Dean Arnold Corll (December 24, 1939 – August 8, 1973) was an American serial killer who, along with teenaged accomplices David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr., abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered at least 28 boys in a series of killings spanning from 1970 to 1973 in Houston, Texas. The crimes, which became known as the Houston Mass Murders, came to light after Henley fatally shot Corll.
Corll’s victims were typically lured to a succession of addresses in which he resided between 1970 and 1973 with an offer of a party or a lift. They would then be restrained by either force or deception, and all were killed by either strangulation or shooting with a .22-caliber pistol. Corll and his accomplices buried 17 of their victims in a rented boat shed; four other victims were buried in woodland near Lake Sam Rayburn; one further victim was buried on a beach in Jefferson County; and at least six victims were buried on a beach on the Bolivar Peninsula. Brooks and Henley confessed to assisting Corll in several abductions and murders; both were sentenced to life imprisonment at their subsequent trials.
Corll was also known as the Candy Man and the Pied Piper, because he and his family had owned and operated a candy factory in Houston Heights, and he had been known to give free candy to local children.
Dean Arnold Corll was born on December 24, 1939, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the first child of Mary Robinson (May 9, 1916 – May 31, 2010) and Arnold Edwin Corll (February 7, 1916 – April 5, 2001). Corll’s father was strict with his son, whereas his mother was very protective of him. Their marriage was marred by frequent quarreling, and the couple divorced in 1946, four years after the birth of their younger son, Stanley. Mary Corll subsequently sold the family home and relocated to a trailer home in Memphis, Tennessee, where Arnold Corll had been drafted into the U.S. Air Force after the divorce, in order that her sons could retain contact with their father.
Corll was a shy, serious child who seldom socialized with other children, but who at the same time displayed concern for the well-being of others. At the age of seven, he suffered an undiagnosed case of rheumatic fever, which was only noted in 1950, when doctors found Corll had a heart murmur. As a result of this diagnosis, Corll was ordered to avoid P.E. at school.
Corll’s parents attempted reconciliation and remarried in 1950, subsequently moving to Pasadena, Texas; however, the reconciliation was short-lived and, in 1953, the couple once again divorced, with the mother again retaining custody of her two sons. Their divorce was decreed on amicable grounds and both boys maintained regular contact with their father.
Following the second divorce, Corll’s mother married a traveling clock salesman named Jake West and the family moved to the small town of Vidor, where Corll’s half-sister, Joyce, was born in 1955. Upon advice from a pecan nut salesman, Corll’s mother and stepfather started a small family candy company named ‘Pecan Prince’, initially operating from the garage of their home. From the earliest days of the family candy business, Corll was working day and night while still attending school. He and his younger brother were delegated the responsibility of running the candy making machines and packing the product, which his stepfather sold on his sales route. This route often involved West traveling to Houston, where much of the product was sold.
From 1954 to 1958, Corll attended Vidor High School, where he was regarded as a well-behaved student who achieved satisfactory grades. As had been the case in his childhood, Corll was also considered somewhat of a loner, although he is known to have occasionally dated girls in his teenage years. In high school, Corll’s only major interest was the brass band, in which he played trombone.
Move to Houston Heights
Corll graduated from Vidor High School in the summer of 1958. In a logistical move shortly thereafter, he and his family moved to the northern outskirts of Houston so that the family candy business could be closer to the city where the majority of their product was sold. Corll’s family opened a new shop, which they named Pecan Prince in reference to the brand name of the family product. In 1960, at the request of his mother, Corll moved to Indiana to live with his widowed grandmother. During this period of time, Corll formed a close relationship with a local girl, although he rejected a subsequent marriage proposal this girl made to him in 1962. Corll lived in Indiana for almost two years, but returned to Houston in 1962 to help with his family’s candy business, which by this date had moved to Houston Heights. He later moved into an apartment of his own above the shop.
Corll’s mother divorced Jake West in 1963 and opened a new candy business, which she named ‘Corll Candy Company’. Dean was appointed as vice-president of the new family firm. The same year, one of the teenage male employees of Corll Candy Company complained to Corll’s mother that Corll had made sexual advances towards him. In response, Mary West fired the teenager.:3647
U.S. Army service
Corll was drafted into the United States Army on August 10, 1964, and assigned to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for basic training. He was later assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, to train as a radio repairman before his permanent assignment to Fort Hood, Texas. According to official military records, Corll’s period of service in the army was unblemished. Corll, however, reportedly hated military service; he applied for a hardship discharge on the grounds that he was needed in his family’s business. The army granted his request and he was given an honorable discharge on June 11, 1965, after ten months of service.
Reportedly, Corll divulged to some of his close acquaintances after his release from the United States Army that it was during his period of service that he had first realized that he was homosexual, and had experienced his first homosexual encounters. Other acquaintances noted subtle changes in Corll’s mannerisms when in the company of teenage males after he had completed his service in the army and returned to Houston, which led them to believe he may have possessed homosexual tendencies.
Corll Candy Company
Following his honorable discharge from the army, Corll returned to Houston Heights and resumed the position he had held as vice-president of his family’s candy business. Corll’s former stepfather had retained ownership of the family’s former candy business following his mother’s divorce in 1963, and competition between the two firms was fierce. As had been the case in his teenage years, Corll increased the number of hours he devoted to the candy business to satisfy an increasing demand for his family’s product.
In 1965, the Corll Candy Company relocated to 22nd Street, directly across the street from Helms Elementary School. Corll was known to give free candy to local children,:3651 in particular teenage boys: as a result of this behavior, he earned himself the nicknames the Candy Man and the Pied Piper. The company also employed a small work force, and he was seen to behave flirtatiously towards several teenage male employees. Corll is known to have installed a pool table at the rear of the candy factory where employees and local youths would congregate.
Friendship with David Brooks
In 1967, Corll befriended 12-year-old David Owen Brooks, then a bespectacled sixth grade student and one of the many children to whom he gave free candy. Brooks initially became one of Corll’s many youthful close companions; the youth regularly socialized with Corll and various teenage boys who congregated at the rear of the candy company. He also joined Corll on the regular trips he took to south Texas’ beaches in the company of various youths, and later harked to the fact that Corll was the first adult male who did not mock his appearance. Whenever Brooks told Corll he needed cash, he was given money, and the youth began to view Corll as a father figure. Upon Corll’s urging, a sexual relationship gradually developed between the two: beginning in 1969, Corll paid Brooks in cash or with gifts to allow him to perform fellatio on the youth.
Brooks’ parents were divorced; his father lived in Houston and his mother had relocated to Beaumont, a city 85 miles (140 km) east of Houston. In 1970, when he was 15, Brooks dropped out of Waltrip High School and moved to Beaumont to live with his mother. Whenever he visited his father in Houston, he also visited Corll, who allowed him to stay at his apartment if he wished to. Later the same year, Brooks moved back to Houston and, by his own later admission, began regarding Corll’s apartment as his second home.
By the time Brooks dropped out of high school, Corll’s mother and Joyce, his half-sister, had moved to Colorado after the failure of her third marriage and the closure of the family candy company in June 1968. Although she often talked to her eldest son on the telephone, his mother never saw him again.:3647
Following the closure of the candy company, Corll took a job as an electrician at the Houston Lighting and Power Company, where he tested electrical relay systems. He worked in this employment until the day he was killed by Elmer Wayne Henley.
Between 1970 and 1973, Corll is known to have killed a minimum of 28 victims. All of his victims were males aged 13 to 20, the majority of whom were in their mid-teens. Most victims were abducted from Houston Heights, which was then a low-income neighborhood northwest of downtown Houston. With most abductions, he was assisted by one or both of his teenaged accomplices: Elmer Wayne Henley, and David Owen Brooks. Several victims were friends of either or both of Corll’s accomplices; others were individuals with whom Corll had himself become acquainted prior to their abduction and murder, and two other victims, Billy Baulch and Gregory Malley Winkle, were former employees of the Corll Candy Company.
