When I first heard the news on Jan. 16 that a California couple had been arrested for holding their 13 children captive, allegedly starving and torturing them, I, like everybody else, was disgusted to hear that horrifying news. Later that same day, I became almost traumatized when someone at work said they had heard that the disgusting parents were from West Virginia.
As it turned out, however, it was the grandparents of the children who actually do reside in West Virginia in Mercer County. And when they were interviewed, the couple was certainly not an embarrassment to our fine state, which has for many years taken it on the chin when it comes to many of our ways of life.
As a proud "hillbilly," I will soon be featuring a story that highlights some amazing people who came from Logan County and went on to various parts of the world to become huge success stories. Unfortunately, the true story that I am about to reveal is the account of one of the most notorious families that ever existed in the United States, and unfortunately, the story of this twisted and dysfunctional family, who made national headlines in the early 1990's, begins in Logan County - at a place less than 100 yards from where I once lived.
Logan County Clerk records show that on August 12, 1946, Chester and Amanda Sexton purchased a 40 by 60 lot which had a house on it at what today is called Upper Baisden Bottom of Mud Fork, but in the deed was referred to as "Baisden-Hager-Maynard subdivision to the City of Logan situated between No.'s 16 and 18 mines of Island Creek Coal Company." The Sexton's purchased the property from Nathan and Garnet Workman, but may have found the house to be too small for their growing family, as it was quickly sold to Herbert and Nora Workman, who then raised their children at that locale. It was during the Workman's ownership that my family lived in Baisden Bottom during the late 1960s and what I remember most about the place is that everybody there was poor, including my family.
Chester Sexton was a Logan County coal miner and a Baptist preacher, who fathered 10 children, one of whom was just four years old when the family lived on Mud Fork. His name was Eddie Lee Sexton, and after the family moved to Ironton, Ohio, and after his father, who had been disabled at a Logan County coal mine, died suddenly at the age of 52, young Eddie Sexton quickly began a life of crime and wound up in reform school.
At the age of 21 in 1963, and the day after the marriage to his 15-year-old pregnant girlfriend, he robbed an Ashland filing station at Naugatuck in Mingo County which led to him serving five years in prison for the unlawful act. And that was just the beginning of the hideous crimes Sexton would commit, which included fathering at least three children with two of his own daughters, before the FBI years later arrested the cult-like family patriarch in Florida in 1994.
His young wife, who gave birth to a son, Patrick, and lived in Delbarton, filed for and received a divorce after her husband was released from prison. However, Sexton had been seeing Estella May Warren, who was born in Wheeling, and they were married sometime after she became pregnant.
By the early '90's the couple had produced 12 children and were living in Stark County, Ohio, near Canton. By then, rumors were rampant about what neighbors and others called a "strange" family.
None of the children were allowed more than one friend and the kids were not allowed to bring any friends to the Sexton home or to visit other homes. Eddie Lee Sexton ran the household as a cult, beating his children regularly and controlling them with horrific abuse and incest. Describing himself as an "independent Christian preacher," he convinced the children that he had supernatural powers and could summon ghosts and spirits at his pleasure. He held mock weddings with two of his daughters before raping them, and even had his children sign contracts in their own blood stating they would go to hell for disobeying him.
Although the children had kept their silence for many years, by 1994, one daughter, Sherri Lynn Sexton, told a reporter with the Akron Beacon Journal that she would have told authorities that her dad sexually molested her and fathered her child, if she'd had the chance. "I think this is all wrong and I'm going to tell it all out," she told the reporter.
She said her father first forced her to have sex in the 1980s when she was 13 or 14, and it continued until she was 19 when she had her father's baby. Sherry said she was certain the child was his because "he" was the only person she had ever had sex with.
One of Sherri's sisters, Pixie, gave birth to three children by her father, and Sherri noted that she had "seen Pixie and my dad make love." Pixie murdered her third infant child after being ordered to do so by her father.
Eddie Sexton and his wife had long been suspected of abuse and authorities had kept a file on the family until 1979, but could not prove anything. However, in 1992, when Machelle Sexton was 18 and living at a women's shelter, she told authorities that her father had raped her. Following an investigation of the only children left in the Sexton home who were still minors, three of the six children reported abuse and were placed in foster homes.
