Here is a partial list of the nice people Skip Hollandsworth has written about since he joined the magazine as a staff writer in 1989: Charles Albright, a serial killer in Dallas who removed his victims’ eyes; Marie Robards, a Fort Worth teenager who killed her father by poisoning his refried beans; Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who drowned her kids in the bathtub; Clara Harris, the Clear Lake dentist who killed her husband by running over him with her Mercedes; Peggy Jo Tallas, a Garland woman who robbed banks dressed as a man and died in a shoot-out at age sixty; Vickie Dawn Jackson, a sweet, soft-spoken nurse at Nocona General Hospital who murdered her patients with lethal injections; Susan Wright, the Harris County housewife who stabbed her husband 193 times in a fit of rage; and Dean Corll, a Houston man who terrorized the Heights neighborhood in the early seventies, torturing and killing at least 28 young boys.
At times, when he’s been desperate for a story or his editor has forced an assignment on him, Skip has been known to write articles about friendly, law-abiding citizens. But left to his own devices, he will go for the homicidal maniac every time. I’ve asked him about this before, and he always gives a variation of the same answer: “I’m interested in people whose lives get to an edge where they make criminal decisions and the stories of what happened in their lives that led them to that moment.”
Skip is unusually good at getting these stories. For two decades, people in bad situations all over Texas have been opening up to him. This is partly because he is a relentless, fearless question-asker. It’s not just that he’ll ask anyone anything; he seems to be unable to not ask everyone everything. And when he listens, he listens without judgment, with the kind of keen, sympathetic ear that encourages people to talk. (I speak from experience.)
It isn’t surprising that the stories he uncovers have often