Episode 3: Charles Albright - Albright, Albright, Albright


He had refreshed with a shower. It was important to be clean and tidy. Arriving at the sink he picked up his toothbrush and spent the necessary amount of time on each one, a gift from God he thought. He grabbed the tweezers and worked on his eyebrows, he would never be happy with those. His trimmers took care of his mustache, re-establishing the machismo he was known so well for. He looked up from his chin, past his nose, into his own eyes. They were dark, lifeless, soulless even. He had not seen life in his eyes for decades. The only time he felt alive was when his X-Acto knife would slowly, methodically, carve around the eyes of his victims. He would remove them gently and calmly, taking his time around each of the six muscles and optical nerve. But for now, his eyes were black and empty. His hands were cold, and he was tired. Tired from putting on the mask he always had to wear. The mask that people had accepted so passively, as if he was just another citizen south of Dallas, Texas. They never saw the obvious tells. Like a master of manipulation and deception, he drew their attention away from the obvious and guided them towards to invented. His routine was complete. He took his mask off the hanger on the door. He hated wearing it. It just wasn't him. Only a few people had seen who he truly was and, well, they weren't alive to tell anyone about it. Sliding the mask on he slinked out the door, on to start another day and maybe, just maybe, find a little fire in his eyes.

An Introduction to Charles Albright


Throughout his life, Charles Albright has been described by many as a portrait of happiness. He was known as untroubled and as someone who troubled no one. He was fluent in French and Spanish, a talented artist, and he was able to attract women with his playing of Chopin on the piano, or his knowledge of Keats. The bottom line? It was impossible for the community to believe he could have viciously murdered three Dallas sex workers in late-1990 and early-1991.


You won't find any woman who'll say anything other than that I was always a perfect gentleman in their presence. I was always trying to do things for women. I would take their pictures. I would paint their portraits. I would give them little presents. I was always open for a lasting relationship.


When we think of serial killers, we think of brutal men. We think of lifelong sadists who kill for reasons we may never know, and if we did, would never understand. How could someone so charming, perfect , and normal, become a blood-thirsty monster?


Charlie Albright's Baptist minister said this: "I've known Charlie for thirty years. In all that time I think I would have seen his dark side slip out at least once. Believe me, if he really was a psychotic killer, he couldn't have kept it a secret all this time..."


1944: Mommy Issues


Albright was an eager-to-please boy, and would do just about anything to please. His friends called him the Pied Piper of the group and they always wanted to see what he would do next. They agreed, "He was just so. much damn fun."


When he was three weeks old, in 1933, Albright was adopted by Delle and Fred Albright. Delle was a stay-at-home-mom and Fred was a grocer. They lived in a white, middle-class neighborhood. Delle was always attempting to protecting Albright. Delle would tell Charles that his birth mother was an. exceptional law student, just sixteen years old, who had secretly married another student and had become pregnant. When her father found out he set an ultimatum: she would either annul her marriage and give up. Charles, or she would be kicked out of the family.


Life with Della


Delle pampered Albright to no end. She kept goats in. the back yard so he could drink goat's milk because it was "better for. him." At times, she went too far.

  • When he was small she occasionally put him in. a little girl's dress and gave him. a doll to hold.

  • Two or three times a day she would change his clothes because she wanted to keep dirt off of him.

  • She was afraid that he may contract polio because he touched dog feces, so she took him to the hospital to see polio patients in iron lungs.

  • When he was less than a year old, Delle caught Albright chewing on her measuring tape so she put him in a dark room as punishment.

  • When Charles would not take a nap, she tied him to his bed.

  • When he wouldn't drink his milk, she would spank him.

Neighbors and acquaintances said Delle was grim. She always wore a head scarf and wore clothes from Goodwill. She would scrimp at mealtimes, even though they were far from poor, and she would even pick up old bones the local butcher threw in a box for his dogs.


Charles never complained about this, at least not openly. He enjoyed that his mother taught him manners. Delle always taught that he should speak politely or say nothing at all. She even taught him. respect in sex. "She told him to respect women, especially when it came to sex. She lectured him about the way his father acted 'greedy' with sex." Whenever Fred saw her in the bedroom in her bra and panties, he tried to grab her. She was going to have none of that, and she was going to make sure Charlie never tried anything like that with his girlfriends.


