“He Cut Her Eyes Out”: The Story of a Serial Killer from Amarillo
I don't know what it is about Amarillo, but some of the crimes committed here or committed by someone from here have a certain bizarre quality about them.
Like this one: the Eyeball Killer, Charles Albright. Born in Amarillo, he removed the eyeballs of his victims and was nearly able to get away with it.
Charles Albright was born in Amarillo on August 10,1933. He was adopted by Delle and Fred Albright. His mother was protective of him, perhaps overly so, and did everything she could set him up for success. A gifted student, he graduated high school at 15 years old. He enrolled at North Texas University and declared an interest in being a doctor and surgeon.
However, despite the precocious intelligence Albright showed, there were also the tell tale of something "not right" early on. He was arrested for aggravated assault at age 13, a confirmed petty thief, and was known to kill small animals frequently.
He used these small animals as part of a hobby his mother had introduced him to: taxidermy. He would spend hours on meticulously stuffing the small animals he had killed. In a stroke of ominous foreshadowing, these stuffed animals never had eyes. Why? His mother said they were too expensive.
Because Albright was so young when he went off to college, he'd do just about anything to fit in. He had a bright personality that led to being sort of a class clown. Others would gravitate to him as he would pull of some crazy stunts. Things such as stealing what was called the "unstealable test" from a professor. He even managed to get his hands on blank report cards where he'd give himself straight As with perfectly forged signtaures. He'd get away with those particular incidents, but as his confidence grew, he would try bigger things.
He became part of a group of North Texas students who would break into department stores to steal merchandise. They were eventually caught and charged. Charles swore up and down he didn't do any of it and was just holding that stuff because his friends asked. The jury disagreed and he was convicted. He spent a year in jail.
Upon release, he tried his hand at school again. This time at the Arkansas State Teacher's College. He still displayed a talent for surgical skill. However, he continued to show dark warning signs of what would soon come.
His first suspected victim was Mary Pratt. She was a well-known sex worker in Dallas, Texas who was found in her usual neighborhood, dead from a gunshot wound.
At the autopsy, detectives in charge of her case were told that the cause of death was the .44 caliber bullet found in her abdomen, but there was more. The examiner that found that the woman's eyeballs had been surgically removed with precision post-mortem.
The second victim was Susan Peterson, she was killed February of 1991.
Her body was found on the same street that Mary Pratt had been found. There were strong similarities in the crime scenes, including where her gunshot wounds were located on her body.
Once again, the autopsy revealed that her killer had cut her eyes out.
The Dallas Police Department began to refer to him as the Eyeball Killer. They had no leads, and thus no suspect.
His third victim was Shirley Williams, a black prostitute, who was found dead in March of 1991.
She was found in a different part of Dallas, but the crime scene similarities were so strong that detectives already knew what they would find when they checked her body: that her killer had taken her eyeballs.
So how did police ultimately connect Albright to the murders and to try him on these charges? By pure, dumb luck.
A prostitute known to the Dallas police force had spoken about a near-death encounter she had with a customer. She claimed that another customer had saved her from a sure death because he knew her attacker. She was able to point out the customer who saved her, and police followed the breadcrumbs until they reached Charles Albright.
During the investigation, police received an anonymous call from a woman who dated someone briefly who had unsettled her. She had met the man through Mary Pratt, the first victim. He was a very nice man, she said, but had a weird obsession and love for eyes. When the officer asked for the mans name, she responded with, "Charles Albright".
After some more legwork, which concluded with the prostitute who survived positively id'ing him when presented a photo lineup, police raided the home of Charles Albright and placed him under arrest.
The court case that ensued was a very tricky one. It was a case that was being tried on essentially nothing but circumstantial evidence. They didn't have any true "hard" evidence to try Albright on the three murder counts they attached to him. No murder weapon, no fingerprints, nothing. Usually those are the things needed to garner a conviction.
However, police DID find some hair samples at the scene of Shirley Williams' death. With a lot of digging, they were able to tie the hair samples to Albright. They were able to find Williams raincoat at the remote location he took her to, where the found the same type of hair samples. Now hair samples are a tricky piece of evidence because a lot of people have the same hair color and length, so they can be a tricky piece of evidence.
After the case had commenced, Albright's lawyer was so confident he would be found not guilty on all counts because it was all purely circumstantial. No witnesses, no nothing. Then the verdict was read...
Guilty in the murder of Shirley Williams. He was however found not guilty in the deaths of Mary Pratt and Susan Peterson. His lawyer was absolutely stunned, but the hair samples seemed to be enough for the jury to convict him of at least one charge.
Albright was sentenced to life in prison. He was incarcerated at the Montford Unit in Lubbock, where he passed away in August 2020 at the age of 87.
There is SO much more to this story, and there's even an interview with Albright that you can read here. If you read what Albright had to say, you'd think there's no way this man could've done what he did. Give it a read if you're still intrigued.