Database of radiological incidents and related events--Johnston's Archive

Texas radiological assault, 1972

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 18 September 2007

Date: ~8 April-October 1972

Location: Harris County, Texas, United States

Type of event: use of radioactive material in intentional assault on an individual


A man used radioactive sources to intentionally irradiate his 11-year-old son on multiple occasions. The man had limited visitation rights following divorce from the child's mother in 1971. He obtained capsules from one or two cesium-137 oil and gas well logging sources, each 1-2 Curie, which he was licensed to use with a company. From April to October 1972 he used the capsules in 5 to 8 instances against his son. Around 8 April 1972 during a weekend visit the father instructed the boy to use headphones containing capsules. On 18 April the boy was taken to a doctor for treatment of skin blisters. Twice in July the father drugged the boy and put him to sleep on a cushion or pillow containing capsules; the boy awoke nauseous both times and began to develop a rash on his thighs. On an August visit he was instructed to sleep on a couch containing two capsules; by this time he was under care of a doctor for skin lesions. In September the boy saw a physician for hair loss from one side of the head. On an October visit the father placed two capsules on the boy's legs while he was sleeping. In February 1973 a plastic surgeon diagnosed the boy's worsening skin lesions as radiation induced. The boy required 16 operations from January 1974 to November 1978 including numerous skin grafts; the irradiation also resulted in castration, with the resultant requirement for testosterone replacement. The case was reported to law enforcement authorities on 31 January 1974, with charges brought against the father on 2 May and his conviction on 17 April 1975 on one charge. The father appealed but jumped bond when the appeal was denied, and was finally apprehended around 1981 following an FBI investigation.

Consequences: 1 injury.


© 2007 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 18 September 2007.
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