When Charlie got older, Delle insisted on chauffeuring him every time he was on a date. She would even call his dates' parents to let them know that her son would not do anything disrespectful.


Delle also wanted Charles to succeed. She made him practice the piano 30 minutes before the. bus would come. She tutored him in reading, writing, and arithmetic and he was moved up two grades in elementary school.


Taxidermy


Delle also introduced Charles to. taxidermy at a very early age. He was enrolled in a. mail order course in which the Professor said, "You are beginning to learn an art...a true taxidermist must be an artist."


Albright spent hours on these courses and got extremely good. He would stuff and. mount birds. He would always be ready for the crowning tough, the eyes, and although he always drooled at the reproduction eyes in the shops, his mother would not let him buy them because they were too expensive. Delle would open her sewing kit, look for what she needed, and then sew buttons to the eyes. In taxidermy, Charles Albright had been desensitized.


Victim #1: Mary Pratt


Charles Albright's first victim turned up in an underdeveloped, almost forgotten lower-class part of far-south Dallas. Mary Pratt was 156 pounds, naked except for a t-shirt and a. bra, which had been pushed up over her breasts. Her eyes were shut, her face and. chest were badly bruised. The killer had fired a .44-calibre bullet into her brain.


Upon arrival, police immediately knew who the victim was. Mary Pratt was a veteran sex worker and for a sex worker to be murdered was unusual, especially when it happened to be someone as well liked as Pratt. She rarely had extra spending money and she stood quietly and was never in new clothes. Her parents did not even know about her second life.


The case file was handed to Detective John Westphalen. He was a classic, east Texas detective who always had chewing tobacco in his cheek. He was known for his intimidating interrogation tactics and his stick-to-itiveness. He realized the Pratt case would rely more on lucky rather than good detective work. The body was dumped, there were no witnesses, no murder weapon, little forensic evidence, no fingerprints, and no. apparent motive.


During the autopsy, Dr. Elizabeth Peacock noted needle tracks on Pratt's arms and the bullet hole in her head. She opened Pratt's eyelids and noticed that. her eyes were gone. They were perfectly cut out and removed so that her upper and lower eyelids were undisturbed. There was no criminal in any database that matched this individual's M.O.


Just Clownin' Around


Albright was always a prankster and class clown. This was a blessing, but it was an academic curse. He was involved in everything and he excelled in much of what he has done. A few pranks that he has pulled include:

He snuck into the home economics fridge, got a load of food out of the fridge, and cooked a steak dinner for. his buddies.

He broke into a professor's office and stole an "unstealable" test. While he was relieved being away from home, the stress to succeed from Delle still weighed heavy. He was stressed at home. He graduated from high school at the age of fifteen and he was something of a celebrity. He was still self-destructive as his mischief tainted his reputation.


At a certain point, Albright's crimes intensified breaking into a church and stealing a. watch. Alfred Jones, a 20 y/o psych student working as a PT probation officer visited Charles and his family. "He could divorce reality sufficiently from his value system so that he could tell you something false and at the same time actually believe he was telling you the truth." His mother began fussing over him so often he began to get headaches.


When he was back in college, he pulled one of the most provocative and scary pranks ever. His friend broke up a girl on campus, a women with almond-shaped eyes. After the separation his friend tore up the ex-girlfriend's photos and threw them in the trash. Weeks later, he was looking at his new girlfriend's picture and saw that something was wrong. The eyeballs of his old girlfriend has replaced the eyes of his new girlfriend. When he looked at the ceiling and went to. the bathroom, the eyes were staring at him there as well. Yet nobody found this strange.


September 1969: Con Man


In 1969 he taught in school and his students found him fascinating. He knew every scientific name for plants and could talk about each insect he found in a rotted log. The principal and other admin didn’t know that Charles had forged every document that he submitted to the school. Albright had never even earned a bachelor’s degree. He slipped into three different offices at East Texas State, grabbed all the necessary forms, copied them, added his name, forged signatures, and then sneaked them back into the files. He even stole the registrar’s typewriter so the typeface on his records would look the same. When he was confronted he grinned and admitted to the crime.


Because the forgery was a victimless crime and because Albright was such a nice, repentant fellow - the university kept the transcript scandal out of the newspapers. He pleaded guilty to a fraud charge and received a year’s probation. In the 1970s he moved back to his old Dallas neighborhood with his wife and daughter and lived in a house close to his parents. 