Corll’s victims were usually lured into one of two vehicles he owned, a Ford Econoline van or a Plymouth GTX, with an offer of a party or a lift, and then driven to his house. There, they were plied with alcohol or other drugs until they passed out, tricked into putting on handcuffs, or simply grabbed by force. They were then stripped naked and tied to either Corll’s bed or, usually, a plywood torture board, which was regularly hung on a wall. Once manacled, the victims would be sexually assaulted, beaten, tortured and—sometimes after several days—killed by strangulation or shooting with a .22-caliber pistol. Their bodies were then tied in plastic sheeting and buried in one of four places: a rented boat shed; a beach on the Bolivar Peninsula; a woodland near Lake Sam Rayburn (where Corll’s family owned a lakeside log cabin); or a beach in Jefferson County.
In several instances, Corll forced his victims to either phone or write to their parents with explanations for their absences in an effort to allay the parents’ fears for their sons’ safety. Corll is also known to have retained keepsakes—usually keys—from his victims.
During the years in which he abducted and murdered young men, Corll often changed addresses. However, until he moved to Pasadena in the spring of 1973, he always lived in or close to Houston Heights.
First known murders
Corll killed his first known victim, an 18-year-old college freshman, Jeffrey Konen, on September 25, 1970. Konen vanished while hitchhiking with another student from the University of Texas to his parents’ home in Houston; he was dropped off alone at the corner of Westheimer Road and South Voss Road near the Uptown area of Houston. Corll likely offered Konen a lift to his parents’ home, which Konen evidently accepted. At the time of Konen’s disappearance, Corll lived in an apartment on Yorktown Street, near the intersection with Westheimer Road.
David Brooks led police to the body of Jeffrey Konen on August 10, 1973. The body was buried at High Island Beach. Forensic scientists subsequently deduced that the youth had died of asphyxiation caused by manual strangulation and a cloth gag that had been placed in his mouth. The body was buried beneath a large boulder, covered with a layer of lime, wrapped in plastic, naked, and bound hand and foot, suggesting he had also been violated.:25
Around the time of Konen’s murder, David Brooks interrupted Corll in the act of assaulting two teenage boys whom Corll had strapped to a plywood torture board. Corll promised Brooks a car in return for his silence; Brooks accepted the offer and Corll later bought him a green Chevrolet Corvette. Brooks was later told by Corll that the two youths had been murdered, and he was offered $200 for any boy he could lure to Corll’s apartment.
On December 13, 1970, David Brooks lured two 14-year-old Spring Branch youths named James Glass and Danny Yates away from a religious rally held in the Heights district of Houston to Corll’s Yorktown apartment. Glass was an acquaintance of Brooks who, at Brooks’ behest, had previously visited Corll’s address. Both youths were tied to opposite sides of Corll’s torture board and subsequently raped, strangled and buried in a boat shed Corll had rented on November 17.
Six weeks after the double murder of Glass and Yates, on January 30, 1971, Brooks and Corll encountered two teenage brothers named Donald and Jerry Waldrop walking toward their parents’ home. The Waldrop brothers had been driven to a friend’s home by their father with view to discussing forming a bowling league, and had begun walking home after learning their friend was not at home. Both boys were enticed into Corll’s van and driven to an apartment Corll had rented on Mangum Road, where they were raped, tortured, strangled and subsequently buried in the boat shed. Between March and May 1971, Corll abducted and killed three further victims; all of whom lived in Houston Heights and all of whom were buried towards the rear of the rented boat shed. In each of these abductions, Brooks is known to have been a participant. One of these three victims, 15-year-old Randell Harvey, was last seen by his family on the afternoon of March 9 cycling towards Oak Forest, where he worked part-time as a gas station attendant. Harvey was also driven to Corll’s Mangum Road apartment, where he was subsequently killed by a single gunshot to the head. The other two victims, 13-year-old David Hilligiest and 16-year-old Gregory Malley Winkle, were abducted and killed together on the afternoon of May 29, 1971. As had been the case with parents of other victims of Corll, both sets of parents launched a frantic search for their sons. One of the youths who voluntarily offered to distribute posters the parents had printed offering a reward for information leading to the boys’ whereabouts was 15-year-old Elmer Wayne Henley—a lifelong friend of Hilligiest. The youth pinned the reward posters around the Heights and attempted to reassure Hilligiest’s parents that there may be an innocent explanation for the boys’ absence.
On August 17, 1971, Corll and Brooks encountered a 17-year-old acquaintance of Brooks named Ruben Watson Haney walking home from a movie theater in Houston. Brooks persuaded Haney to attend a party at an address Corll had moved to on San Felipe Street the previous month. Haney agreed and was taken to Corll’s home where he was subsequently strangled and buried in the boat shed. In September 1971, Corll moved to another apartment in the Heights: 915 Columbia St. David Brooks later stated he had assisted Corll in the abduction and murder of two youths during the time Corll resided at this address, including one youth who was killed “just before Wayne Henley came into the picture.” In his confession, Brooks stated the youth killed immediately prior to Henley’s involvement in the murders was abducted from the Heights and kept alive for approximately four days before his murder. The identity of both of these two victims remains unknown.
Participation of Elmer Wayne Henley
In the winter of 1971, Brooks introduced Elmer Wayne Henley to Dean Corll. Henley was likely lured to Corll’s address as an intended victim. However, Corll evidently decided the youth would make a good accomplice and offered him the same fee—$200—for any boy he could lure to his apartment, informing Henley that he was involved in a “white slavery ring” operating from Dallas.
Henley later stated that, for several months, he completely ignored Corll’s offer; however, in early 1972, he decided to accept the offer as he and his family were in dire financial circumstances. According to Henley, the first abduction he participated in occurred during the time Corll resided at 925 Schuler Street; an address Corll moved to in February 1972. (Brooks later claimed that Henley became involved in the abductions while Corll resided at the address he had occupied immediately prior to Schuler Street.) If Henley’s statement is to be believed, the victim was abducted from the Heights in February or early March 1972. In the statement Henley gave to police following his arrest, the youth stated he and Corll picked up “a boy” at the corner of 11th and Studewood, and lured him to Corll’s home on the promise of smoking some marijuana with the pair. At Corll’s residence—using a ruse he and Corll had prepared—Henley cuffed his own hands behind his back, freed himself with a key hidden in his back pocket, then duped the youth into donning the handcuffs before leaving him alone with Corll, believing he was to be sold into the sexual slavery ring.
The identity of this victim is not conclusively known, although it is possible the youth was Willard Branch, a 17-year-old Oak Forest youth known to both Corll and Henley who disappeared on February 9, 1972, and whose emasculated body was found buried in the boat shed.
A month later, on March 24, 1972, Henley, Brooks and Corll encountered an 18-year-old acquaintance of Henley’s named Frank Aguirre leaving a restaurant on Yale Street, where the youth worked. Henley called Aguirre over to Corll’s van and invited the youth to drink beer and smoke marijuana with the trio at Corll’s apartment. Aguirre agreed and followed the trio to Corll’s home in his Rambler. Inside Corll’s house, Aguirre smoked marijuana with the trio before picking up a pair of handcuffs Corll had left on his table. In response, Corll pounced on Aguirre, pushed him onto the table and cuffed his hands behind his back.
Henley later claimed that he had not known of Corll’s true intentions towards Aguirre when he had persuaded the youth to accompany him to Corll’s home. In a 2010 interview, he claimed to have attempted to persuade Corll not to assault and kill Aguirre once Corll and Brooks had bound and gagged the youth. However, Corll refused; informing Henley that he had raped, tortured and killed the previous victim he had assisted in abducting, and that he intended to do the same with Aguirre. Henley subsequently assisted Corll and Brooks in Aguirre’s burial at High Island Beach.
