Prison sweet prison

Horace Caraker doesn't belong in federal prison. But he likes it there, and he'll threaten a president if it means going back.

"My girlfriend, Linda Melton, broke up with me, and I was so saddened by her doing so that I took a butcher knife and stabbed myself in both legs," he recalls. "I don't know why I did it. I wasn't trying to kill myself. Even then I knew that it had to really hurt to cut my jugular vein, or whatever." He makes a slashing motion across his throat.

Psychiatrists at Rusk diagnosed him with something called "Chronic Brain Syndrome Associated with Convulsive Disorder with Neurotic Reaction and Chronic Alcoholism." He still takes medication to control the seizures. He stayed at Rusk until September 1961. He would return 21 years later -- and keep coming back 12 more times between 1982 and 1994. In between, from March 1973 to April 1982, he checked into Terrell State Hospital nine times, with another stay to come in August 1995.

"I had to have my home," he explains.

Mick Mickelsen got Caraker acquitted in 1998 -- not that it did much good.
Martin Menocal
Mick Mickelsen got Caraker acquitted in 1998 -- not that it did much good.

Following his release in September 1961, Caraker managed to maintain a relatively stable existence. He had his GED and his plumber's license and always had Mommy to give him money. When he turned 24, he got his own place and took part-time plumbing or construction jobs. But he drank every cent he made, lost every job he got at the bottom of a bottle. Either that, or he gambled away his money at pool halls along Gaston Avenue, not far from where he and his various common-law wives lived during the 1960s.

In 1969, Horace saw the inside of the state penitentiary for the first time -- and even now, he claims it was for an "accidental robbery." He didn't mean to rob that convenience-store clerk. The way he tells it, he was coming home from a pool hall when he decided to duck in the store to pick up something, probably a pack of smokes. He remembers he had on a waist-length coat when he walked up to the counter, where the clerk was listening to a radio news bulletin about a rash of local robberies.

The clerk told Caraker he was prepared for a robbery -- had his gun real close. Just let someone try it, he told Caraker.

"So as a joke, I had my finger in my waist-length jacket and put my finger in my pocket and said, 'This is it!'" He starts chuckling. "[The clerk] whirls around and starts sacking the money. Well, I was halfway in an inebriated state, and I knew my wife was going to be mad at me for coming home broke on payday, so I said to myself, 'What the heck?'"

Accidental or intentional -- the jury didn't care how he meant to hold up the clerk. Caraker got three years in the state prison. It was then he realized he never wanted out.

On September 25, 1975, he picked up the phone, dialed the Dallas police, spoke slowly and calmly, and told the cops where he lived and what he planned to do: shoot President Gerald Ford. When the cops arrived, sirens blaring and guns drawn, he repeated his threat. He wanted there to be no mistake. "I mean it," he told them. "I'm not kidding."

A jury didn't think he was either, and so began Horace Caraker's stint in the federal big house. He liked it so much better there than in Texas prison, especially since he was in the federal lockup in El Paso. All those Mexican boys. It was in prison that Caraker found true love in the arms of young brown men. At first, he resisted the idea of going fag; he used to beat guys up for this. Then he realized: "You suck one little dick, then all of the sudden you're a dicksucker."

Caraker talks about his early arrest and his homosexuality as though he's ashamed, humiliated. He accepts no responsibility for his actions, claims someone always took something he said or did the wrong way. Shortly after his release from federal prison in 1978, Caraker got arrested for sexually assaulting a minor. Only he insisted then -- and now -- that the cops got it all wrong.

He was convicted of fondling a little boy's penis in an apartment complex parking lot. But Caraker insists, to the point of almost barking, that he never touched the kid. He says it was a simple misunderstanding. He insists that he was drinking beer with an ex-girlfriend, who lived with her little boy. They ran out of beer, so he took the boy down to the store to pick up some more.

When they got back to the apartment, Caraker needed to take a leak, so he pulled down his pants and urinated in the parking lot. The way he tells it, the kid did the same thing -- only when he got done, he zipped his penis in his pants, shouting loud enough for the whole complex to hear. Caraker says he had to put the kid on the hood of a truck so he could see how to extricate the boy's penis from his zipper. Only a neighbor didn't see it that way. She saw Caraker molesting the little boy, right there in the parking lot.

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