The San Antonio Express News Sunday edition has a long article with lots of creepy pictures of Walter Wesley Ellebracht, Sr. and his brood. To read the article, you'd think that Joyce Ellebracht, the wife of Walter, Jr., was just an innocent bystander. The truth is otherwise. I have written a book about the case, based on the court's file and contemporaneous news accounts. I print here an excerpt from The Texas Slave Ranch - How a Degenerate Ranching Family Got Away With Murder (Texas Grotesques) [Kindle Edition]. The setting: three hitchhikers who had come in the night before told the ranchers they wanted to leave.
A couple of minutes later Boyd and his two companions were surrounded by men pointing rifles, shotguns and pistols at them. The old man said, “You ain't going nowhere. We spent twenty dollars in gas to to get you up here, and fed you and gave you somewhere to sleep, now you want to split. You might never get out of here.”
Boyd knew they were in bad trouble, and said, “Just let us work a day and then we'll split.”
"We're going to kill you, you'll die a slow death. That's what you get for having a loud mouth,” said the old man.
“You won't really kill me, will you?” Boyd said.
Junior piped in, "My dad's already killed two. I've killed one.” He looked like he was proud of himself.
The men flinched when a gun went off. When they turned to look, they saw Joyce pointing a rifle at them. Junior opened the back of the van and pulled out a brand new chain with padlocks. He chained them together at the ankles. The prisoners were loaded into the back of a pickup, and Mark Hamilton drove while Junior stood in the passenger door pointing a gun at them. Armed guards walked alongside the truck. They were driven to a hog pen about a quarter mile from the main house, where they were given steel bars and shovels and ordered to dig trenches. Junior said that before the day was out, they would be digging their own graves. As they worked, some of the guards shot around their feet, seeing who could hit the closest without shooting them. Soon Joyce joined in in the fun. This continued until she hit a rock, and a bullet or a rock fragment ricocheted and hit his leg. He fell to the ground, moaning and holding his knee. “I didn't mean to shoot you,” Joyce yelled. “I didn't mean to hit you.” When she saw that it had barely broken the skin, she told him to quit carrying on and get back to work. They dug for five hours in the hot sun, without water. Junior produced a cattle prod, made by Hotshot. “Take off your shirts,” he ordered. “You're not working fast enough,” then poked them with the cattle prod.
“We'll make you work a little faster.” As they worked, Junior continuously threatened and taunted them. “You guys will do anything we want, won't you?” he said.
Around two that afternoon, Junior announced he would let one of them go and asked his audience, “Which one of these guys do you think is the nicest one?” They agreed, the one in the middle, McCafferty.
Boyd whispered to McCafferty, “My name is Travis Boyd. I'm from San Antonio. If you get out of here go right to the cops, please!”
Junior handcuffed McCafferty, and removed the chain from his ankle, and ordered him to climb into the bed of the truck. When they got back to the house, the old man came out holding a rope, tying a noose as he walked. He threw the rope over a tree limb. “Boy, you’re going to die now.” He slipped put the noose over his head and tightened it around his neck. McCafferty was pleading for his life, when the old said he’d spare him if he sign some release forms. McCafferty had no choice, and readily assented. Junior paused from poking him with the hotshot, to let him sign the papers. The whole extended family was present – Junior and Joyce, Mark and Sherri Hamilton, Pete, and some others. Surrounded by people pointing guns at him, he signed and wrote his social security number on the forms. The first one said he no been mistreated, and had enjoyed his stay there. Another said he had been paid what he had coming to him. But the ranchers weren’t through toying with him. “Tell me why I shouldn't kill you,” the old man said.
“I have a young daughter in California who needs me,” McCafferty said, trying not to totally give into the fear. That wasn't good enough. The old man ordered him to write a suicide note. When he refused, they chained him to a tree and began shocking him again, until he agreed to sign the note. The ranchers forced him to write that he didn't enjoy living, and so was ending his life.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Boyd and the other prisoner were chained to a tree in the hog pen. When Junior returned, he showed them a bag of blood. He said that McCafferty had gotten smart-mouthed, so he killed him and drained his blood. He was going to kill them too. Junior went to work with the hotshot. The torment went on for a couple of hours. Joyce showed up a bucket full of blood, and threw it on the two chained men. All this time, there were men pointing guns at them, as Junior taunted them that that they were going to die.
It got even more dire when the old man came back. He pushed Boyd to his knees
with the hotshot, and grabbed him by the hair and held a knife to his throat, and told
him to start praying. Boyd, terrorized that he was going to die and be fed to the hogs,
began praying, crying and screaming all at the same time. . . .
That night, Joyce made a bowl of red jello for the men in the bunkhouse. When they started
to eat it, they saw it was molded around a piece of raw, bloody meat. She cackled, and said that Wes had cut it out of one of the men they had taken away.
Copyright, 2012, by Richard L Ellison