Despite the revelations that Corll was, in reality, killing the boys whom he and Brooks had assisted in abducting, Henley nonetheless became an active participant in the abductions and murders. Within one month, on April 20, 1972, he assisted Corll and Brooks in the abduction of another youth; a 17-year-old friend of his named Mark Scott. Scott was grabbed by force and fought furiously against attempts by Corll to secure him to the torture board, even attempting to stab his attackers with a knife. However, Scott saw Henley pointing a pistol toward him and, according to Brooks, Mark “just gave up.” Scott was tied to the torture board and suffered the same fate as Aguirre: rape; torture; strangulation and burial at High Island Beach.
According to Brooks, Henley was “especially sadistic” in his participation in the murders committed at Schuler Street. Before Corll vacated the address on June 26, Henley assisted Corll and Brooks in the abduction and murder of a further two youths named Billy Baulch and Johnny Delome. In Brooks’ confession, he stated that both youths were tied to Corll’s bed and, after their torture and rape, Henley manually strangled Baulch, then shouted, “Hey, Johnny!” and shot Delome in the forehead, with the bullet exiting through the youth’s ear. Delome then pleaded with Henley, “Wayne, please don’t!” before he too was strangled. Both youths were buried at High Island Beach.
During the time Corll resided at Schuler Street, the trio lured a 19-year-old named Billy Ridinger to the house. Ridinger was tied to the plywood board, tortured and abused by Corll. Brooks later claimed he persuaded Corll to allow Ridinger to be released, and the youth was allowed to leave the residence. On another occasion during the time Corll resided at Schuler Street, Henley knocked Brooks unconscious as he entered the house. Corll then tied Brooks to his bed and assaulted the youth repeatedly before releasing him.:31 Despite the assault, Brooks continued to assist Corll in the abductions of the victims.
After vacating the Schuler residence, Corll moved to an apartment at Westcott Towers, where, in the summer of 1972, he is known to have killed a further two victims. The first of these victims, 17-year-old Steven Sickman, was last seen leaving a party held in the Heights shortly before midnight on July 19. The youth was savagely bludgeoned about the chest with a blunt instrument before he was strangled and buried in the boat shed. Approximately one month later, on or about August 21, a 19-year-old youth named Roy Bunton was abducted while walking to his job as an assistant in a Houston shoe store. Bunton was shot twice in the head and was also buried in the boat shed. Neither youth was named by either Brooks or Henley as being a victim of Corll, and both youths were only identified as victims in 2011.
On October 2, 1972, Henley and Brooks encountered two Heights youths, Wally Jay Simoneaux and Richard Hembree. Henley and Brooks spotted the youths walking to Hembree’s home. Simoneaux and Hembree were enticed into Brooks’ Corvette and driven to Corll’s Westcott Towers apartment. That evening, Simoneaux is known to have phoned his mother’s home and to have shouted the word “Mama” into the receiver before the connection was terminated. The following morning, Hembree was accidentally shot in the mouth by Henley. Several hours later, both youths were strangled to death and subsequently buried in a common grave inside Corll’s boat shed directly above the bodies of James Glass and Danny Yates. The following month, a 19-year-old Heights youth named Richard Kepner disappeared on his way to a phone booth. Kepner was strangled and buried at High Island Beach. Altogether, a minimum of 10 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19 were murdered between February and November 1972; five of whom were buried at High Island Beach, and five inside Corll’s boat shed.
On January 20, 1973, Corll moved to an address on Wirt Road in the Spring Branch district of Houston. Within two weeks of moving into this address, he had killed a 17-year-old named Joseph Lyles. Lyles was known to both Corll and Brooks. He had lived on Antoine Drive – the same street upon which Brooks resided in 1973. On March 7, Corll vacated his Wirt Road apartment and moved into an address his father had vacated in Pasadena: 2020 Lamar Drive.
2020 Lamar Drive
No known victims were killed from February to June 3, 1973, although Corll is known to have suffered from a hydrocele in early 1973. In addition, around the time of Lyles’ murder, Henley had temporarily moved away from Houston to Mount Pleasant in an apparent effort to distance himself from Corll. These facts may account for this sudden lull in killings.
Nonetheless, from June, Corll’s rate of killings increased dramatically, and both Henley and Brooks later testified to the increase in the level of brutality of the murders committed while Corll resided at Lamar Drive. Henley later compared the acceleration in the frequency of killings and the increase in the brutality exhibited by Corll towards his victims to being “like a blood lust”, adding that he and Brooks would instinctively know when Corll was to announce that he “needed to do a new boy”, due to the fact that he would appear restless, smoking cigarettes and making reflex movements. On June 4, Henley and Corll abducted a 15-year-old named William Ray Lawrence; the youth was last seen alive by his father on 31st Street. After three days of abuse and torture, Lawrence was strangled before being buried at Lake Sam Rayburn. Less than two weeks later, a 20-year-old named Raymond Stanley Blackburn was abducted, strangled and buried at Lake Sam Rayburn.
On July 6, 1973, Wayne Henley began attending classes at the Coaches Driving School in Bellaire, where he became acquainted with a 15-year-old named Homer Luis Garcia. The following day, Garcia phoned his mother to say he was spending the night with a friend; he was shot and left to bleed to death in Corll’s bathtub before he was also buried at Lake Sam Rayburn. Five days later, on July 12, a 17-year-old Orange County youth named John Sellars was bound, shot to death and buried at High Island Beach.
In July 1973, David Brooks married his pregnant fiancée, and Henley temporarily became Corll’s sole procurer of victims, assisting in the abduction and murder of a further three Heights youths between July 19 and 25. According to Henley, these three abductions were the only three that occurred after his becoming an accomplice to Corll, in which David Brooks was not a participant. One of these three victims, 15-year-old Michael Baulch, was last seen by his family on July 19 on his way to get a haircut; he was strangled and buried at Lake Sam Rayburn. The other two victims, Charles Cobble and Marty Ray Jones, were abducted together on the afternoon of July 25. Henley himself later buried both youths’ bodies in the boat shed.
On August 3, 1973, Corll killed his last victim, a 13-year-old boy from South Houston named James Dreymala. Dreymala was abducted by Brooks and Corll while riding his bike in Pasadena and driven to Corll’s home, where he was tied to Corll’s torture board, raped, tortured and strangled with a cord before being buried in the boat shed. David Brooks later described Dreymala as a “small, blond boy” for whom he had bought a pizza and in whose company he had spent 45 minutes before the youth was attacked.
August 8, 1973
On the evening of August 7, 1973, Henley, aged 17, invited a 19-year-old named Timothy Cordell Kerley to attend a party at Corll’s Pasadena residence. Kerley—who was intended to be Corll’s next victim—accepted the offer. David Brooks was not present at the time. The two youths arrived at Corll’s house, where they sniffed paint fumes and drank alcohol until midnight before leaving the house to purchase sandwiches. Henley and Kerley then drove back to Houston Heights and Kerley parked his vehicle close to Henley’s home. Henley exited the vehicle and walked towards the home of 15-year-old Rhonda Williams, a friend of his, who had been beaten by her drunken father that evening, and who had decided to temporarily leave home until her father became sober. Henley invited Williams to spend the evening at Corll’s home, Williams agreed and climbed into the back seat of Kerley’s Volkswagen. The trio then drove towards Corll’s Pasadena residence.
At approximately 3 a.m. on the morning of August 8, 1973, Henley and Kerley, accompanied by Williams, returned to Corll’s residence. Corll was furious that Henley had brought a girl to his house, telling him in private that he had “ruined everything.” Henley explained that Williams had argued with her father that evening, and did not wish to return home. Corll appeared to calm down, and offered the trio beer and marijuana. The three teenagers began drinking and smoking marijuana, with Henley and Kerley also sniffing paint fumes as Corll watched them intently. After approximately two hours, Henley, Kerley, and Williams each passed out.
