5 mysterious deaths at Texas truck stops worry drivers

Tuesday, November 28th 2006, 5:17 pm
By: News On 6

SAN ANTONIO (AP) When two bodies were found in a rig at a truck stop on the well-traveled route to Houston, some drivers figured it was an accident, maybe carbon monoxide poisoning. When another body was discovered there weeks later, they called it a mystery.

But now that two more bodies have been found at two truck stops, they are getting worried.

``You're scaring me now,'' said trucker Steve Fancher of Tulsa, Okla., when told of the grisly discoveries. ``I'd better get on out of here.''

So far, investigators have not established what killed the five or whether the deaths are related. But police said they might have been victims of a bad batch of drugs.

``Our experience would lead us to believe that ... this may be a case that somebody's either selling narcotics there or providing narcotics that may be laced with anything that could be lethal,'' said San Antonio police Sgt. Gabe Trevino. ``It's just a theory at this point, but that's the direction we're looking.''

The first bodies were found November 1st at the Petro Stopping Center on Interstate 10 in San Antonio. They were identified as Harry Ackroyd, 35, and Michelle Ackroyd, 32. Police said they did not know whether the two were truckers.

The Bexar County Medical Examiner's office said a third body was discovered inside a rig at the truck stop on Thanksgiving Day, but police could not identify that person.

Police reported that a fourth person, Clifton Frank Lee, 62, was found dead in a motel room next to the Petro on Sunday. A fifth man, Hubert Hardesty, 53, was discovered dead Monday in a stolen rig at the Flying J stop just east of the Petro.

William Walker, a San Antonio resident who has been driving trucks for 40 years, said he thinks the deaths are pure coincidence.

``Guys driving die all the time,'' Walker said, citing heart attacks as a common cause. ``It's just been a bad couple of months.''

In Hardesty's case, a trucker reported a foul odor coming from the cab of a parked flatbed truck on Monday, leading authorities to Hardesty's body, which police said was too decomposed to determine a cause of death. The trucker who reported the foul odor told police he saw blood on the gas tank.

``It may be a fluke, but obviously it doesn't look like it,'' said Ray De La Luz, a manager at the Petro. De La Luz said he and his staff are constantly shooing drifters and others from the parking lot who are not supposed to be there.