HUNTSVILLE, TEX. -- Henry Lee Lucas, who once confessed to as many as 600 murders before recanting and insisting, "I never killed anyone but my mother," is marking time until his execution, the last victim of his massive hoax.

The former roofer and drifter, who blotted the reputation and credibility of the Texas Rangers police force with his bogus confessions, was scheduled to die by injection just after midnight Sunday. Instead, he was granted a stay of execution Thursday by the state Court of Criminal Appeals.

Danny Burns, Lucas's attorney, said his client took the news calmly, adding, "He was not overly anxious one way or the other." Burns said the execution date probably will be rescheduled in the next few months.

"I blame myself," Lucas, 54, said this week from a Death Row cell here. Still, he added, it's hard to die "for something you didn't do."

Chain-smoking, Lucas looked out vacantly from the wire screen separating him from visitors. His left eyelid drooped over a glass eye. His clean, white short-sleeved prison shirt revealed an enormous tattoo on his right arm of "Blondie" of comic-strip fame.

Since 1985, Lucas has been incarcerated at the isolated Ellis Unit of the state prison system, about 15 miles outside Huntsville in the piney woods of East Texas. Behind fences topped with razor-sharp wire, he has spent days reading the Bible and making clocks for friends.

Lucas catapulted from obscurity to infamy in 1983 during the investigation in Montague County, Tex., of the death of Kate Rich, 80. After confessing to murdering her, he suddenly blurted, "And I got at least 100 more out there."

Then he began confessing to murders that occurred throughout the country, and authorities lined up to take confessions.

By his count, Lucas admitted to committing about 4,000 murders. More than 250 cases in 26 states were closed because of his confessions. A Texas Rangers task force, created by the governor, escorted Lucas around the state as he pointed out sites of his alleged murders and described them in calm, vivid detail.

Later, he would say this was the best time of his itinerant life -- traveling in comfort, all the hamburgers and shakes he wanted and the focus of national attention.

In early 1985, Lucas was convicted and sentenced to death after confessing to the 1979 murder of an unidentified hitchhiker in Georgetown, Tex. She was known as "Orange Socks," the only clothing she was wearing when her body was found.

Later that year, after an exhaustive 15-month investigation, former Dallas reporter Hugh Aynesworth wrote in the Dallas Times Herald that, with the possible exception of three murders, Lucas's confessions were a hoax.

Aynesworth wrote that the Rangers' task force had information that would have exonerated Lucas but ignored those leads and in some cases changed information to conform to the confessions.

Aynesworth also wrote that the confessions sometimes were prompted.

"He definitely did not kill 'Orange Socks,' " Aynesworth said last week. "Witnesses saw him at work in Florida on the day that murder was committed. A grocer in Florida actually cashed his paycheck for him, but he {the grocer} said no police ever questioned him about

it."

Still, Aynesworth added, "no jury in the world would have acquitted Henry Lee Lucas at that time."

Lucas's motive for the confession, Aynesworth said, was to gain revenge with law enforcement.

"I'm gonna show them," Lucas told Aynesworth early in the investigation. "They think I'm stupid, but before this is all over, everyone will know who's really stupid."

Lucas was convicted and sentenced to 75 years for the Rich murder. Officials found bone fragments in an oven in which Lucas said he had burned pieces of her body.

He also was convicted and sentenced to 60 years for killing his girlfriend, Becky Powell, 15, after leading police to her body. The 'Orange Socks' murder led to his only death sentence.

For the only killing he now claims, that of his mother in 1960, Lucas served 15 years in prison.

Aynesworth said he is worried that Lucas will die for a murder he did not commit. "The Texas Rangers' reputation will rise and fall on this one," he said.

Lucas agreed. "I gave law enforcement in Texas a black eye," he said. "I don't think they can take that black eye."

Lucas said he would like to clear his name and get out of Huntsville. If that happens, he said, he would go back "and solve those murder cases. I'd prove that somebody else did them."

He said he is prepared to die when the time comes. "I think there's another world to go to," he said. "Hopefully, I'll make it someday."