Dean Arnold Corll (December 24, 1939 – August 8, 1973) was an American serial killer who, with two accomplices (David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr.), raped and murdered at least 27 boys in Houston from 1970-1973. The story only came to light after Elmer shot and killed Corll, and at the time was considered the most brutal series of murders in American history.
Corll’s nickname was “Candy Man” because he and his family owned a candy factory in Houston Heights and Corll often lured his would-be victims with free candy.
Childhood and Youth
Dean Corll was born December 24, 1939 in Indiana to Arnold Edwin Corll (February 7, 1916 – April 5, 2001) and Mary Robinson (May 9, 1916 – May 31, 2010). Dean had a younger brother, Stanley, who was born in 1942. Arnold was strict with his sons, while Mary was protective of them. The parents quarreled often and eventually divorced in 1946. The boys remained with their mother after the divorce. Shortly after the divorce, Arnold was drafted into the Air Force in Memphis, Tennessee, after which Mary sold their home and moved with the children there to Memphis, where she settled in a trailer so her sons could maintain contact with their father. Thereafter, Arnold and Mary made attempts to reconcile. So, in 1950 they remarried and moved to Pasadena, Texas, but divorced again in 1953. In the divorce, Dean and Stanley again stayed with their mother, but continued to see their father often. Mary then married traveling watch salesman Jake West and the family moved to Widor, Texas, where Dean had a half-sister, Joyce, in 1955. On the advice of a pecan vendor, Jake and Mary started a small family candy factory there, Pecan Prince, which was originally located in the garage of their home. From that point until graduation, Dean and Stanley worked day and night at this makeshift “factory” – their duties included overseeing the machine that made the products and packing them.
As a child, Dean was a shy, serious child, rarely socializing with other children, but also interested in richer peers. At age seven, he suffered an undiagnosed rheumatic fever, which wasn’t diagnosed until 1950 (when he was ten) when doctors noticed he had heart murmurs. After that, Corll was excused from physical education classes at school. From 1954 to 1958 Dean attended Widor High School. Although he was a diligent student and did well in school, his only interest there was the school brass band, in which he played the trombone. Although there was a reputation around Dean for being a loner, he dated girls during his teenage years.
Dean graduated from high school in the summer of 1958, after which the family moved to the northern suburbs of Houston to keep their business closer to the city (since it was in Houston that Jake managed to sell most of their produce). Here they managed to open an entire store, still called Pecan Prince. In 1960, at his mother’s request, Dean had to move to Indiana to support his widowed grandmother, where he lived for almost two years. During this period he had a close relationship with a local girl, but when she asked him to marry her, he refused. In 1962 he returned to his parents to help with the store, which at that time had moved to the Houston Heights area (at that time a very economically poor area of Houston). A little later Dean moved into an apartment above the store.
In 1963 Mary divorced Jake and opened her own candy business, the Corll-Candy Company, in which Dean was named vice president. That same year one of the underage employees complained to Mary that Dean was sexually molesting him, but she simply fired the guy.
On August 10, 1964, Dean was drafted into the Army and sent for basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He was later transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, for radio technician training, after which his permanent destination was Fort Hood, Texas. According to official military records, Dean Corll’s service in the Army was spotless. Dean himself, however, was rumored to have hated military service; he tendered his resignation on the grounds that he had to assist in the family business. His petition was granted and after 10 months of service, on June 11, 1965, Dean received an honorable discharge.
Several very close acquaintances of Corll’s said that, as Dean himself told them after his return, it was in the army that he finally became aware of his homosexuality. Other acquaintances, to whom he did not say so, reported that they themselves guessed at his orientation when they noticed slight changes in his demeanor when he was in the company of underage boys.
Upon his return from the army, Dean again became vice president of their family company. Dean’s former stepfather, Jake West, retained ownership of their former business, causing fierce competition between Pecan Prince and the Corll Candy Company. As a result, Dean often had to work from morning till night to meet the growing demand for their factory’s products.
In 1965, the Corll Candy Company moved to 22nd Street and located across from Helms Elementary School. Here Dean often handed out free candy to local children (and especially to underage boys): as a result of this behavior, he earned the nicknames “Candy Man” (“Candy Man”) and “The Gummel Pied Piper. In turn, the company took on several teenagers as cheap labor and Dean was seen flirting with some of them. He also set up a pool table in the back of the factory, where the workers often gathered.
In June 1968, the Corll-Candy Company closed, after which Dean went to work as an electrician at Houston Lightning and Power, where he checked electrical relay systems, while Mary and Joyce went to Colorado. Although Mary often spoke to her son by telephone, they never met in person again. Dean worked at Houston Lightning & Power until his death.