Henley awoke to find himself lying upon his stomach and Corll snapping handcuffs onto his wrists. His mouth had been taped shut and his ankles had been bound together. Kerley and Williams lay beside Henley, securely bound with nylon rope, gagged with adhesive tape and lying face down on the floor. Kerley had also been stripped naked.
Noting Henley had awoken, Corll removed the gag from his mouth. Henley protested in vain against Corll’s actions, whereupon Corll reiterated that he was angry with Henley for bringing a girl to his house and that he was going to kill all three teenagers after he had assaulted and tortured Kerley. He repeatedly kicked Williams in the chest, then dragged Henley into his kitchen and placed a .22-caliber pistol against his stomach, threatening to shoot him. Henley calmed Corll, promising to participate in the torture and murder of both Williams and Kerley if Corll released him. Corll agreed and untied Henley, then carried Kerley and Williams into his bedroom and tied them to opposite sides of his torture board: Kerley on his stomach; Williams on her back.
Corll then handed Henley a hunting knife and ordered him to cut away Williams’ clothes, insisting that, while he would rape and kill Kerley, Henley would do likewise to Williams. Henley began cutting away Williams’ clothes as Corll undressed and began to assault and torture Kerley. Both Kerley and Williams had awakened by this point. Kerley began writhing and shouting as Williams, whose gag Henley had removed, lifted her head and asked Henley, “Is this for real?” to which Henley answered, “Yes.” Williams then asked Henley: “Are you going to do anything about it?”
Henley then asked Corll whether he might take Williams into another room. Corll ignored him and Henley then grabbed Corll’s pistol, shouting, “You’ve gone far enough, Dean!” As Corll clambered off Kerley, Henley elaborated: “I can’t go on any longer! I can’t have you kill all my friends!” Corll approached Henley, saying, “Kill me, Wayne!” Henley stepped back a few paces as Corll continued to advance upon him, shouting, “You won’t do it!” Henley fired at Corll, hitting him in the forehead (the bullet failed to fully penetrate Corll’s skull).:3641 Corll continued to lurch towards Henley, whereupon the youth fired a further two rounds, hitting Corll in the left shoulder.:2 Corll spun round and staggered out of the room, hitting the wall of the hallway. Henley fired three additional bullets into his lower back and shoulder as Corll slid down the wall in the hallway outside the room where the two other teenagers were bound. Corll died where he fell, his naked body lying face towards the wall.
Henley would later recall that, having shot Corll, the sole thought dominant in his mind in the moments immediately thereafter was that Corll would have been proud of the way he had reacted to the confrontation, adding that Corll had been training him to react fast and react greatly, and that was what he had done.
After he had shot Corll, Henley released Kerley and Williams from the torture board, and all three teenagers dressed and discussed what actions they should take. Henley suggested to Kerley and Williams that they should simply leave, to which Kerley replied, “No, we should call the police.” Henley agreed and looked up the number for the Pasadena Police in Corll’s telephone directory.
At 8:24 a.m. on August 8, 1973, Henley placed a call to the Pasadena Police.:1 His call was answered by an operator named Velma Lines. In his call, Henley blurted to the operator: “Y’all better come here right now! I just killed a man!” Henley gave the address to the operator as 2020 Lamar Drive, Pasadena. As Kerley, Williams and Henley waited upon Corll’s porch for the police to arrive, Henley mentioned to Kerley that he had “done that (killed by shooting) four or five times.”
Minutes later, a Pasadena Police car arrived at 2020 Lamar Drive. The three teenagers were sitting on the porch outside the house, and the officer noted the .22 caliber pistol on the driveway near the trio. Henley told the officer that he was the individual who had made the call and indicated that the body of Dean Corll was inside the house.
After confiscating the pistol and placing Henley, Williams and Kerley inside the patrol car, the officer entered the bungalow and discovered Corll’s body inside the hallway. The officer returned to the car and read Henley his Miranda rights. In response, Henley shouted: “I don’t care who knows about it! I have to get it off my chest!”
Kerley later told detectives that before the police officer had arrived at Lamar Drive, Henley had told him, “I could have gotten $200 for you.”
In custody at the Pasadena Police Department, Henley was initially questioned in relation to the killing of Dean Corll. Henley recounted the events of the previous evening and that morning; explaining that he had shot Corll in self-defense. The statements given by Kerley and Williams corroborated Henley’s account, and the detective questioning Henley believed he had indeed acted in self-defense.
When questioned regarding his claim that as Corll had threatened him that morning he had shouted that he had killed several boys, Henley explained that for almost three years, he and David Brooks had helped procure teenage boys, some of whom had been their own friends, for Corll, who had raped and murdered them. Henley gave a verbal statement stating he had initially believed the boys he had abducted were to be sold into a Dallas-based organization for “homosexual acts, sodomy, maybe later killing”, but soon learned Corll was himself actively killing the victims procured. Henley admitted he had assisted Corll in several abductions and murders, and that he had actively participated in the torture and mutilation of “six or eight” victims prior to their murder. Most victims had been buried in a Southwest Houston boat shed; with others buried at Lake Sam Rayburn and High Island Beach. Corll had paid up to $200 for each victim he or Brooks were able to lure to his apartment.
Police were initially skeptical of Henley’s claims, assuming the sole homicide of the case was that of Corll, which they had ascribed to being the result of drug-fueled fisticuffs that had turned deadly. Henley was quite insistent, however, and upon his recalling the names of three boys—Cobble, Hilligiest and Jones—whom he stated he and David Brooks had procured for Corll, the police accepted that there was something to his claims, as all three teenagers were listed as missing at Houston Police headquarters. David Hilligiest had been reported missing in the summer of 1971; the other two boys had been missing for just two weeks. Moreover, the floor of the room where the three teenagers had been tied was covered in thick plastic sheeting. Police also found a plywood torture board measuring 8 by 3 feet (2.44 by 0.91 m) with handcuffs in each corner. Also found at Corll’s address were a large hunting knife, rolls of clear plastic of the same type used to cover the floor, a portable radio rigged to a pair of dry cells to give increased volume, an electric motor with loose wires attached, eight pairs of handcuffs, a number of dildos, thin glass tubes and lengths of rope.
Corll’s Ford Econoline van parked in the driveway conveyed a similar impression. The rear windows of the van were sealed by opaque blue curtains. In the rear of the vehicle, police found a coil of rope, a swatch of beige rug covered in soil stains, and a wooden crate with air holes drilled in the sides. The pegboard walls inside the rear of the van were rigged with several rings and hooks. Another wooden crate with air holes drilled in the sides was also found in Corll’s back yard. Inside this crate were several strands of human hair.:3644
Search for victims
Henley agreed to accompany police to Corll’s boat shed in Southwest Houston, where he claimed the bodies of most of the victims could be found. Inside Corll’s boat shed, police found a half-stripped car, which turned out to have been stolen from a used car lot in March, a child’s bike, empty bags of lime, and a box full of teenage boys’ clothing.
Police began digging through the soft, shell-crushed earth of the boat shed and soon uncovered the body of a young blond-haired teenaged boy, lying on his side, encased in clear plastic and buried beneath a layer of lime. Police continued excavating through the earth of the shed, unearthing the remains of more victims in varying stages of decomposition. Most of the bodies found were wrapped in thick, clear plastic sheeting. Some victims had been shot, others strangled, the ligature still wrapped tightly around their necks.
All of the victims found had been sodomized and most victims found bore evidence of sexual torture: pubic hairs had been plucked out, genitals had been chewed, objects had been inserted into their rectums, and glass rods had been shoved into their urethrae and smashed. Cloth rags had also been inserted into the victims’ mouths and adhesive tape wound around their faces to muffle their screams. The mouth of the third victim unearthed on August 8 was so agape that all upper and lower teeth were visible, leading investigators to theorize the youth had died with a scream on his lips. On August 8, 1973, eight corpses were uncovered at the boat shed.