Neighbors new him as a happy-go-lucky figure who could master anything but simply didn’t care about settling down in a nine-to-five job. He was free to latch on to one new project after another; he rarely had a job that lasted longer than three months:

  • He worked as a designer for a company that built airplanes.

  • Worked as an illustrator for a patent company.

  • Well-regarded carpenter.

  • Collected wine bottles from the famous Il Sorrento restaurant in Dallas, hoping to start a winery.

  • Bought a lathe and made baseball bats.

  • Collected old movie posters.

  • Went to the venetian room at the Fairmont hotel to get autographs from the stars performing there.

  • On a lark he went to a Mexican border town and became a bullfighter. 

  • He was also an accomplished beautician and artist. 


While working as a stylist, he told a friend he would paint a picture of his wife for $250. He was a good painter. He wanted to be like Dmitri Vail, the famous portrait artist of Dallas. He worked for a few weeks and didn’t finish. He insisted he needed to keep working on one special feature, the most difficult part of the painting. The friend went to Albright’s house. He stared at his wife’s painting and it was richly colored and remarkably realistic. In the center of his wife’s face were two round white holes. Albright never even began to work on the eyes. Something held him back. His friend asked him when he was going to paint the eyes, he said “When I am ready to.” Months later he finally painted the eyes. He then painted them again, to get them just right. His wife’s eyes were so perfectly recreated that they seemed to follow a person across the room. 


Victim #2: Susan Peterson


The second victim was found on a Sunday Morning on the same south Dallas road where Mary Pratt was dumped. She was mostly naked and she was a sex worker. Susan Peterson, age 27, had been shot in the head, chest, and stomach. Her eyelids were closed. 


The same scene occurred where a different detective, Larry Oliver, who hadn’t heard about the first killing, accompanied the body to the autopsy room where he saw, same as the other detectives, that her eyes were expertly cut out. Pathologist mentioned a similar case, making connections, and within 4 hours he traveled to the police department’s homicide offices to see Westphalen. Soon, although police deliberately tried to avoid the phrase “serial killings” - Westphalen referred to the killer as “a repeater.”


Detectives were desperate so they published the case hoping that something would come in, a lead. They didn’t tell media about the eyes, but that the faces had been strangely mutilated with surgical accuracy. Peterson was a skilled sex worker. Officers thought, if the killer could get Peterson, he could get any of the women. He was able to pick up Peterson and vanish within seconds.


Dirty, Dark Secrets


In 1985 there was an incident was kept very secret. Delle was able to keep Charles' multiple charges a secret from their community. There was one charge that would have been impossible to avoid public attention, if Charles wasn't so good at manipulation. A case the revolved around a little girl's family charging him with touching her. He claimed the family was just looking for a scapegoat.


Charles had joined and attended St. Bernard's Catholic Church in East Dallas. He met the family in 1979 when he started singing in the church. Soon, in traditional Albright fashion, he was a Eucharistic Minister, at the alter in a robe, reading Bible passages; almost an assistant priest, or Deacon as it were. The congregation began calling him "Good Ol' Charlie." After he met the family, he brought them a big box of steaks, dressed up as Santa Claus and gave the girl and her family gifts.


Albright worried that if he fought the charge, it would become public. So, in 1985 in an empty Dallas courtroom, he pled guilty to "knowingly and intentionally engaging in deviate sexual intercourse" with a. girl under the age of 14. He was 51 at the time.


For the first time, Charles allowed his mask to slip. A question began to arise as to whether he was Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. Albright finally ended his marriage with Bettye in 1975, and he immediately developed a reputation as a ladies' man. Women found him sexy; one said he could do 600 pushups without stopping.


In 1985 Albright fell in love with a. woman named Dixie Austin, a pretty, shy widow whom he met on a trip to Arkansas. He wooed her with tales of. his multiple occupational conquests and she said he was a wonderful, devoted lover who certainly never went off and had affairs.


This could not be further from the truth as Charles was already well known in the red light district of Dallas. He hid his secret masterfully as he had a strong relationship with his second victim, Susan Peterson. The relationship was so strong that she put him down as a. contact at Ranger Bail Bonds, the service she used after being arrested to bail out of jail.


