The Toy Box Killer A.K.A. David Parker Ray: Serial Killer Who Sexually Tortured Women In His Trailer

By Grace Taylor

Jeff Rein and David Parker Ray, 59, listen as the judge says that the state had established enough evidence to proceed, April 17, 1999. (Getty Images)

David Parker Ray was one of America's most prolific and grotesque serial killers despite the fact that he was never convicted of a single murder. We know he likely killed upwards of 60 women throughout his life, but not much else is known about the man dubbed the "Toy Box Killer." He was born November 6, 1939 in New Mexico to a working-class family and went on to join the U.S. Army after high school, where he mostly worked as a mechanic, but that's pretty much where the trail ends until his gruesome crime spree. He has said that his grandfather and father abused alcohol and were often violent with him and credits the violent pornography shown to him as a teenager by his father with inducing his sadomasochistic obsession.

The Toy Box Killer

Ray's method of kidnapping women was disturbingly effective: He posed as a cop, complete with fake badge, and told the soon-to-be victim they were under arrest. After he got them in handcuffs, he drugged and transported them to a nightmare contained in a trailer that he called his "toy box." The women awakened to find themselves strapped to a cold metal table equipped with stirrups usually only found in gynecology offices and surrounded by a nearly unimaginable array of torture devices, from chains to saws and surgical equipment. It was later determined by law enforcement that the number of torture and sexual devices he amassed must have cost him more than $100,000.

As it dawned on his victims exactly what was in store for them, a recording of Ray's voice confirmed it over the course of a rambling 30-plus minutes, including how he wanted them to react. If they didn't react to the torture in the way he demanded—for example if they screamed too much—he promised to slash their throats. Basically, it would be surprising if the creators of Saw had never heard of David Parker Ray.

After the recording played, Ray entered the room and began torturing his victim, usually for around three days. Sometimes, he filmed or photographed the assaults. When he was finished, he either killed the woman or fed her a mixture of drugs that he believed caused severe memory loss and let her go, explaining in his recording that the decision was mostly based on his mood and how much the victim fought back.

Compact cassette. (Thegreenj/Wikimedia Commons)

Friends In Low Places

At one point, Ray started dating a woman named Cindy Hendy, who discovered his toy box and habit of kidnapping and rape. Instead of going to the police like any kind of decent person, however, she agreed to be his accomplice and began helping him kidnap women. Horrifically, she wasn’t the only person who helped Ray: His friend Dennis Roy Yancy is seen in one of his videos, strangling a woman named Marie Parker to death. Ray even roped his daughter into the scheme. She drugged the drinks of women hanging out at the local bar, at least one of whom was a personal friend of hers, so her father could kidnap them.

The gruesome torture and assault continued for decades until Ray made a major mistake while torturing Cynthia Vigil: leaving the keys to the chains that bound Vigil on a nearby table. She managed to reach them, unlock her cuffs, and stab Hendy with an ice pick before running down the sparsely populated road, wearing only an iron collar, and banging on the door of the nearest house. Thankfully, the owner was home, and she took Vigil into safety and called 911.

As news of the attack spread, another woman named Angelica Montano came forward with her own story of a very similar occurrence. Even more disturbing was the case of Kelli Garrett, a family friend of Ray who was tortured and released after being given drugs and actually did go to the police, but despite her detailed testimony, which included Ray's name and address, the police didn't believe her and never so much as visited Ray's house. Even Garrett's husband believed she had a consensual affair with Ray. In fact, he divorced her because of it.

Statue of Themis, Lady Justice. (水銀燈/Wikimedia Commons)

Conviction And Death

With three living victims and ample video, audio, and forensic evidence, you would think the case of the Toy Box Killer was open and shut, but Ray's first trial actually ended with an inexplicably hung jury. While Hendy admitted that she had taken part in the disposal of several bodies, the police were unable to find the remains, so Ray was prosecuted only for kidnapping, torture, and rape. Two jurors refused to convict him, one dismissing his behavior to the New York Daily News as simply "rough sex" despite testimony and evidence that the events weren't consensual.

The case was forced to be retried, and the second trial also ended bizarrely when the judge died only a few days in. The third time was the charm, however: Ray was convicted of all counts and sentenced to 224 years behind bars. The police believe Ray was responsible for anywhere between 40 and 60 deaths over the decades of his crimes, but without the bodies, the state couldn't prosecute those murders.

To the presumed dismay of his living victims, nobody involved in Ray's crimes did as much time as they probably should have. Hendy served only 20 years of her 36-year sentence, and while it's astounding enough that Yancy was sentenced to only 15 years for the murder of Marie Parker, he was released after only 11. Ray himself served only two years in prison, but that's because he died of a heart attack on May 28, 2002.

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Grace Taylor