EL PASO, Texas -- The trial of Henry Lee Lucas in the ax slaying of an elderly woman may be the serial killer's final court appearance, state prosecutors say.
Assistant District Attorney Bill Moody said the state's case against Lucas is the strongest to date, even though Lucas has recanted his confession.
Lucas's trial in the May 27, 1983, slaying of Librada Apodaca, 72, is to begin Monday.
'This may be the last Lucas trial,' Moody said. 'We're going for the death penalty.'
But defense lawyers are confident the jury being selected this week will find Lucas innocent. Motions to suppress the confession have been filed with State District Judge Brunson Moore.
The state's case is based on the confession and other evidence, including articles stolen from the Apodaca home and sold by a suspect who witnesses have said resembled Lucas.
The defense says the 49-year-old drifter, who once confessed to killing as many as 600 people, was not in El Paso when Apodaca was slain.
El Paso prosecutors say they believe Lucas murdered the elderly woman, who was beaten, sexually abused and killed with an ax in her home in southeast El Paso.
The case took a twist last month when an El Paso detective testified in a sworn statement that he was present when two Juarez, Mexico, policemen, identified only as Reyes and Calanche, held an electric cattle prod against the genitals of a Juarez man until he confessed that he killed Apodaca. The suspect, Geovany Chavez, later repudiated his confession.
The detective, Jimmy Apodaca, nephew of the victim, said Chavez was a suspect in the murder.
Blood and semen samples were taken from Chavez, but during the deposition, Apadaca was told not to answer when asked if they matched blood and semen found on the body.
Apodaca said in the deposition that he thought there was more than one suspect involved in the murder. He said Department of Public Safety lab reports indicated Lucas's blood type was different from that found on the victim.
Chavez will not testify in the trial. On Aug. 13, less than a week after Apodaca's deposition, Chavez was beaten to death in Juarez after he burglarized a home.
The El Paso County Commissioners Court has criticized District Attorney Steve Simmons for spending so much money on the trial of a man who already has been convicted and sentenced to death, but Simmons says the death sentence has been appealed, and Lucas could be 'back out in the streets in 20 years or so.'
Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, following an 18-month investigation, said investigators who closed more than 210 murder cases because of confessions that Lucas has since recanted, took part in a 'miscarriage of justice.'
Mattox said in a recent 60-page report that all law enforcement agencies should reopen their cases against Lucas and submit him to polygraph tests.
An investigation by a Dallas newspaper and a New Orleans television station concluded Lucas could not have killed all the people he claimed. Lucas now says he actually killed only three people: his mother, an elderly woman in Ringgold and his teenage, common-law wife.
Courthouse observers are predicting the trial will last for weeks.
Lucas is already on death row, having been sentenced to death for the murder of an unidentified woman near Georgetown. He also was convicted in 1983 of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of Becky Powell, 15, his common-law wife.
He was given a 75-year prison term after pleading guilty to the murder of Kate Rich, 80, of Ringgold. Lucas has pleaded guilty to seven more murders in Texas and one in West Virginia, that of a police officer.
He has been charged in connection with 14 other killings in Louisiana, Arkansas, Washington, New Mexico and Colorado and is a suspect in slayings in Texas, Colorado, Louisiana, California, South Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri, Maryland, Utah, Virginia and Arkansas.