During the period of the Corll-Candy Company, it was very common for children and teenagers to gather around Dean and spend time with him in the backyards of the factory. Dean often took them camping together on the beaches of south Texas. In 1967, Dean met David Owen Brooks, a 12-year-old sixth grader who was one of the kids he handed out free candy to. David was very complex (because he wore glasses) and developed a liking for Dean because he didn’t tease him about his looks and always gave him pocket money if David asked for it. Eventually David began to treat Dean like a second father (David’s parents were divorced and he lived with his father). Dean gradually began to bribe David with money and gifts, and their relationship also gradually went over the edge: in early 1969, Dean talked David into an intimate relationship and gave him frequent blowjobs after that. In 1970, David, who was already 15, graduated from high school and moved to his mother in Beaumont, but every time he visited his father in Houston, he also visited Dean, who allowed him to stay in his apartment, if David wanted it. At the end of 1970, however, David returned to Houston and, as he himself later recounted, began to regard Dean’s apartment as his second home.
Between December 13, 1970, and July 25, 1973, Dean Corll kidnapped and killed at least 27 people. All of his victims were boys between the ages of 13 and 20, most of them teenagers from a Houston neighborhood called Houston Heights, which was a block of streets three miles long and not more than five miles wide, populated mostly by working-class people. In most cases, Corll was assisted by two accomplices: the aforementioned David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr. Several of the victims were friends of Brooks or Hanley (or their mutual friends); others were people that Corll had met in advance. Corll’s 11 victims attended the same high school. Two of the victims, Billy Balch and Gregory Malley Winkle, were former employees of the Corll-Candy Company.
Corll’s victims were usually lured by the promise of parties in one of his two cars (a Ford Econoline van and a Plymouth GTX) and driven to his home. There they were drunk on alcohol and drugs until they passed out and handcuffed (or simply twisted by force). The victims were then stripped of their clothes and usually tied to Corll’s bed or to a special torture board that Corll had hanging on his wall. They were then raped and beaten, which sometimes lasted several days. The victims were killed in two ways: by strangulation or by shooting them with a .22-caliber pistol. The bodies were hidden in one of four places: in a rented boat shed, on a beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, in the woods near Sam Rayburn Reservoir (the Corll family had a log cabin on the shore there) in San Augustine County, or on a beach in Jefferson County. There were several instances in which Corll had his victims write letters to their parents with invented reasons for their absence so that they would not worry ahead of time. Corll often kept something to remember his victims by (most often, keys).
During the period of the murders, Corll changed his residence frequently, but never traveled far from Houston Heights. It was not until the spring of 1973 that he moved to Pasadena.
The Houston police, in most cases of Corll’s victims, didn’t put much effort into finding them, believing that teenagers had a basic thirst for vagrancy and adventure, and that sooner or later they would all come home on their own.
The First Killings
Corll’s first known victim to date was 18-year-old University of Texas freshman Jeffrey Alan Cohnen (born November 20, 1951), whom Dean killed on September 25, 1970. Conen, along with another student, was hitchhiking from the university to his parents’ home in Houston. Upon arriving in Houston, Conen was dropped off alone at the corner of Westamer Road and South Voss, which is near the upper Houston area. Corll was living in an apartment on Yorktown Street near the intersection with Westimer Road at the time and probably offered Conen a ride to his parents’ house, to which Conen apparently agreed. Forensic experts later determined that the boy had been strangled, both by the neck and by putting a piece of cloth in his mouth as a gag. Conan’s naked body, with his hands and feet bound, was covered with lime, wrapped in plastic, and buried under a large boulder on High Island Beach. Sometime around the time of Conan’s murder, David Brooks caught Corll torturing two other guys. Corll promised Brooks a car in exchange for his silence and later bought him a green Chevrolet Corvette. Even later, Corll told Brooks that the boys had been murdered and promised $200 for each boy or teenager that Brooks managed to lure into his apartment.
On December 13, 1970, Brooks lured 14-year-olds James Eugene Glass (born January 28, 1956) and Danny Michael Yates (born November 9, 1956) from Spring Branch who were returning from a religious rally. As it happened, Glass knew Brooks and had previously even visited Corll’s apartment. Both were tortured, raped and strangled. Their bodies were subsequently buried underground in a boat shed that Corll rented on November 17. Six weeks later, Brooks and Corll encountered brothers Donald Wayne, 15 (born August 15, 1955), and Jerry Lynn, 13 (born September 15, 1957), Waldrop, who were returning home from a friend. The scheme for their murder was similar: they were lured into Corll’s car and taken to his rented apartment on Mangum Road, where they were raped, tortured and strangled before being buried in the same boat shed. Their father, Everett Waldrop, it later emerged, contacted Houston police shortly after their disappearance, reporting that an acquaintance of his had allegedly seen Corll burying what looked like bodies in his boat shed. Police then conducted a cursory search around the shed and dismissed Waldrop’s information as false.