There is also evidence he was a friend of. Mary Pratt, his first victim, long before she became a sex worker. According to many sources, Charles had a. brief relationship with one of Pratt's female friends and brought that friend and Pratt over to his house for parties.


Albright made the. rounds in the red light district. For some sex workers, Albright had a platonic relationship. He would pick women up, take them out and talk with them, pay them, and then bring them back. With other women, he had standing sexual appointments which were always in the afternoons while Dixie was at work. At one point, he had a long-standing relationship with a married woman. This eventually came to. an end as he began to get more and more aggressive. At one point he asked her to "spank him like a child." Another moment, he asked to have a threesome, and while at the hotel he handcuffed them to the bed and began hitting them with a belt and extension cord yelling, "Scream, bitch! You know you like it!"


Albright's life would further spin out of control when his parents Delle and Fred passed away. It was at this time Albright inherited $96,000 and all property of his father. He rented out the properties and kept them in his dad's name. Against the advice of his acquaintances, he rented out one of his tiny, ramshackle frame homes to a man named Axton Schindler. He was a hoarder, with trash up to three feet high in his rental. He did not have electricity or running water in his home.


At some point, Albright decided to move into his parent's old home with Dixie. This home, like the other properties, was kept in his father's name. The address of this home was 1035 Eldorado.


Victim #3: Shirley Williams


Detective Westphalen had been obsessing over this case, filling up four black spiral notebooks with notes. He had found out nothing more than he. knew in the beginning. The killer he was tracking was in total control and refused to panic. He knew they had to answer three questions:


  • What was he after sex workers?

  • Why were the first two bodies dumped on the same street?

  • Why were the eyes cut out?

The only thing Westphalen knew was that the killer came out at night, he was strong enough to carry the women, and he had surgical skills.


Suddenly, the killer changed tactics. A third body was found, that of another sex worker named Shirley Williams. She was found at 6:20 a.m., dumped on a residential street half a block from elementary school. As children walked to school they could see the naked woman's body crumpled against the curb. Her eyes were gone as well, but the killer made mistakes.


During the autopsy, they found that the surgery had been hurried, a broken tip of an. X-Acto blade was found embedded in the skin near her right eye. There still were no witnesses, no murder weapon, no fingerprints. What is worse for Detective Westphalen, the killer chose a. black woman and he had a new location. The killer could be anyone.


Mommy Issues


Albright went looking for his birth mother. After tediously looking, he found her. He visited her a few times and brought her gifts. Somewhere in Albright's demented mind, there was a connection between sex workers and motherhood. He had a twisted, frantic version of a Madonna-whore complex which had him unconsciously seeking revenge on the mother figures who disappointed him by associating with sex workers - the worst possible women he could find.


In Albright's mind, he had the perfect strategy. He had a late night paper route, he had sex workers who trusted him, and he had his parent's old property he could perform his mutilations in. The home wasn't even in his name, so nothing could be traced back to him. There was a flaw in the plan, that flaw's name was Axton Schindler, how had put down Albright's hime address on his license.


"We've got him."


When word of the first victim was found, the streets became unpopulated. Sex workers were wary, except for a few. A police duo found a black sex worker and notified her about the murders. When told about what was going on she said, "I'm going to get by black ass out of here, I just had to mace a man who jumped bad on me the other night.


The day before she was picked up by a man in a dark station wagon. She said that she had a room they could go to, but the man already had a location in mind. He told her that he had a. spot they could use. She told him to drop her off right away and a sudden change came over him. He became angry as he said "I hate whores! I'm going to kill all of you motherf**king whores." Before he could reach her, the sex worker grabbed a. can of mace, sprayed it into the man's eyes, and ran.


The next morning they ran an inquiry on Axton Schlinder because he was with another sex sex worker, Veronica Rodriguez was still in their thoughts and they decided to run the background on Axton Schindler. They found that his address routed to a home owned by a. Fred Albright, who was dead.


They thought, maybe this has something to do. with Charles Albright. Once they worked this out, they went to the county's identification division to look at the record of Charles Albright. With his long rap sheet they had problem bringing him in. They believed they were on to something. They created a book of faces for people to identify, and many sex workers knew exactly who it was.


At 2:30 in the morning on March 22, Charles Albright was led away in handcuffs. He never said a word.


Charles Albright was tried and sentenced.