his financial situation.
Around the same time, Ronald increased the life insurance policies on Timothy (8) and Elizabeth (5), his two young children, and by October 1974 they were up to $30,000 apiece. He also began trying to obtain cyanide, first through his job at Texas State Optical and later at the Curtin Matheson Scientific Company in Houston. After being told they only sold the deadly poison in large quantities, a salesperson directed him to where he could buy a more minimal amount.
On Halloween night, O’Bryan, his wife and his two children went to dinner at the home of the Bates family in a nearby town, after which they planned to take the kids trick-or-treating. O’Bryan offered to accompany the children, and Mr. Bates volunteered to go along too, along with his two children and another adult and child from the neighborhood. During the trick-or-treating expedition, O’Bryan at one point produced five Pixy Stix he said he’d acquired from one of the neighbors and later distributed them amongst his children and the Bates’ two children, as well as one other neighborhood child who came trick-or-treating at the door.
After arriving home, O’Bryan told Timothy and Elizabeth they could have one piece of candy before they went to bed, and allegedly urged them to choose the Pixy Stix. Only Timothy ate the candy and as he swallowed it he complained about its bitter taste. O’Bryan gave his son Kool-Aid to wash it down, and soon thereafter Timothy began vomiting uncontrollably and went into convulsions. He died soon after arriving at the hospital, and a cyanide was discovered in his blood and stomach fluids. Luckily, none of the other children who were given the Pixy Stix had consumed them.
The Case: Directly following the horrible event, police began searching for who had allegedly given Mr. O’Bryan the deadly candy; O’Bryan claimed it was someone at the home of the Melvin Family, who had opened the door to their dark house only a crack and produced the Pixy Stix. However, Mr. Melvin was able to produce an alibi and he was cleared of suspicion. After surveying other households in the neighborhood to see who may have purchased Pixy Stix, it was discovered that none of the other neighbors had bought that particular brand of candy.
A few days after Timothy’s burial, the police received a call from O’Bryan’s insurance company to report that O’Bryan had attempted to take out the life insurance policies on his two children without consulting his wife, and O’Bryan immediately became the prime suspect. After questioning O’Bryan’s co-workers at Texas Optical, it was discovered that he’d been asking around about cyanide in the months leading up to Timothy’s death.
Police then searched the O’Bryan family home and discovered a pocket-knife on which traces of plastic and powdered candy were found. O’Bryan was quickly charged with Timothy’s murder and put on trial, where it was alleged that he had distributed the cyanide-laced Pixy Stix to the rest of the children in an attempt to use the frequently-circulated urban legend of poisoned Halloween candy as a cover for his crimes. In May 1975 he was found guilty, and nearly nine years later executed via lethal injection.