Then, between March and May 1971, Corll, with Brooks’ help, kidnapped and murdered three other Houston Heights boys: 15-year-old Randall Lee Harvey (b. 1955) (last seen by his parents on March 9 as he rode his bicycle to Oak Forest, where he worked part-time at a gas station. in 1955) (last seen by his parents on March 9 as he rode his bicycle to Oak Forest, where he was working part-time as a gas station attendant), 13-year-old David William Hilligist (born July 30, 1957) and 16-year-old Gregory Mully Winkle (born January 24, 1955) (both murdered May 29). In the case of Hilligist and Winkle, Elmer Wayne Henley first came to light in the case – 15-year-old Henley was a friend of Hilligist and one of the volunteers helping to find the missing; he even personally printed and posted notices around the neighborhood offering a reward for any information about the boys. Meanwhile, Winkle’s mother, like most of the parents of Corll’s victims, had been led to believe that her son had simply run away from home, to which she replied, “You don’t run away with nothing but a bathing suit and 80 cents.
On August 17, Corll and Brooks ran into Brooks’ 17-year-old pal Reuben Wilford Watson (born April 19, 1954), who was returning home from a movie theater in Houston. Brooks lured Watson with a party offer to Corll’s apartment (now on San Felipe Street, where Corll had moved in the month before), and things proceeded as before. In September, Corll moved to another apartment at 915 Columbia Street. Brooks later told police that during the period that Corll was living there, and literally up until the day that Elmer Wayne Henley “came on the scene,” they kidnapped and killed two other guys. And one of them was held hostage by Corll for four whole days before he killed him. The identities of the boys could not be established.
Elmer Wayne Henley’s Participation
Elmer Wayne Henley was born in Houston on May 9, 1956, and was the eldest of four sons of Elmer Sr. and Mary Weed. The father was an alcoholic and beat his wife and children. In spite of this, Mary sought to give her children a good education and shield them from adult problems. When Elmer was 14, his parents divorced and all four sons stayed with Mary. At first Elmer did well in school, but after his parents divorced, to help his mother support the family, he took a part-time job as a laborer, his grades deteriorated dramatically, and he began skipping school. During this period he met David Brooks, who was a year older. Henley and Brooks often skipped classes together and, when he was 15, Henley finally dropped out of school. Through Brooks, Henley met Corll, and there is speculation that Brooks brought Henley to the latter’s apartment as a victim, but Corll saw the boy’s potential for a future accomplice and left him untouched. At first Henley paid no attention to the true relationship between Brooks and Corll, though he guessed at the latter’s orientation, but at the same time admired him for his hard work. Beginning in 1971, Henley began to spend a great deal of time in Corll’s company.
Henley had no idea of the murders at first; Corll had led him to believe that he and Brooks were only in the business of robbery. At his instigation, Brooks had robbed several houses with them, for which he had received some money. At one point Corll asked, evidently to test whether he could kill if he had to, to which Henley replied in the affirmative. Henley learned part of the reason for the disappearance of the local boys in the winter of 1971, when Brooks brought him back to Corll’s apartment, telling him that “there was a profitable business to be done. Once again, however, Corll deceived Henley by telling him he was associated with an organization in Dallas that held young boys in sexual slavery. Like Brooks, Henley was offered a “fee” of $200 for each boy he caught. Henley later told police that he ignored Corll’s offer for several months, but his family’s dire financial situation eventually compelled him to return the favor in early 1971. The identity of the first victim to be kidnapped with Henley’s involvement remains unknown, but it is believed to have been 17-year-old Willard Carmon Branch (born July 2, 1954) of Oak Forest, who disappeared on February 17, 1972, and whose castrated body was later found buried in a boathouse. Corll, according to Henley, was living at 925 Schuler Street at the time, where he had moved that month, but Brooks later told police that at the time of Henley’s first involvement, Corll was still living at another address. Branch (if it really was him) was lured by the promise of smoking marijuana. Although Henley personally handcuffed the victim, bound her legs, and taped her mouth, he still had no idea of the subsequent murder.