Accompanied by his father, David Brooks presented himself at the Houston Police Station on the evening of August 8, 1973, and gave a statement denying any participation in the murders, but admitting to having known that Corll had raped and killed two youths in 1970.
On the morning of August 9, 1973, Henley gave a full written statement detailing his and Brooks’ involvement with Dean Corll in the abduction and murder of numerous youths. In this confession, Henley readily admitted to having personally killed approximately nine youths and to have assisted Corll in the strangulation of others. He also stated the “only three” abductions and murders Brooks had not assisted him and Corll with were three murders committed in the summer of 1973. That afternoon, Henley accompanied police to Lake Sam Rayburn in San Augustine County, where he, Brooks and Corll had buried four victims killed that year. Two additional bodies were found in shallow, lime-soaked graves located close to a dirt road. Inside the lakeside log cabin owned by Corll’s family, police found a second plywood torture board, rolls of plastic sheeting, shovels and a sack of lime.
Police found nine additional bodies in the boat shed on August 9, 1973, all of which were in an advanced state of decomposition. One of the bodies unearthed bore evidence of sexual mutilation (the severed genitals of the victim were found inside a sealed plastic bag placed beside the body); another victim unearthed had several fractured ribs. The 13th and 14th bodies unearthed bore identification cards naming the victims as Donald and Jerry Waldrop.
David Brooks gave a full confession on the evening of August 9, admitting to being present at several killings and assisting in several burials, although he continued to deny any direct participation in the murders. In reference to the torture board upon which Corll had restrained and tortured his victims, Brooks stated: “Once they were on the board, they were as good as dead; it was all over but the shouting and the crying.” He agreed to accompany police to High Island Beach to assist in the search for the bodies of the victims.
On August 10, 1973, Henley again accompanied police to Lake Sam Rayburn, where two more bodies were found buried just 10 feet (3 m) apart. As with the two bodies found the previous day, both victims had been tortured and severely beaten, particularly around the head. That afternoon, both Henley and Brooks accompanied police to High Island Beach, leading police to the shallow graves of two further victims.
On August 13, 1973, both Henley and Brooks again accompanied the police to High Island Beach, where four more bodies were found, making a total of twenty-seven known victims – the worst killing spree in American history at the time.
Henley initially insisted that there were two more bodies to be found inside the boat shed, and also that the bodies of two more boys had been buried at High Island Beach in 1972. At the time, the killing spree was the worst case of serial murder, in terms of the number of victims, in the United States, exceeding the 25 murders attributed to Juan Corona, who had been arrested in California in 1971 for killing twenty-five men. The macabre record of number of known victims attributed to a single murder case set by the Houston Mass Murders was only surpassed in 1978 by John Wayne Gacy, who murdered 33 boys and young men and who admitted to being influenced by Corll and his accomplices.
Families of Corll’s victims were highly critical of the Houston Police Department, which had been quick to list the missing boys as runaways who had not been considered worthy of any major investigation. The families of the murdered youths asserted that the police should have noted an insidious trend in the pattern of disappearances of teenage boys from the Heights neighborhood; other family members complained the police had been dismissive to their adamant insistence that their sons had no reasons to run away from home. Everett Waldrop, the father of Donald and Jerry Waldrop, complained that shortly after his sons had disappeared in 1971, he had informed police an acquaintance had observed Corll burying what appeared to be bodies at his boat shed. In response, the police performed a perfunctory search around the shed, before dismissing the reports as a hoax. Waldrop also stated that on one occasion when he visited the Houston Police Department, the police chief had simply told him, “Why are you down here? You know your boys are runaways.” The mother of Gregory Malley Winkle stated: “You don’t run away [from home] with nothing but a bathing suit and 80 cents.”
By April 1974, twenty-one of Corll’s victims had been identified, with all but four of the youths having either lived in or had close connections to Houston Heights. Two more teenagers were identified in 1983 and 1985: one of whom, Richard Kepner, also lived in Houston Heights. The other youth, Willard Branch, lived in the Oak Forest district of Houston.
On August 13, a Grand Jury convened in Harris County to hear evidence against Henley and Brooks: the first witnesses to testify were Rhonda Williams and Tim Kerley, who testified to the events of August 7 and 8 leading to the death of Dean Corll, another witness who testified to his experience at the hands of Dean Corll was Billy Ridinger. After listening to over 6 hours of testimony from various people, on August 14, the jury initially indicted Henley on three murder charges and Brooks on one count. Bail for each youth was set at $100,000.
The District Attorney requested that Henley undergo a psychiatric examination to deduce whether he was mentally competent to stand trial, but his attorney, Charles Melder, opposed the decision, stating the move would violate Henley’s Constitutional rights.
By the time the Grand Jury had completed its investigation, Henley had been indicted for six murders, and Brooks for four. Henley was not charged with the death of Dean Corll, which was ruled self-defense.
Trial, conviction and incarceration
Elmer Wayne Henley and David Owen Brooks were tried separately for their roles in the murders. Henley was brought to trial in San Antonio on July 1, 1974, charged with six murders committed between March 1972 and July 1973. The prosecution called dozens of witnesses, including Tim Kerley and a youth named Billy Ridinger, who had been lured to Corll’s Schuler Street address by Henley, Brooks and Corll in 1972. Ridinger testified that at Corll’s home he was tied to Corll’s torture board and assaulted repeatedly by Corll before he was released.
Other incriminating testimony came from police officers who read from Henley’s written statements. In one part of his confession, Henley had described his luring of two of the victims for whose murder he had been brought to trial, Charles Cobble and Marty Jones, to Corll’s Pasadena house. Henley had confessed that after their initial abuse and torture at Corll’s home, Cobble and Jones each had one wrist and ankle bound to the same side of Corll’s torture board. The youths were then forced by Corll to fight each other with the promise that the youth who beat the other to death would be allowed to live. After several hours of each youth beating the other, Jones was tied to a board and forced to watch Charles Cobble again be assaulted, tortured and shot to death before he himself was again raped, tortured and strangled with a venetian blind cord. The two youths were killed on July 27, 1973, two days after they had been reported missing. Several victims’ parents had to leave the courtroom to regain their composure as police and medical examiners described how their relatives were tortured and murdered.
Throughout the trial, the State introduced eighty-two pieces of evidence, including Corll’s torture board and one of the boxes used to transport the victims. Inside the box, police had found hair which examiners had concluded came from both Charles Cobble and Wayne Henley. Upon advice from his defense counsel, Henley did not take the stand to testify. His defense attorney, Will Gray, cross-examined several witnesses but did not call any witnesses or experts for the defense.
On July 15, 1974, both counsels presented their closing arguments to the jury: the prosecution seeking life imprisonment; the defense a verdict of not guilty. In his closing argument to the jury, District Attorney Carol Vance apologized for his not being able to seek the death penalty, adding that the case was the “most extreme example of man’s inhumanity to man I have ever seen.”
The jury deliberated for 92 minutes before finding Henley guilty of all six murders for which he was tried. The following day, July 16,:34 Henley was sentenced to six consecutive 99-year terms—a total of 594 years—for each of the murders for which he was charged.
Henley appealed against his sentence and conviction, contending the jury in his initial trial had not been sequestered; that his attorneys’ objections to news media being present in the courtroom had been overruled and citing that his defense team’s attempts to present evidence contending that the initial trial should not have been held in San Antonio had also been overruled by the judge. Henley’s appeal was upheld and he was awarded a retrial in December 1978.
Henley’s retrial began on June 18, 1979. This second trial was held in Corpus Christi, with Henley again represented by defense attorneys Will Gray and Ed Pegelow. Henley’s attorneys again attempted to have Henley’s written statements ruled inadmissible. However, Judge Noah Kennedy ruled the written statements given by Henley on August 9, 1973 as admissible evidence. The retrial lasted nine days, with Henley’s attorneys again calling no defense witnesses and again attacking the credibility of Henley’s written confession. The defense also contended the evidence provided by the State “belonged to Dean Corll, not Elmer Wayne Henley.” On June 27, 1979, the jury deliberated for over two hours before reaching their verdict: Henley was again convicted of six murders and sentenced to six concurrent 99-year terms.
