Relive the horrifying story of the Texas slave ranch

South Texas Crime Stories

The latest South Texas Crime Stories segment relives the horrifying details of what was known as the Texas slave ranch.

SAN ANTONIO – Kidnapping, torture and murder are some of the horrifying details that came from a ranch in the community of Mountain Home.

This is about 20 miles west of Kerrville.

In the 1980s, rancher Walter Ellebracht Sr., his son, Walter Jr. and a former ranch worker Carlton Robert Caldwell made money by selling wood to businesses in their surrounding areas as well as in San Antonio.

One day investigators got a tip that hitchhikers were being abducted on I-10 and lured to Ellebracht’s ranch.

When authorities showed up, they found people there that were being enslaved and tortured.

One of the victims, Travis Boyd, told investigators they were tortured with cattle prods and chained in the barn at night.

Later a witness, Sheri Hamilton, said she saw a torture session involving 27-year-old Anthony Bates.

Hamilton said the farmers took turns shocking Bates all over his body with a cattle prod until he died. She stated to investigators they then burned his body, put his ashes in a barrel, and dumped it into the river.

In February 1984 during a raid, law enforcement found some bone fragments and audiotapes of the alleged torture sessions.

The ranchers were later arrested on multiple charges including aggravated kidnapping and murder in Bates’ death.

In 1986 the Texas slave ranch trial took place and lasted for three months.

Ellebracht Sr. received probation, his son Walter stayed free during a 15-year sentence due to appeals and Caldwell only served less than three years of his 14-year sentence. They were only found guilty of the organized crime charge.

It’s not known just how many victims were part of the Texas slave ranch.

Courtesy: Kerrville Daily Times (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Read other Crime Stories:

About the Authors:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Roslyn Jimenez is a news producer at KSAT. Before joining the team, she was a producer and video editor at KIII-TV and a radio intern in Corpus Christi. She graduated from Del Mar College with an Associate's degree in political science and liberal arts. Roslyn is family-oriented and loves spending time with her fiancé and chihuahua Paco.