The full truth was revealed to Henley a month later, on March 24, 1972, when he similarly helped lure to Corll his 18-year-old buddy Frank Anthony Aguirre (born August 22, 1953), whom the three of them had seen leaving the Yale Street restaurant where he worked. But this time, Corll personally twisted the victim and it was his abuse that opened Henley’s eyes, and he learned what had become of the previous kidnapped boys (including that Corll and Brooks admitted to Henley that they had killed his friend David Hilligist). According to Henley, he begged Corll not to kill Aguirre, but he would not listen. Even knowing the terrible truth, however, Henley accepted money from Brooks and helped them bury Aguirre’s body on High Island Beach. Later, under questioning, Brooks said that it was while Corll was living on Schuler Street that Henley had overt sadistic tendencies, which might indirectly explain why he had agreed to continue helping Corll. A month later, on April 20, Henley helped Corll kidnap another of his friends, 17-year-old Mark Stephen Scott (born July 16, 1954). The latter almost misfired when Corll tried to coerce Scott, who violently resisted and at one point armed himself with a knife, forcing Henley to pull a gun on him. Like Aguirre, Scott was buried on High Island. On May 21, the trio kidnapped two more boys, 17-year-old Billy Gene Bolch Jr. (born April 21, 1955) and 16-year-old Johnny Delomy. They were killed personally by Henley himself. He first strangled Bolch and then shot Delomie in the forehead, but he was still alive (because the bullet came out of his ear) and then Henley strangled him too. Bolch and Delomie were also buried on High Island. Sometime during this same period, while Corll was living on Schuler Street, two incidents occurred in which the affair did not go according to the usual plan. In the first, the trio lured 19-year-old Billy Rydinger, who, like the other victims, was tied to a torture board and beaten by Corll, but then Brooks, in his own words, talked Corll into letting Rydinger go. Rydinger said nothing to anyone and today is considered the only victim Corll let go. The second incident was that once Henley, upon coming to Corll’s house, stunned Brooks, whereupon Corll tied the guy to a bed and abused him several times. Brooks, despite this, however, continued to help Corll.
On June 26, Corll left Schuler Street and moved to Westcott Towers, where he killed two other boys, 17-year-old Steven Siekman (last seen on July 19 shortly before midnight on his way to a party in Houston Heights) and 19-year-old Roy Eugene Bunton (born December 31, 1952) (his abduction occurred around August 21, while he was on his way to the Houston shoe store where he worked). Siekman was beaten with a blunt object to the chest and strangled, Banton was shot twice in the head, both were buried in the boathouse. Neither Henley nor Brooks ever mentioned the names of Sickman and Banton and it wasn’t until 2011 that both were recognized as victims by Corll because their remains had previously been mistakenly identified as his other victims. On October 2, Henley and Brooks confronted Wally J. Simono and Richard Hembree as they walked to the latter’s home. Later that evening Symono called home, but all he managed to do was yell “Mama,” and the connection went dead. They were not killed until the next day and, according to Brooks, Henley accidentally shot Hembree in the jaw with a .22-caliber pistol as he entered the room where the two boys were tied up. Both were later strangled and buried in the boat shed directly over the bodies of James Glass and Danny Yates. A month later, the trio kidnapped 19-year-old Richard Kepner as he was on his way to a pay phone to call his fiancée. He was buried on High Island. In all, between February and November 1972, the trio kidnapped and killed at least 10 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 19; five were buried on the beach, five in a barn.
On January 20, 1973, Corll moved to Wirt Road in the Spring Branch neighborhood. Two weeks later, on February 1, 17-year-old Joseph Lyles, who knew Corll and Brooks (Lyles lived on Antoine Drive, where Brooks also lived in 1973), was murdered there. Henley was probably not involved in this murder, for during the same period he temporarily moved to Mount Pleasant and tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy, but his application was rejected because he did not have a meaningful high school education, and Henley soon returned to Corll’s company. Henley clearly tried to distance himself from Corll, for which purpose he moved to Mount Pleasant; this is indirectly confirmed by his 2010 interview, where he said he could not leave Houston because he suspected that Corll was looking at one of his younger brothers.
On March 7, Corll left the apartment on Wirt Road and moved into his father’s inherited apartment at 2020 Lamar Drive in Pasadena.
Presumably, between February and June 3, 1973, the trio did not kill anyone, or at any rate could not be ascertained with certainty. This was probably due both to Henley’s departure for Mount Pleasant and to the fact that Corll had developed testicular dropsy in early 1973. Nevertheless, beginning in June, the pace of Corll’s kills increased substantially. Henley and Brooks later testified that the rate of violent homicides also increased markedly while Corll was living on Lamar Drive. Henley even claimed that Corll’s insanity had reached such a point that he and Brooks gradually began to guess in advance from Corll’s outward demeanor when he would order him to look for a new victim. Between June and July 1973, the trio committed seven more murders of boys between the ages of 15 and 20, of which Henley was involved in at least six.
