It’s a new year, and I thought I would start 2017 on True Crime Corner with one of the scariest people I’ve ever heard about. Who was David Parker Ray, known as The Toy Box Killer?
Ray was born in New Mexico on November 6, 1939. He was raised by his grandfather, although he did have contact with his abusive father. He didn’t do well academically, and became involved with substance abuse, hooked on both alcohol and drugs. He joined the Army before later becoming a mechanic. Ray had four failed marriages, and a daughter who would later be named as one of his accomplices.
At some point he became obsessed with sadomasochism, and his crimes may have begun as early as the 1950s. Ray would kidnap women, sometimes drugging them. They would wake up in a nightmare, bound in a trailer converted into a torture chamber (at a cost of around $100,000) known as the Toy Box to its sadistic owner. A sign emblazoned with “Satan’s Den” hung inside, and it was a real Hell on earth for anyone unfortunate enough to be chosen by Ray to become a sex slave. The trailer was located in the desert, the crimes committed near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. While conscious the women would hear an audio recording from their captor, David Parker Ray, describing the most vile and gruesome acts that he planned to inflict on them. It’s extremely graphic and upsetting. It’s incomprehensible how a human being could be so cruel to another. While Ray’s physical torture was unimaginable, the thought of hearing in shocking detail what your abuser has in store for you adds to the terror and humiliation.
The torture chamber was outfitted with a gynecological table where captives could be bound, vulnerable to the whims of the sexual sadist and his girlfriend/accomplice, Cindy Hendy. Ray referred to his tools of torture as his friends, keeping sketches and journals of his deeds with the women he captured. Victims were able to see what was happening to them by way of a monitor. Ray sometimes made audio or video recordings of the torture sessions (one video clip would be shown during the trial).
Captives were sometimes released when Ray and Hendy satisfied their sadistic need for them. Ray mentions on his tape that girls would be brainwashed before being set free, so they would be unable to recall their ordeal. Others were killed, at least according to accomplices who accused Ray of multiple murders. They claimed victims were dumped in bodies of water. However, he was not convicted of murder and it’s believed no remains were ever found. He can be considered a suspected serial killer.
Ray’s horrific fantasies came to an end in 1999 when a captive managed to escape. Cynthia Vigil was left in Hendy’s charge when Ray was gone. She was confined to the mobile home instead of the toy box. When Hendy was distracted by a telephone call, Vigil seized the opportunity to break free from her abusers. She was able to reach the key to the collar around her neck. The two women struggled as Hendy caught the escape in progress, and was stabbed in the neck during the scuffle with an ice pick that had fallen to the floor. Vigil ran and made her way to another trailer, and the owner called 911. Little did Vigil know that her brief, first call to 911 from inside the home before Hendy jumped on her had already alerted the police. Both Ray and Hendy were soon arrested.
It was a strange path to justice for David Parker Ray. Proceedings were delayed due to his first heart attack, followed by the death of the judge assigned to the case. Ray was sentenced to essentially life in prison for the kidnapping and torture of three women. As much as some victims wanted him to suffer the rest of his life in prison rather than receive the death penalty, his life was cut short in 2002, when he had a fatal heart attack. As for his girlfriend/accomplice Cindy Hendy, she was sentenced in 2000 to thirty-six years in prison for her role in the crimes. Ray’s daughter was sentenced to nine years, five of them on probation for assisting her father in part of his crimes against one woman.
For much more detail on Ray’s story, don’t miss Jim Fielder’s book Slow Death. Another book is John Glatt’s Cries in the Desert. Investigation Discovery included Ray in its House of Horrors: Kidnapped series. The first season has an episode titled The Toy Box Killer, featuring the experience of the brave woman who ended Ray’s compulsion for rape and torture.