After seven months with a foster family, another daughter, Lana Sexton, told the foster parents that her mother, Estella Sexton, had sexually abused her and it was confirmed by a medical examination that found vaginal scarring that was consistent with her story. Stark County authorities then took action to remove all of the minor children from the Sexton home.
The Sextons filed paperwork that slowed the legal process and then fled Ohio with three minor children and several of their adult children, including Pixie and her three young kids. All totaled, 11 of them traveled and lived in a motorhome and stayed at various campsites from Oklahoma to Florida, where they remained for over a year at State Parks along Florida's west coast.
With indictments pending in Ohio from 1993, the FBI eventually issued a national arrest warrant for Eddie and Estella Sexton for Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution. The Feds were able to trace the bizarre family's whereabouts because of a self-produced VHS video tape Eddie had mailed to then President Bill Clinton and his Attorney General, Janet Reno. Sexton had attempted to plead his case against Ohio authorities. FBI agents traced the zip code from the mailed box to the Florida location.
It was following the January 14, 1994, arrest of Mr. and Mrs. Sexton that authorities learned of even more bizarre events, including the killing of Pixie's infant son (Skipper Lee) and the murder of her husband, Joel Good, who Pixie had married at her father's urging to cover up the incest. Joel had been led to believe Skipper belonged to him.
It was little Skipper's Lee death by smothering at the hands of his own mother that made Eddie Sexton afraid Good would lead police to their location. Good had wanted to take his baby back to Ohio for a proper burial. However, Sexton ordered the baby buried in a peat moss area near the campsite. The family leader had ordered the sick and crying baby silenced so not to draw attention to the site.
The Sexton clan leader then ordered his son, William, to kill Good, which he did, and buried him about 100 yards from the trailer and next to the baby. When the graves were eventually located and uncovered, Skipper Lee was found to have been buried with a pacifier and a rattle in his hand, and the chord used to strangle Good was still wrapped around his neck.
With their parents in jail, some of the children were no longer afraid and their stories would prove horrifying.
Punishment for the boys often would mean their father placing Ben Gay ointment on the boys' penises, according to Charles Sexton, who said not all of the abuse was physical. Some of it he described as "scary" in his interview with the Akron newspaper reporter. The boys, who also were said to have had sexual contact with their father, spoke of satanic rituals their father would conduct.
"We would all gather hands and he would turn the lights out and we would have candles in the middle of the table," said Eddie Jr.
Sherri said she remembers one ritual which involved her dead cat. "It was dead on the table, and my dad had all of us go around the table holding hands. He was talking weird. He was saying he was Satan. He kept asking us to give our souls to him - to follow him to Satan."
It is with great pleasure that I can report that Eddie Lee Sexton Sr., a man who, when he first entered this hellish world, first breathed Logan County's air, is unquestionably in the fiery pits of hell where he belongs.
An exceptionally complex investigation in Hillsborough County, Florida, that included several states and multiple jurisdictions, Eddie accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to 15 years for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder. He had plotted the murder of a fellow wealthy camper who was traveling across country. The plan was for Pixie to seduce the retired man and then some of the family would kill him, steal his identity, and drain his bank account, according to court records.
Pixie was charged with first degree murder for killing Skipper, but later plead to manslaughter, in exchange for her testimony against her father in the murder plot and was sentenced to six years in prison. Her brother, Willie, who killed her husband, was sentenced to 25 years due to his low intelligence.
Estella, the matriarch of the Sexton clan, received a two-year sentence in Ohio for her sexual abuse of Lana, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Florida courts for over a dozen abuse charges against her other children. Her charges included accessory to rape.
Eddie Sexton, the incestuous and sadistic monster, who led the twisted family, was reported to sit calmly in a wheelchair, when he was sentenced to death on November 2, 1994. On appeal in 1997, Sexton's verdict was overturned and a new trial was ordered. He was again found guilty and sentenced to death on November 18, 1998, but much to the unhappiness of many who hoped he would "fry" in the electric chair, Eddie Lee Sexton died of natural cause in prison December 29, 2010.
In October 2017, his wife, Estella May Sexton, 70, also died in prison of natural causes, thus ending a long chapter of unbelievable family horror.
A movie had been planned by a major production company about the Sexton's, but one of the children would not agree to it. However, "House of Secrets," a book written in 1997 by noted crime author Lowell Cauffiel, gives an extensive display of the Devil's work here on earth.
Dwight Williamson is a former writer for the Logan Banner. He now serves as a magistrate for Logan County.