On June 4, 15-year-old William Ray Lawrence (last seen by his father on 31st Street) was kidnapped. After William was at the Corll house, he was forced to write a note addressed to his father in which Lawrence explained his escape and promised that he would return in late August. Of all of Corll’s known victims, William Lawrence was subjected to the most elaborate torture. According to Henley’s testimony, Dean Corll showed strong sympathy for Lawrence, which kept the boy alive, handcuffed to the plywood for three days after his abduction, during which time Corll repeatedly raped and abused him in various ways before strangling him. Lawrence’s corpse was buried at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Less than two weeks later, 20-year-old hitchhiker Raymond Blackburn was buried there. On July 6, 1973, Henley began taking lessons at Coach Auto School in Bellaire, where he met 15-year-old Homer Luis Garcia. The next day, Garcia called his mother and told her he would spend the night at a friend’s house. That same night he was shot and bled to death in the Corll bathtub, after which he was buried at the same reservoir. Five days later, on July 12, 17-year-old Marine John Manning Sellars of Orange was buried on High Island, also having been shot. Later, during Henley’s trial, the medical examiner suggested that Sellars might not have been killed by Corll. This was prompted by the fact that of all the victims identified by Corll, Sellars was the only one who had been shot (4 times) in the chest not with a gun (which was used in the case of the other victims) but with a rifle of unknown caliber, and who was buried with his clothes on. Henley and Brooks never named Sellars in their testimony, but they never denied that he may have been a victim of Corll. However, there were several factors indicating that Sellars belonged to Corll’s victims. Sellars’ grave was located close to the graves of other Corll victims, his hands and feet were similarly bound, and he was the same age as the other victims. Finally, during the course of the investigation, the police contacted a certain truck driver, who reported how he had once seen a young guy (presumably Henley) with his truck stuck in the sand near where Sellars’ body was buried. On an offer to help, the guy refused, explaining that he had two friends with him to help him. Nevertheless, a 1974 investigation excluded Sellars from Corll’s list of victims.
In July 1973, Brooks was forced to marry and temporarily left Corll, in consequence of which, according to Henley, he was not involved in the three murders, which occurred between July 19 and 25. The first victim was 15-year-old Michael Bolch (younger brother of Billy Bolch, whom Corll killed in May 1972), who was last seen on July 19 on his way to the barbershop; he was strangled and buried at the reservoir. The other two victims, Charles Cary Cobble and Marty Ray Jones, were abducted on July 25, but were not killed until two days later. After taunting them, the guys were tied to each other (one’s wrist and ankle to the other’s wrist and ankle) and forced to fight, as Corll said that the guy who beats the other to death would be released. Hours later, Jones was tied to a torture board while Cobble was abused in front of him again and then shot, after which Jones was strangled with a blinds cord. The pair were buried in the boat shed (Henley personally buried them). When police dug up Jones’s body, his mouth was wide open, which police believed indicated that Jones had been screaming at the time of his death.
Corll’s last victim is believed to be 13-year-old James Stanton Dreimela, who was murdered on August 3, 1973, and buried in a boat shed. David Brooks mentioned how he bought Dreimela a pizza and spent a full 45 minutes in his company before the boy was tortured. Henley had no part in his murder.
On the evening of August 7, 1973, 17-year-old Henley lured 19-year-old Timothy Cordell Curley to Corll’s apartment, where they sat until midnight inhaling paint fumes and drinking alcoholic beverages. They then left to buy sandwiches, after which Curley decided to drive Henley home in his Volkswagen. At the latter’s house, they ran into Henley’s roommate, 15-year-old Rhonda Louise Williams, who had been beaten by her drunken father that night and wanted to go somewhere for a while until he sobered up. Henley then suggested that Williams spend the night at Corll’s apartment, after which all three went to Pasadena. At about three o’clock on the morning of August 8, the trio arrived at Corll’s apartment. Corll became enraged that Henley had brought the girl, took him aside, and accused him of violating their privacy. He seemed to calm down, however, when Henley seemed to calm down when the latter explained to him that Williams simply did not want to go home temporarily because of an argument with her father. Corll then offered beer and marijuana to the trio, while he himself did not touch alcohol or drugs. After about two hours, all three passed out.
