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Pixy Stix and Poison

The Horrific Halloween Death of Timothy O'Bryan

"What is about to transpire in a few moments is wrong! However, we as human beings do make mistakes and errors. This execution is one of those wrongs yet doesn’t mean our whole system of justice is wrong. Therefore, I would forgive all who have taken part in any way in my death."

-Ronald Clark O'Bryan, Executed on March 31, 1984

The last words expressed by convicted child killer Ronald O'Bryan don't contain an ounce of sorrow or apology for the premeditated murder he'd committed ten years before. Sitting on death row for nearly a decade apparently wasn't enough time to grow a conscience or feel a modicum of guilt for his actions. Not a single word was devoted to his son, Timothy, who he'd poisoned with a Pixy Stix on Halloween night in 1974. Nor had O'Bryan spared a thought for the four other kids who might've died from the cyanide-laced candy he'd given them, too.

Homicidal Father

On October 31, 1974 in Pasadena, Texas, the O'Bryans had dinner with their friends, Jim and Jean Bates. The O'Bryans lived in Deer Park, but their friends lived in a swanky area of Pasadena. Houston optician Ronald O'Bryan, father to Timothy, aged 8, and Elizabeth, aged 5, volunteered to take the kids trick-or-treating with Jim Bates and his children, Mark and Kim. (Some reports indicate Kim didn't go). Jean Bates and Daynene O'Bryan stayed at home to hand out candy to treat-or-treaters.

It was raining, so the group only covered about two streets before calling it a night. One house had its porch light turned off, but the kids knocked anyway. No one answered, and Bates herded the children down the street. O'Bryan lagged behind. A few minutes later, he rejoined the group, holding five giant Pixy Stix. He told them that "rich neighbors" were handing out expensive treats. In 1974, Giant Pixy Stix were 21-inches long and filled with sweet-and-sour fruit-flavored powdered sugar.

According to a post on ID Crime Feed, "Unbeknownst to [anyone], he had the Pixy Stix shoved up the sleeves of his raincoat." O'Bryan gave the giant plastic tubes to his kids and to the Bates children. Later, O'Bryan gave the last tube of candy to 11-year-old Whitney Park, whom he met trick-or-treating. The Parks attended the same place of worship as the O'Bryansthe Second Baptist Church of Pasadena.

O'Bryan had issued these five children death sentences. He'd added two inches of potassium cyanide to the powdered candy. Why? To make law enforcement believe that a Halloween sadist somewhere along the trick-or-treating route had given out poisoned candy. But the truth was that O'Bryan had only two real victims in mind: Tim and Elizabethhis own son and daughter.

Bitter Truth

Later on that Halloween evening, the O'Bryans returned home. While Daynene went to visit a friend, Ronald got the kids ready for bed. He told Tim and Elizabeth they could each have one treat to enjoy before bedtime. He encouraged his children to take the Pixy Stix, but Elizabeth refused, and chose a different candy. In an October 3, 2003 article on, Bill LaNier, a former Pasadena police officer who investigated Timothy's death, said, "The boy reached in and picked out a sucker. [O'Bryan] said 'No, no. You don't have time to eat a sucker. Here, try this Pixy Stix.'"

When the candy wouldn't come out, O'Bryan rolled the plastic tube between his hands to loosen the powder and then poured it into his son's mouth. Tim complained about the bitter taste, and O'Bryan gave him a glass of Kool-Aid to wash it down.

Moments later, Timothy, his stomach wracked with painful cramps, ran to the bathroom. He vomited, and then started convulsing and foaming at the mouth. O'Bryan held his son until the boy went limp. LaNier said, "It was an overkill. There was enough poison to kill a herd of elephants. That's why the boy threw up so violently."

It's often cited in articles about this crime that Timothy had ingested enough cyanide to kill at least two grown men. According to the article "Acute cyanide Intoxication: A rare case of survival" published in the Indian Journal of Anaethesia, "The average lethal dose for potassium cyanide is about 250 mg." The abstract also states, "Cyanide is a highly cytotoxic poison...Acute intoxication is lethal if not immediately diagnosed and treated within 30 minutes...The patient dies of cardio-respiratory arrest secondary to dysfunction of the medullary centres."

If Timothy O'Bryan had twice the lethal dose in his system, he had no chance of survival. It took less than thirty minutes for the potassium cyanide to rob his cells of oxygen. The poison suffocated his brain (dysfunction of medullary centres), then his heart (cardio-respiratory arrest).

By the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital, it was too late.

Timothy Mark O'Bryan was dead.

Money Motive

What compelled Ronald O'Bryan to plot the deaths of his kids? Insurance money. The optician was more than $100,000 in debt (which equates to $593,000 in 2022). O'Bryan was in considerable financial trouble. According to the October 3, 2003 article: "His car was about to be repossessed, he was defaulting on several bank loans, [and] Texas State Optical wanted to fire him for theft." His home was in foreclosure, too.

In January 1974, O'Bryan took out $10,000 policies on Timothy and Elizabeth. According to a New York Times article published May 29, 1975 about O'Bryan's trial, Daynene O'Bryan said "that she had known only of $10,000 polices on the children obtained through a bank service club--and she had objected to them." She'd been unaware that her husband took out two more policies worth $20,000 each on October 3, 1974.

The morning after his son's death, O'Bryan called the insurance company to ask about the payout. In a UPI Archives article dated March 24,1984, Jim Bates said,"Here is a man who killed a trusting, defenseless, innocent 8 year-old kid for one reason--dollars and cents. He was willing at random to pick some other kids that other people loved and kill them, too."