Our tale begins on All Hallows’ Eve 1974. Like many parents, O’Bryan spent the evening taking his children, as well as two neighbor children, trick or treating in their Pasadena neighborhood. It wasn’t long before the kids ran ahead of O’Bryan, who caught up with the children later down the block. With him he brought along six jumbo pixy stix – the crème de la crème of Halloween bounty for the fresh-faced trick or treaters. He passed out one to his son Timothy and another to his daughter Elizabeth, gave one each to the neighbor children, and then offered one to another child he recognized from church.
O’Bryan and his children returned to their house, while the neighbor children were sent on their way home with their treats in tow. That night before bed, 8-year-old Timothy asked his father if he could have a piece of candy before bed. Timothy, of course, chose the pixy stix. Timothy took a mouthful of the powder, but rather than the artificially flavored treat he was expecting, his taste buds were overcome by a bitter taste.
O’Bryan passed Timothy a glass of kool-aid to wash the awful taste out of his mouth. Several minutes later Timothy went to the bathroom where he began vomiting and seizing on the floor. He died on the way to the hospital, purportedly his cause of death was tainted candy obtained from some unknown neighborhood psychopath.
As news of the tainted treats spread throughout the area, many parents turned their children’s candy over the police, while others were forced to empty their hard-earned sacs of candy into the trash. From that day forward, the tradition of Halloween would forever be synonymous with poisoned candy.
Police did not initially suspect O’Bryan until they began talking to neighbors. Officers were able to collect all the pixy stix O’Bryan had passed out that night, which thankfully no other child ate. It was immediately apparent that the pixy stix tubes had been opened and resealed. Each tube was reported to have contained enough potassium cyanide to kill an elephant.
O’Bryan claimed he didn’t know which house passed out the pixy stix, but was able to tell police that he had only taken the children around the block because it was raining. Investigators began the tedious process of conducting door-to-door interviews with everyone in the neighborhood. After law enforcement completed their interviews they discovered that no one had passed out pixy stix in the O’Bryans’ neighborhood.
Investigators began to look into O’Bryan’s financial records. They discovered that not only had O’Bryan been $100,000 in debt at the time, but just prior to his son’s death, O’Bryan had taken out approximately $60,000 worth of life insurance policies on both of his young children.
Without many excuses left, O’Bryan’s last ditch effort to cover his tracks was to take police to a home that didn’t answer to trick or treaters that evening. The home was found to belong to an air traffic controller named Courtney Melvin. Over 200 individuals were able to provide Melvin’s alibi that he had been working the night of Halloween and was immediately ruled out as a possible suspect in the case.
The jig was up. O’Bryan was arrested on suspicion of murder and the attempted murder of his daughter and several other neighborhood children. Police believe his motive was to kill his children in order to collect on their life insurance policies, while poisoning the other children to cover his tracks.
On June 4, 1975, O’Bryan was found guilty of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder. He was executed on March 31, 1984 by lethal injection.