When Henley woke up, his mouth was taped shut, his legs were bound, and his hands were handcuffed by Corll. Nearby, already bound, were an unconscious Williams and a completely naked Curley. Noticing that Henley was awake, Corll ripped off the duct tape and reported that he was very angry with Henley and that he would kill them all. He kicked Williams in the chest several times before carrying Henley into the kitchen and holding a .22-caliber pistol to his stomach. Henley tried to calm him down by assuring him that he would participate in the torture and murder of the couple. Corll believed him and untied him. He then carried Curley and Williams to his bedroom and tied them on either side of his torture board, Curley on his belly down, Williams on his belly up. He then handed Henley a hunting knife and demanded that he cut Williams’ clothes. While Henley was doing this, Corll undressed and began torturing Curley. Williams had by then woken up and began to panic, causing Henley to ask Corll for permission to move her to another room. Corll ignored Henley’s request and the latter, seizing a moment, grabbed a gun and pointed it at Corll, yelling “You’ve gone too far, Dean!” Corll then started stepping on him saying, “Kill me, Wayne ! You won’t do it!” Then Henley fired and the bullet hit Corll in the forehead, but he continued to stand. Then Henley fired two more shots and hit Corll in the left shoulder. Corll turned and walked out of the room, but crashed into the hallway wall. Henley fired three more shots and hit him in the lower back and shoulder, whereupon Corll crawled to the floor and died as he faced the wall. Henley later recalled that the most paradoxical thing about the situation was that it was Corll who had taught him to use spontaneous decisions and actions, which had resulted in him being able to shoot him before Corll would try to take the gun away.
Henley then released Curley and Williams and suggested they just go home, but Curley persuaded him to call the police. At 8:42 a.m., telephonist Velma Lines put Henley through to the Pasadena police. While they waited for the police, sitting on the porch of the house, Henley briefly told Curley once, “I could get $200 for you.”
Recognition and Victim Search
The police were initially skeptical of Henley’s account, attributing his behavior to shock and drugs. The police believed him only when he provided several names of the murdered boys (Hilligist, Jones, and Cobble), and a search of Corll’s apartment revealed items proving that acts of violence had taken place there (among the items found were eight pairs of handcuffs and numerous artificial penises), and in the backyard, police found a box of strands of human hair that Corll had used to transport the bodies (hair belonging to Charles Cobble). A search of Corll’s Ford Econoline also pointed to the veracity of Henley’s words: its rear windows were sealed with opaque blue curtains, and a beige carpet with soil stains and another box similar to the one in the backyard were found in the very back. In the boat shed, police found a child’s bicycle, a half-dismantled car that had been stolen in March from a used car lot, and a box of the victims’ clothes. In all, police dug up eight bodies in the boathouse that day (it was still August 8).
That evening David Brooks, accompanied by his father, came to the Houston Police Department and gave a statement denying his involvement in the murders and admitting only that he knew of the two murders Corll had committed in 1970. The next day, Henley gave a full statement in which he fully admitted his complicity and denied Brooks’ statement, explaining that since his cooperation with Corll there had only been three cases in which Brooks was not involved. That same day, police brought Henley to the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. In Corll’s cabin, police found a second torture board, rolls of polyethylene, scoops, and a bag of lime, and two lime-soaked graves were found not far from the road. On the evening of August 9, nine more bodies were dug up in the boat shed (among them the Waldrop brothers, who could be immediately identified thanks to their IDs), one of whom had had his genitals cut off and buried in a sealed bag next to the victim. On the same day Brooks gave a new testimony in which he admitted to having been present at some of the murders and later helping to bury the bodies, he mentioned that on one occasion he and Henley had driven the Corll van, with the body of another victim inside, to Sam Rayburn Reservoir for the purpose of burying the murdered man, but before doing so, he and Henley had spent several hours on the beach engaged in fishing. Despite these confessions, however, Brooks still denied any direct involvement in the murders. Corll’s torture of his victims, Brooks commented, “As soon as they were on the board, they were, you would think, already dead; it was over, just screams and cries.
On August 10, Henley led police to two more graves at the reservoir (the bodies were buried three feet under), and then he and Brooks showed two more graves at High Island Beach. On August 13, Henley and Brooks were brought back to High Island Beach, where four more burials were found (including the body of John Sellars). A total of 28 bodies were discovered by police at the time, a sad record for serial murders in the United States: earlier in 1971, Juan Vallejo Corona had been arrested in California with 25 migrant men. Corll’s record, however, was already broken in 1978, when John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was arrested: he had 33 people on his payroll.
During one of the investigative experiments, police were accompanied by KPRC-TV reporter Jack Cato, who gave Henley his radio telephone so he could contact his mother. While Cato was filming him, Henley briefly told her, “Mom, I killed Dean.” A recording of the moment was broadcast on KPRC-TV that same evening and was later shown on national television on NBC Nightly News.
