DEER PARK, Texas – Trick-or-treating in Deer Park these days is exciting and fun for kids, like anywhere else, but what happened in one neighborhood more than 40 years ago struck pure fear in children and adults alike until recent years.
"The feeling of helplessness was overwhelming," said Jesse Zesiger. "Seeing this boy, young boy with dry heaves."
Retired patrolman Jesse Zesiger was first at the scene to respond to a sick child at a home in the Parktown Townhomes.
Eight-year-old Timothy O'Bryan would die later that night, and within days his 30-year-old father, Ronald Clark O'Bryan, would be charged with his murder. He poisoned his own son with cyanide-laced Pixy Stix candy, all to collect on a $20,000 insurance policy.
O'Bryan became known as "Candy Man" and "the Man Who Killed Halloween" because many people in the Houston area were afraid to trick-or-treat for years later.
Zesiger said he's still troubled today by something Ronald O'Bryan told him that night, something that wasn't fully revealed during O'Bryan's murder trial. O'Bryan not only had poisoned his son's candy, he helped him ingest it.
"Dad said, 'I took the Pixy Stix in my hand and rolled it in my hand, broke up the clumps, and helped pour it down my son's throat,'" recalled Zesiger. "And later on when I found out what was in the Pixy Stix I'm saying to myself, 'How could somebody do that?'"
Zesiger -- a four-month rookie at the time -- served on Deer Park's police force for 27 years. But he said that early case jaded his sense of normal for at least the first decade of his career and still has impact.
"Since that time I've never been involved in any case more horrific than that," he said.
O'Bryan maintained his innocence throughout his trial and until he died. A jury convicted him of murder and he was executed by lethal injection 10 years after his son's death.