Hello lovely readers! I apologize for the long pause in posts, I have been scrambling around and was also volunteering last week in Knoxville, TN all last week when the post should have been published! Since I was in Knoxville during the time the post should have been made, I researched a serial killer from the city! Please enjoy the story of the Zoo Man.
The crimes focused on in this story took place over the course of many weeks in the late summer and early fall of 1992. The location is Knoxville, TN.
Thomas D. Huskey was a man commonly referred to as “Zoo Man” by sex-workers across the city. He earned this nickname through bragging about helping his father work with the elephants in, you guessed it, the Knoxville Zoo. Pretty hardcore stuff. He would even take women to a secluded area near the zoo to carry out his transactions sometimes. However, his favorite “secret” area was an oh-so romantic dead-end called Cahaba Lane, parallel to the I-40 highway.
He was reported to be far more aggressive- abusive even- toward the sex-workers than he should have been. So much so that it got to the point where many of these women would avoid doing business with him. His abusive actions went unreported until February 1992 when a brave woman came forward and reported him to the cops. She claimed that Huskey had roughed her up and robbed her. She took the police to where it happened, good ole Cahaba Lane, and the Zoo Man happened to be there, naked in his car with another sex-worker.
Huskey was arrested at the scene and investigators started finding other victims of his abuse, hoping their testimonies could put him behind bars. Unfortunately, the victims all decided not to cooperate and Huskey was a free man. This ordeal was the turning point for the Zoo Man. His desire for sex-workers was roaring more than ever, but this time he wasn’t going to leave witnesses.
And so it began. On the 2nd of October in 1992, Patricia Rose Anderson’s body was found in the woods off of Cahaba Lane by a hunter. She was found under a mattress bound, strangled, and pregnant. During the investigation into her murder, the bodies just kept becoming unearthed. Totalling in four victims, all of who they believed to be murdered by the Zoo Man. All of these women were found in the brush off of Cahaba Lane. All of them sex-workers.
Knowing that Cahaba Lane was Huskey’s go-to rendezvous spot, KPD detective Pressley gave a heads-up to the Sheriff about his past. This led investigators to the home of Huskey’s parents where he was living at the time. Police confronted him and his room was searched. In the bedroom, they found rope similar to the kind used to bind and strangle the victims as well as jewelry that belonged to some of the women ruthlessly murdered. Huskey was taken into custody and the team thought this was going to be an easy case. They were quite wrong, not knowing at the time that the search warrant had a minor, yet very crucial flaw.
While Huskey’s first interview was rather uneventful, he soon told his lawyers that he wanted to talk to the police more. Davenport, an agent working at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said that at the beginning of the interview, the Zoo Man was as normal as ever. Things changed after Davenport returned to the interview room after briefly being pulled out.
As Davenport returned to his seat, he was greeted with a demand. The man sitting across from him blatantly stated, “Give me a cigarette and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.” After a short pause, he continued, “I’m Kyle. I hate Tommy.” Davenport was taken aback at first by this extreme shift in Huskey’s demeanor, but soon adapted and played along.
“Kyle” spoke to Davenport about the torturing, raping, and killing of the four women, stating it was done to hurt Tom Huskey. The main differences between the two faces of the Zoo Man, Tom and Kyle, were his demeanor and dominant hand. While Tom was “mild-mannered” and left-handed, Kyle was a Rude Righty.
At first, Davenport believed this was simply an act, a ploy to get an insanity defense. He played along to get the confessions he needed to put Huskey behind bars for good. This belief changed when other personalities started to emerge from the sinister mind of the Zoo Man. One named Daxx, an englishman with a very convincing accent. The fourth being a rather effeminate man named Timothy. Huskey’s attorney knew he’d struck gold. A man with a mental illness as severe as a multiple personality disorder could easily avoid prosecution.
As for the other side, investigators saw this as an obvious act of a serial killer manipulating his way out of prison. They noticed that some of the street names around his home were the same as his alter egos and it is believed that Daxx was influenced by a character from a soap opera Huskey had watched while detained in prison.
Huskey’s trial for murder began in 1999 and DA Nichols was gunning for the death penalty. The prosecutor brought in testimonies about the victims from medical professionals and friends and family of the slain women. On the other side, the defense brought in professionals to testify that Huskey’s disorder had stemmed from multiple accounts of childhood trauma. The most prominent trauma is a rape by a woman he named “Connie”.
After countless days of back and forth from both sides, the prosecutor and defense made their closing arguments. The jury was left to deliberate. Many jurors agreed that the Zoo Man had murdered these four women, but a consensus could not be reached on his mental state. After five days, the jury was declared deadlocked.
On February 13th, 1999, Judge Baumgartner declared a mistrial for the case against the Zoo Man. All of the investigative work down the drain. No verdict. Tom Huskey is a free man and DA Nichols will never stop thinking about the one that got away.