By April 1974, 22 victims had been identified. Many of the bodies could be identified because Social Security cards, driver’s licenses, and other personal items were found next to their decomposed remains. Jimmy Glass’ family was only able to identify him because his favorite leather jacket was next to his skeleton. Richard Kepner was identified in 1983, Willard Carmon Branch in 1985, Randall Lee Harvey in 2008, Joseph Lyles in 2009, and Roy Banton in 2011. John Sellars the police decided not to count Corll as a victim, so today the official number of victims is only 27. Since David Brooks testified that Dean Corll’s first known murders were committed alone, Houston police speculated that Corll’s real number of victims may have been much higher, as the Houston Police Department’s Juvenile Division received several thousand reports of missing children and teenagers from 1968 to 1970. In an effort to find the burials of other potential victims of Corll, during the investigation of the murders, police excavated the backyard of Corll’s Pasadena home and searched the grounds of the old candy factory. Larry Earls, the homicide detective involved in the exhumation work, later stated that both Henley and Brooks had repeatedly stated in August 1973 that there was a possibility that the real number of Dean Corll victims was unknown and there were a number of other places that Corll had previously liked to visit where they believed other burials might be located, but once the number of victims found exceeded the record for mass killings in the United States, the dig was stopped because Houston had been subject to negative publicity
On August 13 a grand jury met in Harris County to hear testimony against Henley and Brooks: the first witnesses were Rhonda Williams and Tim Curley; the second was Billy Rydinger, who entered the courtroom with a bag over his head. After a hearing that took more than six hours, the jury indicted Henley on three counts of murder and Brooks on one count. Bail for each was set at $100,000.
The district attorney requested that Henley be subjected to a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he was competent to stand trial, but his attorney, Charles Melder, opposed this, saying it would violate Henley’s constitutional rights.
By the time the trial was over, Henley had been charged with six murders committed between March 1972 and July 1973, Brooks with four between December 1970 and June 1973. Dean Corll’s murder was ruled self-defense and was not included in the indictment against Henley.
Trial and Conviction
Elmer Wayne Henley and David Owen Brooks were tried separately. Henley’s trial began in San Antonio on July 1, 1974. As police and medical examiners described the processes of torture and murder, the parents of some of the victims had to leave the courtroom to regain their composure. In all, 82 pieces of evidence were presented to the court during the entire trial. On the advice of his defense attorney, Ed Pegelow, Henley did not testify with his point of view. His second attorney, Will Gray, cross-examined several witnesses, but did not call witnesses or experts for the defense. On July 15, both sides presented their closing arguments to the jury: the prosecution sought the death penalty for Henley, the defense sought an acquittal. District Attorney Carol Vance, in his closing argument, apologized for his inability to seek the death penalty, adding that the case was “the clearest example of man-to-man cruelty” he had ever encountered. The court deliberated for 92 minutes before Elmer Henley was found guilty of all six murders and sentenced to six terms of 99 years each (594 years total) on July 16. Henley appealed the conviction, pointing out that the trial was not closed, and that requests by his attorneys to remove the press from the room and indications that the initial trial should not have been held in San Antonio were not granted by the judge. Henley’s appeal was granted and he received a retrial in December 1978. On June 18, 1979, a new trial began, which lasted nine days. Henley’s attorneys (still the same Pigelow and Gray) tried to argue the inadmissibility of Henley’s August 9, 1973 affidavit because, they said, it looked as if Henley had written it on behalf of Dean Corll himself, not himself, but Judge Noah Kennedy found it admissible. On June 27, 1979, the court, after more than two hours of deliberation, upheld Henley’s conviction.
David Brooks’ trial began on February 27, 1975. Although his indictment charged him with four murders, Brooks was tried only for the murder of William Ray Lawrence. Brooks’ attorney, Jim Skelton, argued that his client had not committed the murders and attempted to place all the blame on Corll and partially on Henley, but Assistant District Attorney Tommy Dunn rejected all his claims. Brooks’ trial lasted less than a week, and on March 4 a jury, after 90 minutes of deliberation, found him guilty of murdering Lawrence and sentenced him to life in prison. Brooks showed no emotion at the time of sentencing, but his young wife burst into tears. Brooks also appealed the sentence, claiming that he had signed a confession when he was not informed of his legal rights, but his appeal was rejected in May 1979.
On July 8, 1980, Elmer Henley filed his first petition for parole, which, like all subsequent petitions, was denied. Henley (TDCJ number #00241618) is currently in the Mark-Michael Jail in Anderson County, David Brooks was being held in the Terrell Jail near Rosharon.
Because of Corll’s death, the exact number of his victims killed between September 1970 and August 1973, as well as the period of the murders themselves, cannot be ascertained accurately. A total of 28 remains have been found, of which 27 have been officially recognized as Corll’s victims. There is also a 28th victim attributed to Corll, but her remains have not been found. There could have been many more victims, however, as a total of 42 boys (including officially identified Corll victims) were reported missing in Houston between 1970 and Corll’s death. It has been suggested that Corll may have begun killing before Brooks and Henley were involved, or may have committed some of the murders without their involvement.
