Houston Babylon

Four of the spookiest true tales in our city's history

That no longer sufficed for Smiley, who grabbed a pen and scrawled a statement of intent on a bedroom wall: "Bill List's a very sick man. he is going to die. Smiley 1984."

"We all had our reasons and we were all in it together, and that made it that much easier to plan it and for us to agree that it needed to be done," says Statton. "Now that I'm 50 years old, I look back and think, 'My God, what were we thinking?'"

For the next four hours, the orgy of destruction raged, and after setting aside some toys they wanted to keep — a VCR and a stereo — they went to List's closet and grabbed his shotgun and a box of shells.

In a scene typical of early Houston, a slave woman tries not to laugh as three well-armed and drunken "rowdy loafers" harass and alarm a respectable family from the upper crust. A similar confrontation led to Houston's first publicized public hanging.
Gary Zaboly illustration from Stephen Hardin's Texian Macabre
In a scene typical of early Houston, a slave woman tries not to laugh as three well-armed and drunken "rowdy loafers" harass and alarm a respectable family from the upper crust. A similar confrontation led to Houston's first publicized public hanging.
Dr. Robert H. Watson was a physician and one of early Houston's leading citizens. He liked to do two things in his spare time: drink, and collect human skulls. He also liked to drink from the skulls, and here, according to one of his friends, he drinks from one "that had yet brains in it." He reportedly toasted the following: "This when living was not worth a pin, but now how precious with good liquor in."
Gary Zaboly illustration from Stephen Hardin's Texian Macabre
Dr. Robert H. Watson was a physician and one of early Houston's leading citizens. He liked to do two things in his spare time: drink, and collect human skulls. He also liked to drink from the skulls, and here, according to one of his friends, he drinks from one "that had yet brains in it." He reportedly toasted the following: "This when living was not worth a pin, but now how precious with good liquor in."

Joey volunteered to be the triggerman, but the others told him he was too young. Statton and Peppermint demurred. Smiley leaped at the chance and posted up just inside the door as the evening shadows gathered.

At 5:45, as List was mounting the stairs to walk in the door, Smiley blew his head apart with a single shotgun blast. Minutes later, Statton saw Smiley pissing on List's corpse. After halfheartedly concealing the body, the four jumped in a car and drove off, the tape deck blaring Tina Turner. They had some cash, a couple of List's credit cards and, after using a stolen key to enter List's workplace, a company checkbook.

Peppermint fled home to Illinois, courtesy of a plane ticket purchased with List's credit card. The other three went on a Montrose spree. Smiley decked himself out in a new suit, Joey a pair of leather pants. A heroin dealer cheated the trio out of $200, and then, when they tried to cash a check at an icehouse, an off-duty cop who worked there part-time called List's company to verify it. The cop was told that List was dead and the check was no good. There the spree ended.

Smiley Homan is currently serving a life sentence in the Polunsky Unit. Statton says Smiley got married in prison.

Joey was sentenced to juvenile probation. Statton says Joey has been in and out of prison for most of his adult life, with his most recent stint ending in July.

Peppermint fought extradition from Illinois. When Texas authorities learned that he was dying of AIDS, extradition proceedings were dropped. He passed away in the 1990s.

Danny Lee Garrett died in prison in 1993, and Karla Faye Tucker was executed in 1998. If you are wondering how they are connected to this story, Deborah Thornton, the woman Tucker pickaxed to death while having a series of intense orgasms, was Bill List's estranged daughter.

After standing vacant for several years, and serving as the set for a B-movie, the mansion was torn down. Condos stand on the site today.

As for Statton, for his role in the murder he was convicted of nothing more than credit card abuse. Paroled three years into his 15-year sentence, Statton was in and out of jails for drug offenses in Texas and his native Kentucky until five years ago, when, he says, he cleaned up his act.

Statton is remorseful, but not exactly wracked by guilt. "No nightmares or anything like that," he says. Since his imprisonment, he's become a close personal friend of Elmer Wayne Henley, Dean Corll's serial-killing assistant and eventually Corll's killer. Statton believes that List was another Corll in the making.

"It's not like I killed some grandma with four cats and a bunch of kids and I just hated her and wanted her money. He was not the greatest person in the world," Statton says. "The district attorney told me, 'We're not trying to put you away for life. We're glad the motherfucker's dead,' and the Seabrook police chief said the same thing. But it was still a horrible thing to do."

john.lomax@houstonpress.com

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8 comments
carlalex75
carlalex75

Houston was the murder capital in the early 80s. Clocking about 3 times the murders than now days. I think it was 82 or 84 that it had the record number of homicides in the country. Would like to find an article on that. And Jeffery Statton wasn't List murderer, he was in the other end of the house when it happened

innerlooper
innerlooper

Never knew that much about the horror on Toddville Road until this juicy cover story.  Interesting that List's killer, Statton, befriended Elmer Wayne Henley in prison.  The two have an awful lot in common.

Geezy
Geezy

Damn Houston You Scary!!!!

artichokev
artichokev

perfect seasonal article

I came to Houston from NYC in 1988 & was greeted with a news item about a mummy wrapped body found in a a Montrose attic

this poor soul had been the entertainment at a debauched party and was covered in duct tape, save for a few strategic holes

unfortunately the host had a seizure & in the ensuing excitement the bound lad was forgotten by the party-goers

the host was taken to a hospital for a protracted admission as he was found to have a brain tumor

only months later when neighbors noted a foul odor, was the decomposed youth discovered

I learned that NYC had nothing on my new town when it came to edge & that if ever mummified, always have a designated buddy (or two) to bail you out of unforeseen circumstances

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

"Houston and New Orleans stand alone as the creepiest cities on the Gulf Coast."   Galveston might have something to say about that.

 

Great series of stories. Continue, please sir.

roadsscholar
roadsscholar

@innerlooper 

Read the story again, innerlooper.  Jeffrey Statton didn't kill List.  Elbert "Smiley" Homan did.

jnovalomax
jnovalomax

 @DuckDuckGoose Pre-Fertitta Galveston was creepy. Now it's like freakin' Orlando. Well, that's an exaggeration, but it's a lot less scary than it was.

 
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