By: Courtney Henson
Ronald Clark O’Bryan was born on October 19, 1944. Living a relatively normal childhood, O’Bryan did not struggle with domestic violence or trauma as a child. O’Bryan married Daynene O’Bryan and had two children, son Timothy O’Bryan on April 5, 1966, and daughter Elizabeth O’Bryan in 1969. The family lived in Deer Park, Texas where O’Bryan worked as an optician, served as a deacon for the local church, and was in charge of the local bus program.
On October 31, 1974, O’Bryan took his children trick-or-treating in a local Pasadena neighborhood. One of O’Bryans neighbors and his two children went along with them. After approaching, and leaving, a house where no one answered, O’Bryan stayed behind while the children and neighbor went ahead. Minutes later, he caught up to the group and revealed five 21 inch Pixy-Stix which he claimed came from the unoccupied house. O’Bryan gave four Pixy-Stix to his kids and the neighbors kids, and gave the fifth to a boy he recognized from church.
That night, Timothy wanted to eat one piece of candy before bed, according to O’Bryan, Timothy requested to eat the Pixy-Stix. After tasting the candy, Timothy complained that it tasted bitter, soon after he began vomiting and convulsing. Timothy O’Bryan died on his way to the hospital less than an hour after eating the candy.
O’Bryan was not suspected of any wrongdoing until Timothy’s autopsy revealed that the Pixy-Stix he had consumed was laced with a fatal amount of Potassium Cyanide. The other 5 Pixy-Stix were recovered by police and were found to have been opened, filled with Cyanide powder, and resealed with a staple. The Pixy-Stix consumed by Timothy contained enough cyanide to kill two adults, while the others were filled with enough powder to kill three to four adults.
After canvassing the neighborhood, O’Bryan led police to the house that no one occupied on Halloween. O’Bryan claimed that after the children went ahead, the owner opened the door and handed him 5 Pixy-Stix. The owner of the house, Courtney Melvin, was ruled out as a suspect after over 200 people confirmed he was at work until 11pm on Halloween night.
As police progressed into the investigation, O’Bryan became more and more suspicious. He was in about $520,000 worth of debt and had a long history of being unable to hold a job. Their home had been foreclosed on, the car was about to be repossessed and O’Bryan has defaulted on several bank loans. During the investigation police also discovered that O’Bryan had taken out 3 life insurance policies on his children. One in January for $52,500, another one month before Timothy’s death for $20,000, and a final one days before Timothy’s death for $20,000. O’Bryans wife did not know about the policies. After learning that O’Bryan called the life insurance the day after Timothy’s death, he became the prime suspect.
On November 5, 1974, O’Bryan was arrested by police for one count of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder. With evidence and testimony from co-workers, neighbors, family, and friends, as well as his wife rejecting the claim that Timothy chose the Pixy-Stix, stating that O’Bryan had forced him to choose the Pixy-Stix O’Bryan was “done for.”
On June 3, 1975, a jury took 46 minutes to find O’Bryan guilty of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder. The jury took 71 minutes to sentence him to death by electrocution. Soon after, Daynene filed for divorce, remarried, and took custody of Elizabeth.
In prison, the other inmates expressed extreme dislike for O’Bryan. On March 31, 1984, shortly after midnight, O’Bryan was executed by lethal injection. During the execution, a crowd of 300 demonstrators gathered outside the prison cheered while some yelled “Trick or treat!” Others showered anti-death penalty demonstrators with candy.
O’Bryan is buried in Forest Park East Cemetery in Webster, Texas. Timothy is buried in Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.