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Lucas drifted around the American South, working a number of mostly short-term jobs.

In Florida, he made the acquaintance of Ottis Toole sometime between 19 (sources disagree) and claims to have had a romantic affair with Toole's pubescent niece, Frieda Powell, who had escaped from a juvenile detention facility.

When he was a teenager, Lucas claimed to have been introduced to bestiality and killing animals for pleasure (zoosadism)the latter a common trait among sociopaths, especially those who become serial killersas well as receiving convictions for petty theft.

He served fifteen years and was released on August 22, 1975.He once spent three days in a coma when his mother hit his head with a plank of wood, and on many occasions he was forced by his mother to watch her have sex with men.Lucas described an incident when he was given a mule as a gift by his father's friends, only to see his mother shoot and kill it.A more widely circulated total of about 350 murders committed by Lucas is based on confessions deemed "believable" by a Texas-based "Lucas Task Force," a group which was criticized by Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox for sloppy police work and taking part in an extended "hoax".Beyond his recantation, some of Lucas's confessions have been challenged as inaccurate by a number of critics, including law enforcement and court officials.