‘Orange Socks’ murder mystery reopened 39 years after killer’s iffy confession

For nearly 40 years she was known as "Orange Socks."

That was the only clothing the murder victim was wearing when her body was found in October, 1979.

But who killed her? An infamous serial killer confessed, was sentenced to death for the crime, but now few people actually believe he did it.

The body was only recently identified as belonging to Debra Jackson, 23, and police say they have renewed the hunt for her killer.

It was Halloween when two men driving along Interstate 35 in Texas saw what they thought was a mannequin in a concrete ditch beside the road.

They drove around again to check, and realised it wasn't a shop dummy at all.

The woman had been sexually assaulted and strangled, her body thrown into the ditch from an overpass above.

But for decades her identity was a mystery. Police produced a photofit drawing of her and released numerous details to the press.

She was 5ft 8ins tall, had brown hair with a reddish tint, "unique" ear lobes, long toenails and a scar underneath her chin. Other clues included a matchbook from a hotel hundreds of miles away in Oklahoma, suggesting she had perhaps been a drifter.

But three years later, in 1982, while who she was remained a mystery, one of America's most infamous serial killers said he had murdered her.

Henry Lee Lucas's upbringing was the stuff of nightmares.

His mum, Viola, was a prostitute who would force her son to watch her with clients, and supposedly made him cross dress so she could pimp him out to both men and women. His alcoholic dad died after passing out drunk outside during a blizzard.

He fled home at 15 and became a drifter, committing crimes as he went.

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Eventually he ended up murdering his mum, by stabbing her in the neck, when she insisted he return home to look after her.

He served just 10 years for second degree murder. On his release he was jailed again for trying to kidnap three schoolgirls, and after being arrested for carrying a gun, confessed to two other killings.

Soon Texas Rangers could not believe their luck. Lucas began confessing to everything.

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First he said he had carried out 30 murders, then 60. Unsolved crimes and missing person cases across America were being cleared like never before.

When he said he had carried out more than 100 killings, then 600, then more than a thousand, you didn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to smell a rat.

It turned out investigators had been taking him out for meals, allowed him other luxuries and let him read cold case files to "refresh his memory" before being questioned about them. He was even confessing to murders that had been carried out while he was in prison.

Eventually he was sentenced for 11 murders – including 'orange socks.'

He claimed he picked her up in Oklahoma where they had sex. After she later refused to repeat the act he said he killed her and raped her corpse. He said he thought her name was Joanie or Judy. He was sentenced to death for the crime.

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It later turned out he was working in Florida at the time the murder took place in Texas. It was also revealed he had been told by cops where the murder took place and shown crime scene photos before he confessed to it.

While the murder sentence was amazingly allowed to stand, the death sentence was commuted.

Lucas eventually said the only person he had ever killed was his mother. DNA evidence has ruled out more than 20 other cases he confessed to but investigators say solid evidence links him to 38 killings.

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As for orange socks? Thirty-seven years after her death, new sketches of her were released by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. A woman thought it looked like her missing sister and DNA tests were carried out.

Orange Socks finally had a name – Debra Jackson. But who really killed her?

Lucas died in prison in 2001. His story is examined in the Netflix documentary "The Confession Killer".

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