On August 13, 1973, the search for bodies was abandoned, although Elmer Henley insisted that there were two other boys who were buried on High Island Beach in 1972. Presumably they were Joseph Lyles and Mark Scott. Lyles’ body wasn’t accidentally discovered until 1983, and wasn’t identified until 2009. Mark Scott remains the only Corll victim today whose body has not yet been found and will likely never be found because Hurricane Ike swept through High Island in September 2008, leaving the area flooded today.
In February 2012, a blurry Polaroid photo of Corll’s alleged but unidentified victim, found among Elmer Henley’s personal effects that his family had kept of him since his arrest, was released to the media. The image shows a teenager whose hands are handcuffed to an indistinguishable device on the floor. The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office excluded the boy from the list of all 27 official Corll victims and at the same time did not recognize him as the 28th victim whose body was not found. When Henley was shown the photograph, he could not remember the boy, but he remembered that the camera it was taken with belonged to him and had been purchased by him in 1972. Thus, this boy was among the victims murdered in 1972 or 1973.
In 1994, at the suggestion of a Louisiana art dealer, Elmer Henley began painting, seeing it partly as a hobby and partly as an attempt to support his mother monetarily. The subjects of his paintings are landscapes, portraits, buildings or flowers in an atmosphere of serenity. Henley always paints portraits of people in black and white because he suffers from colorblindness, but his other paintings are in color. In 1997, Hyde Park Gallery in Houston’s NEartown neighborhood held the first exhibition of Henley’s work, which angered relatives of some of the victims. In 1999, when Houston authorities floated the idea of building a monument to the victims, Henley said he would be willing to donate money from the sale of his paintings.
Since 1979, Henley and Brooks have applied for parole more than 20 times, but have always been denied because of protests from relatives of the victims and the seriousness of their crimes. While incarcerated, Elmer Henley gave several interviews to reporters over the years. In 2011, during one of them, he stated that in the decades since his arrest he had only once attempted to contact David Brooks and sent him a letter, but that although Brooks had responded, neither he nor Henley had any further contact. David Brooks avoided publicity during his years of incarceration and maintained relationships only with family members and a number of close friends. In December 2006, he first agreed to an interview he conducted with Sharon Derrick, who was doing DNA research at the Harris County Forensic Science Institute on the remains of Corll’s unidentified victims. During the interview, Brooks discussed his role in the mass murders for the first time in the 33 years since his arrest. Brooks also mentioned that his only daughter, who was born in 1973 shortly after his arrest, was killed in a car accident on prom night after graduation. In October 2015, Elmer Henley filed another petition for parole, but was denied. He will be able to petition again in October 2025, when he turns 69. David Brooks also filed another parole petition in February 2018, but was similarly denied and barred from filing such petitions until 2028, and on May 28, 2020, David Brooks died in a Galveston hospital at age 65 after a brief illness due to complications from a coronavirus infection.
Fragments of video footage taken during the Dean Corll investigation and the trial of Elmer Hinley, Jr. were used in the documentary “Killing America.
Elmer Wayne Hinley Jr. appears in the second season of the television series Mindhunter. The role of Elmer is played by British actor Robert Aramayo.
- Корлл, Дин
- Dean Corll
- ^ Corll’s mother would later state the inspiration for her founding a family candy business was a pecan nut salesman calling at her home and observing her baking several pies. This had inspired the salesman to state to her: “If you’ve got that much energy, why don’t you start making candy?”
- ^ Henley would later state to investigators that one of Corll’s motivations for retaining the keys of his victims had been to subsequently burglarize their homes. Although some of Corll’s victims’ homes were later burglarized, Henley was adamant he had never actually participated in these burglaries himself.
- ^ Some accounts state Branch was abducted in February 1972. However, the Office of the Medical Examiner of Harris County lists Branch’s death as having occurred in November 1972.
- The Man With The Candy ISBN 978-0-7432-1283-0
- Harvest Of Horror, 1975
- Accomplice to sadistic killer behind Houston Mass Murders again denied parole. February 11, 2018 (неопр.). Дата обращения: 1 июня 2020. Архивировано 9 ноября 2020 года.
- Dies ist kriminologisch inkorrekt, vgl. Massenmörder.
- Michael Newton: Die große Enzyklopädie der Serienmörder. 5. Auflage. Leopold Stocker, Graz 2009, ISBN 978-3-85365-240-4, S. 91.
- Overton, James L. (17 de marzo de 1975). «Horror still haunts families». UPI. Consultado el 17 de octubre de 2015.