A Texas Serial Killer Left His Victims Without Their Eyes
From 1990 to 1991, the city of Dallas, Texas was gripped with fear after authorities linked two brutal and bizarre homicide cases.
On Dec. 13, 1990, a man stepped out of his front door and spotted a body lying in plain view across the street in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood. The woman was nude from the waist down, and her legs were spread. The startled man covered the body with a bedsheet while waiting for the Dallas Police Department to respond.
At the scene, police noted that the woman was shot in the head, but there was no blood around her body. Crime scene technicians speculated that she had likely been killed elsewhere and dumped. Police took her fingerprints and compared them to their database — the woman discarded on the ground was Mary Lou Pratt.
During her autopsy, the medical examiner theorized that Mary Lou was shot with a .44-caliber gun. But when she tried to open the victim’s eyes, she made a shocking discovery — they were gone.
The body showed no scarring or injury around the eyes. Whoever had killed Mary Lou removed her eyeballs with a precision usually limited to surgeons and morticians.
Just six weeks later, citizens discovered another woman not far from where Mary Lou’s body was found.
The second woman was also partially nude, but she’d been shot three times instead of once. There was no damage to her face, and police didn’t find any evidence that the woman had been in a fight. They did, however, find identification. The woman was Susan Peterson, a Pennsylvania native and Navy veteran.
Because of jurisdictional issues, a different police department responded to the scene. They didn’t know about Mary Lou’s case, so they didn’t immediately link the two cases.
The same medical examiner who conducted Mary Lou’s autopsy examined Susan’s body the week after she was found. The examiner noted three gunshot wounds to Susan’s head, chest, and stomach. But a shocking detail sent her to the phone to call the detective: Susan’s eyeballs were missing, just like Mary Lou’s. Officers from both departments then understood they could be hunting a serial killer.
With a second victim, authorities also realized another similarity about the two deceased women: they were both sex workers. The detectives working the case began speaking with some of the sex workers in the area, hoping for a lead before the killer could strike again.
Find out how police cracked the case on People Magazine Presents: Crimes of the 90s “The Eyeball Killer” airing August 2 at 8/7c. on ID.