Brooks was brought to trial on February 27, 1975. Brooks had been indicted for four murders committed between December 1970 and June 1973, but was brought to trial charged only with the June 1973 murder of 15-year-old William Ray Lawrence. Brooks’ defense attorney, Jim Skelton, argued that his client had not committed any murders and attempted to portray Corll and, to a lesser degree, Henley as being the active participants in the actual killings. Assistant District Attorney Tommy Dunn dismissed the defense’s contention outright, at one point telling the jury: “This defendant was in on this killing, this murderous rampage, from the very beginning. He tells you he was a cheerleader if nothing else. That’s what he was telling you about his presence. You know he was in on it.”
Brooks’ trial lasted less than one week. The jury deliberated for just 90 minutes before they reached a verdict. He was found guilty of Lawrence’s murder on March 4, 1975, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He showed no emotion as the sentence was passed, although his wife burst into tears.
Brooks also appealed against his sentence, contending that the signed confessions used against him were taken without his being informed of his legal rights, but his appeal was dismissed in May 1979.
Both Henley and Brooks are serving life sentences. Henley is incarcerated at the Mark W. Michael Unit in Anderson County, Texas; Brooks is incarcerated at the Ramsey Unit near Rosharon, Texas.
Corll and his accomplices are known to have killed a minimum of 28 teenagers and young men between September 1970 and August 1973, although it is suspected that the true number of victims may be 29 or more. As Corll had been killed immediately prior to his murders being discovered, the true number of victims he had claimed will never be known. To date, 27 of Corll’s known victims have been identified, and the identity of a 28th victim whose body has never been found is conclusively known. All of these victims had been killed by either shooting, strangulation or a combination of both.
- September 25: Jeffrey Konen, 18. A student at the University of Texas at Austin abducted while hitchhiking from Austin to the Braeswood Place district of Houston. He was buried at High Island Beach.
- December 13: James Glass, 14. An acquaintance of Corll who also knew David Brooks. Glass was last seen by his brother in the company of Danny Yates walking towards the exit of the church the trio had attended. He was strangled with a cord and buried inside the boat shed.
- December 13: Danny Yates, 14. Lured with his friend James Glass from a Heights evangelical rally by David Brooks to Corll’s Yorktown apartment. He and his friend were strangled before being buried in a common grave in Corll’s boat shed.
- January 30: Donald Waldrop, 15. Vanished on his way to visit a friend to discuss forming a bowling league. According to Brooks, Donald’s father, who was a builder, was working on the apartment next to Corll’s at the time that Donald and his brother were murdered.
- January 30: Jerry Waldrop, 13. The youngest of Corll’s victims. He and his brother were strangled and buried in a common grave inside Corll’s boat shed.
- March 9: Randell Harvey, 15. Disappeared on his way home from his job as a gas station attendant; he was shot in the head and buried in Corll’s boat shed. Remains identified October 2008.
- May 29: David Hilligiest, 13. One of Henley’s earliest childhood friends; he was last seen alongside his friend Gregory Malley Winkle climbing into a white van.
- May 29: Gregory Malley Winkle, 16. A former employee of Corll Candy Company and boyfriend of Randell Harvey’s sister; Winkle disappeared on his way to visit a local swimming pool. He last phoned his mother claiming that he and Hilligiest were swimming in Freeport. His body was found in the boat shed with the cord used to strangle him knotted around his neck.
- August 17: Ruben Watson Haney, 17. Left his home to visit the cinema on the afternoon of August 17. Haney later called his mother to tell her he was spending the evening with Brooks. He was gagged, strangled and buried in Corll’s boat shed.
- February 9: Willard Branch, Jr. 17. The son of a Houston Police officer who subsequently died of a heart attack in the search for his son. Branch was emasculated before he was strangled and buried in the boat shed. Remains identified July 1985.
- March 24: Frank Aguirre, 18. Aguirre had been engaged to marry Rhonda Williams, whose presence in Corll’s house sparked the fatal confrontation between Henley and Corll. He was strangled and buried at High Island Beach.
- April 20: Mark Scott, 17. A friend of both Henley and Brooks who was killed at Corll’s Schuler Street address. He was forced to write a letter to his parents telling them that he found a job in Austin. According to Henley, Scott was strangled and buried at High Island, although his remains were never found.
- May 21: Johnny Delome, 16. A Heights youth who was last seen with his friend walking to a local store. He was shot in the head, then strangled by Henley.
- May 21: Billy Baulch Jr., 17. A former employee of Corll Candy Company. Baulch was forced to write a letter to his parents claiming he and Delome had found work in Madisonville before he was strangled by Henley and buried at High Island Beach.
- July 19: Steven Sickman, 17. Sickman was last seen leaving a party held in the Heights. He suffered several fractured ribs before he was strangled with a nylon cord and buried in the boat shed. Remains misidentified December 1993 and correctly identified March 2011.
- c. August 21: Roy Bunton, 19. Disappeared on his way to work at a shoe store. He was shot twice in the head and buried in the boat shed. Remains misidentified October 1973 and correctly identified November 2011.
- October 2: Wally Jay Simoneaux, 14. Lured with his friend into Brooks’ Corvette on the night of October 2. Simoneaux attempted to call his mother at Corll’s residence before the phone was disconnected. He was strangled and buried in Corll’s boat shed.
- October 2: Richard Hembree, 13. Last seen alongside his friend in a vehicle parked outside a Heights grocery store. He was shot in the mouth and strangled at Corll’s Westcott Towers address.
- November 15: Richard Kepner, 19. Vanished on his way to call his fiancée from a pay phone, he was strangled and buried at High Island Beach. Remains identified September 1983.
- February 1: Joseph Lyles, 17. An acquaintance of Corll who lived on the same street as Brooks. He was seen by Brooks to be “grabbed” by Corll at his Wirt Road address and was subsequently buried at Jefferson County Beach. Remains located August 1983 and identified November 2009.
- June 4: William Ray Lawrence, 15. A friend of Henley who phoned his father to ask if he could go fishing with “some friends.” He was kept alive by Corll for three days before he was strangled with a cord and buried at Lake Sam Rayburn.:27
- June 15: Raymond Blackburn, 20. A married man from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who vanished while hitchhiking from the Heights to see his newborn child. He was strangled by Corll at his Lamar Drive residence and buried at Lake Sam Rayburn.
- July 7: Homer Garcia, 15. Met Henley while both youths were enrolled at a Bellaire driving school. He was shot in the head and chest and left to bleed to death in Corll’s bathtub before he was buried at Lake Sam Rayburn.
- July 12: John Sellars, 17. An Orange County youth killed two days before his 18th birthday. Sellars was killed by four gunshots to the chest and buried at High Island Beach. He was the only victim to be buried fully clothed.
- July 19: Michael Baulch, 15. Corll had killed his older brother, Billy, the previous year. He was strangled and buried at Lake Sam Rayburn. Remains identified September 2010.
- July 25: Marty Jones, 18. Jones was last seen along with his friend and roommate, Charles Cobble, walking along 27th Street in the company of Henley.
- July 25: Charles Cary Cobble, 17. A school friend of Henley whose wife was pregnant at the time of his murder; Cobble last phoned his father in a state of hysteria claiming he and Jones had been kidnapped by drug dealers. His body, shot twice in the head, was found in the boat shed.
- August 3: James Stanton Dreymala, 13. The son of Seventh-day Adventists, Dreymala was last seen riding his bike in South Houston. He last called his parents to tell them he was at a “party” across town.
- At Henley’s trial in 1974, the Harris County medical examiner raised questions as to whether John Sellars was actually a victim of Dean Corll. Sellars, a U.S. Marine who had been reported missing on July 12, 1973, had been killed by four gunshot wounds to the chest fired from a rifle, whereas all of Corll’s other known victims had either been shot with the same pistol that Henley had used to kill Corll or strangled. Moreover, Sellars’ car had been found burned-out in Starks one week after the youth had disappeared.
- Police had been led to Sellars’ body on August 13, 1973 by a trucker who recalled conversing with a youth he believed to be Henley after he had observed a car stuck in the sand close to where Sellars’ body was subsequently found. The youth had rebuffed the trucker’s offer of assisting to free the car, stating he had two friends with him who would free the vehicle. Neither Henley or Brooks specifically mentioned Sellars being a victim of Corll’s in their confessions, nor have they disputed his being a victim. The official tally of victims was reduced to 26 in 1974 after Dr. Jachimczyk testified Sellars “probably was not” murdered by Corll and his accomplices. However, Sellars was of the same age as Corll’s known victims and his grave on High Island Beach was close to where confirmed victims of Corll were buried. In addition, the youth’s body was found bound hand and foot with rope as other victims had been.
In June 2008, Dr. Sharon Derrick, a forensic anthropologist with the medical examiner’s office in Houston, released digital images of Corll’s three still-unidentified victims. The unidentified victims were listed as ML73-3349, ML73-3356 and ML73-3378. Two of the unidentified victims were found buried in the boat shed and were estimated to have been killed in 1971 or 1972. ML73-3378 was buried at Lake Sam Rayburn just 10 feet (3 m) from the body of Homer Garcia, who had disappeared on July 7, 1973. The victim was estimated to be in a slightly more advanced state of decomposition to Garcia, leading investigators to estimate that he had been killed in mid- to late-June 1973.
- On October 17, 2008, ML73-3349 was identified as Randell Lee Harvey; a Heights teenager who had been reported missing on March 11, 1971 – two days after he had disappeared. Harvey, who had been shot through the eye, was wearing a navy blue jacket with red lining, jeans and lace-up boots. A plastic orange pocket comb was also found alongside his body.
- A body found on a beach in Jefferson County in August 1983 is strongly believed to be a 28th victim of Dean Corll. The body was identified November 11, 2009, through DNA analysis as 17-year-old Joseph Lyles, a Heights teenager who had disappeared on February 1, 1973. Lyles is known to have both visited Corll’s apartment and to have lived on the same street as David Brooks. He was listed as a possible victim of Corll after the other murders were discovered in 1973. At the time of his disappearance, Corll resided in an apartment at 1855 Wirt Road, where he lived between January 20 and March 7, 1973, when he moved to his father’s Pasadena bungalow. Brooks had specifically stated Corll had “got one boy by himself” during the time he lived at this address. In addition, at the time that Lyles disappeared, Henley had temporarily moved to Mount Pleasant, which leaves a strong possibility that Corll had killed Lyles without the assistance of Henley.
- On September 13, 2010, DNA analysis was able to confirm that the unidentified victim known as ML73-3378 was actually Michael Anthony Baulch, who had incorrectly been identified as case file ML73-3333: the second victim unearthed from the boat shed. Michael Baulch had disappeared en route to a barbers on July 19, 1973—a year after his brother, Billy, had been murdered by Corll. The 1973 mis-identification of Michael Baulch was discovered as a result of an independent investigation conducted by a reporter named Barbara Gibson, who submitted her research to Dr. Derrick that indicated that the second victim unearthed from the boat shed had been mis-identified.
- Henley had stated in his confession to police that he and Corll had “choked” Michael Baulch and buried him at Lake Sam Rayburn. The unidentified victim mistakenly identified as Michael Baulch had been killed by two gunshots to the head and buried inside the boat shed. Three factors had helped lead to the 1973 mis-identification of Michael Baulch: Michael’s parents had previously filed a missing person’s report on their son (who had previously left home to search for his older brother) in August 1972 – precisely the same time as the second victim unearthed from the boat shed was estimated to have been killed. This was the only missing person’s report on file for Michael Baulch. In addition, the victim was of a similar height to Baulch and circumstantial dental fractures had also helped facilitate the mis-identification.
- On November 4, 2011, the victim mistakenly identified as Michael Baulch (case file ML73-3333) was identified through DNA analysis as Roy Eugene Bunton, a Heights teenager who was last seen by his family heading for work at a Houston shoe store on or about August 21, 1972. Bunton’s family had always believed him to be a victim of Corll and had contacted Dr. Derrick in 2009 to submit a DNA sample for comparison with the unidentified bodies. Initially, the results conducted had been negative due to the misidentification of Bunton’s remains as being those of Michael Baulch. However, upon discovering the 1973 misidentification of Baulch’s remains, DNA samples obtained from Bunton’s family were compared to those taken from the body mistakenly identified as being that of Michael Baulch and these proved to be a conclusive match to Roy Bunton.
- In the confession given by Elmer Wayne Henley on August 9, 1973, the youth had stated that victim Mark Scott had been strangled and buried at High Island. David Brooks had also stated in his confession that Scott (who was well known to both of Corll’s accomplices) was likely buried at High Island. Scott had been a blond youth who had not had any teeth extracted prior to his disappearance; however, a Dr. Elizabeth Johnson of the Harris County Medical Institute had concluded in 1993 that the fifteenth set of remains unearthed from the boat shed—which had physical characteristics such as dark brown hair and two extracted molars—were those of Mark Scott. Dr. Johnson had based her findings upon comparison of DNA analysis of a blood sample taken from Scott’s mother with the remains unearthed from the boat shed, stating with a 98.5% degree of accuracy the decedent had been related to Scott’s mother.
- In a 2010 interview granted to an investigative reporter named Barbara Gibson, Henley disputed the 1993 identification of a victim buried in the boat shed as being Mark Scott and reiterated his claim that Scott had been buried at High Island “in the sand: fetal position; head up,” adding that he had repeatedly argued this point with Dr. Jachimczyk.
- As a result of Henley’s claims, DNA tests on the body identified as Scott were again tested against samples of DNA taken from Scott’s family. In March 2011, DNA analysis confirmed that the victim known as ML73-3355, had also been misidentified and the same month, the victim was identified as Steven Kent Sickman, a 17-year-old who was last seen walking down West 34th Street shortly before midnight on July 19, 1972, and who was murdered at Corll’s Westcott Towers address. Sickman’s mother had reported her son missing shortly after his disappearance, but police had been unwilling to conduct a search for the youth, telling the mother that the youth was 17 years old and that unless they found a body, there was nothing they could do to assist her. Had Henley not been adamant in his assertion that the body of Mark Scott had been misidentified, Sickman would have never been conclusively confirmed as a victim of Corll.
- All six bodies directly linked to the Houston Mass Murders found at High Island have been identified. As Henley’s claim that the victim known as ML73-3355 was not Mark Scott has been proven to be correct, a strong suspicion remains that the body of Mark Scott remains buried on High Island.
Possible additional victims
Forty-two boys had vanished within the Houston area since 1970.:9 The police were heavily criticized for curtailing the search for further victims once the record set by Juan Corona for having the most victims had been surpassed. After finding the 26th and 27th bodies, tied together, at High Island Beach, the search was terminated on August 13, 1973, despite Henley’s insistence that two further bodies had been buried on the beach in 1972. A curious feature about this final discovery was the presence of two extra bones (an arm bone and a pelvis) in the grave, indicating at least one additional victim awaiting discovery.:3670
The two bodies that Henley had insisted were still buried on the beach may have been those of Mark Scott and Joseph Lyles. In light of developments relating to the identifications of victims, the body of Scott still lies undiscovered at High Island, while Lyles’ remains were only found by chance in 1983. Had the search for bodies continued, both victims would have likely been discovered. Following Hurricane Ike in 2008, the area of High Island Beach where Corll is known to have buried his victims remains submerged, leaving a strong possibility that Scott’s body will never be found.
Detective David Mullican, recollecting the Houston Mass Murders, April 2011.
Former workers at the Corll Candy Company recalled Corll doing a lot of digging in the years leading up to 1968, when his mother’s third marriage was deteriorating and the firm was failing. Corll stated he was burying spoiled candy to avoid contamination by insects. He subsequently cemented over the floor. He was also observed digging in waste ground that was later converted into a car park. Former Corll Candy Company employees also recalled that Corll had rolls of clear plastic of precisely the same type used to bury his victims. Moreover, co-workers at the Houston Lighting and Power Company would also state that, from the earliest days of his employment, Corll had repeatedly retained coils of used nylon cord which would otherwise have been discarded. This brand of cord was the same type used to strangle and bind the bodies of many of his victims. The suspicion is that Corll may have begun killing much earlier than 1970, and may also have been abusing youths prior to this date.
Moreover, Brooks claims that Corll’s first murder victim was a youth killed at an apartment complex on Judiway Street, where Corll had lived prior to September 1970. The earliest of Corll’s victims known by Brooks were two teenage boys killed at 3300 Yorktown, where Corll lived after moving out of his Judiway Street apartment. Corll’s earliest double-murder, that of James Glass and Danny Yates, took place in December 1970; Glass and Yates were actually killed at Corll’s Yorktown address, as was Corll’s earliest known murder victim, Jeffrey Alan Konen, killed in September 1970.:3661 A possibility exists that the earliest double-murder victims were Glass and Yates; however, Brooks specifically described Glass as being killed in an altogether separate double-murder from Corll’s first double-murder in his confession to police. In addition, Brooks only knew the location of Konen’s body at High Island Beach due to the fact that Corll had shown him the location. It is possible that the initial double-murder Brooks had discovered Corll in the process of committing occurred after the murder of Konen and before those of Glass and Yates. These details, alongside the two additional bones that were found with the 26th and 27th victims discovered, indicate a minimum of two and possibly four more unknown victims.
There are two suspiciously long gaps between known victims in the chronology of Corll’s known murders. Corll’s last known victim of 1971 was Ruben Watson Haney, who disappeared on August 17. The first victim of 1972 was Willard Karmon Branch, Jr., who disappeared on February 9, meaning no known victims were killed for almost six months. Moreover, Corll is also not known to have killed between February 1 and June 4, 1973. Corll’s only known unidentified victim—the 16th body found in the boat shed—was in an advanced stage of decomposition at the time of his discovery, leading investigators to deduce that the victim had likely been killed in 1971 or 1972. This unidentified victim was found wearing swimming trunks, cowboy boots, a leather bracelet and a T-shirt, leading investigators to conclude that he was likely killed in the summer months. The body was found buried near the entrance to the boat shed between the bodies of Ruben Haney and Steven Sickman, whereas the bodies of the victims killed between December 1970 and May 1971 were found buried at the rear of the shed. It is likely, though not conclusive, that the unidentified 16th victim found within the boat shed may have been killed in the late summer or early fall of 1971. Dr. Sharon Derrick has stated that she believes this particular victim may be named Harman, Harmon or French, due to the fact that the only outstanding missing person’s reports relating to youths from the Houston area dated between 1970 and 1973 which fit the forensic profile of this unknown youth hold these surnames. In addition, the T-shirt this youth had worn bore a handwritten inscription believed to read either ‘LB4MF’, ‘LBHMF’, or ‘L84MF’.
Regardless of the date when the unidentified boat shed victim had been killed, there still remains a gap of four months between February and June 1973 when no known victims had been claimed by Corll. In March 1973, a Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy had reported to Galveston County authorities that they had observed three men carrying and burying a “long, wrapped bundle” at Galveston Beach. The couple identified two of the men as Corll and Henley. The third individual had long, blond hair – like Brooks. As the couple watched the trio, one of the men (whom they later identified as Henley) advanced upon the car with such a menacing expression that the couple felt compelled to drive away.:3670 Two women had also observed three men digging at the beach in May 1973 – one of whom they positively identified as Brooks. However, police were again unwilling to extend the search.
In February 2012, a picture was released to the news media of a likely unknown victim of Corll. The color Polaroid image had been found in the personal possessions of Henley, which had been stored by his family since his arrest in 1973. The image depicts a blond-haired teenage youth in handcuffs, strapped to an undepicted device upon Corll’s floor – alongside a toolbox known to contain various instruments Corll is known to have used to torture his victims. The individual depicted has been ruled out by the Harris County Medical Examiner as being any of Corll’s known victims – including his one remaining known unidentified victim. Henley himself has stated that the picture must have been taken after he had acquired a Polaroid camera in 1972 – although he is adamant that he has no idea who this boy is. Given that Henley became acquainted with Corll in 1972, it is likely this boy would have been killed in 1972 or 1973.
Potential association with national sex ring
During a routine investigation in March 1975, the Houston police discovered a cache of pornographic pictures and films depicting young boys. Of the 16 individuals depicted within the films and photos, 11 of the youths appeared to be among the 21 victims of Dean Corll who had been identified by this date. The discovery raised the disturbing possibility that the statements Corll had given to both Henley and Brooks prior to his murder that he was associated with an organization based in Dallas that “bought and sold boys” may indeed have held a degree of truth. The discovery of the material in Houston in 1975 subsequently led to the arrest of five individuals in Santa Clara, California. No direct link in these arrests to Corll was proven, as Houston police declined to pursue any possible link to the killings, stating they felt Corll’s victims’ families had “suffered enough”.
There is still no conclusive evidence to suggest that Corll had ever solicited any of his victims in this manner, not only because Houston police chose not to pursue this potential possibility, but also because neither Brooks nor Henley have ever mentioned meeting any individuals from the “organization” Corll had claimed he was involved with. In addition to these facts, they have never mentioned ever having seen the victims either filmed, photographed or released from Corll’s torture board until after their torture and murder. The arrests in Santa Clara do, however, indicate a possible validity into Brooks’ statements to police that Corll had informed him that his earliest murder victims had been buried in California.
- A film loosely inspired by the Houston Mass Murders, Freak Out, was released in 2003. The film was directed by Brad Jones, who also starred as Dean Corll. This film largely focuses upon the last night of Dean Corll’s life, prior to Henley shooting him and contacting authorities. The film has procured mostly mixed to positive reviews, though Jones’ performance was acclaimed.
- Production of a film directly based upon the Houston Mass Murders, In a Madman’s World, finished in 2014. Directed by Josh Vargas, In a Madman’s World is directly based upon Elmer Wayne Henley’s life before, during, and immediately after his involvement with Dean Corll and David Brooks. Limited edition copies of the film were released in 2017.
- Christian, Kimberly (2015). Horror in the Heights: The True Story of The Houston Mass Murders. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1-515-19072-1.
- Gurwell, John K. (1974). Mass Murder in Houston. Cordovan Press.
- Hanna, David (1975). Harvest of Horror: Mass Murder in Houston. Belmont Tower.
- Olsen, Jack (1974). The Man with the Candy: The Story of the Houston Mass Murders. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-1283-0.
- Rosewood, Jack (2015). Dean Corll: The True Story of The Houston Mass Murders. CreateSpace ISBN 978-1-517-48500-9.
- A 1982 documentary, The Killing of America, features a section devoted to the Houston Mass Murders.
- FactualTV host a documentary focusing upon the murders committed by Corll and his accomplices. Dr. Sharon Derrick is among those interviewed for the documentary.
- The Investigation Discovery channel has broadcast a documentary focusing upon the Houston Mass Murders within their documentary series, Most Evil. This documentary, entitled “Manipulators”, features an interview with Elmer Wayne Henley conducted by a former forensic psychologist named Kris Mohandie.