When I decided I wanted to write novels about serial killers, research was going to be an essential part of that process. But prior to that, prior to publication of the four books I have written, I came across a case that has continually drawn me back.
It would become the dark inspiration for my first novel. THE EQUINOX. The case was the Houston Mass Murders and a crime which would leave law enforcement reeling, families devastated, and unveil gruesome secrets shared by a monster and his two teenage accomplices. It was a news headline that caught my eye and brought me back to this serial killer case which still leaves me in awe. One of the killers was dead from Covid-19.
The Grooming of an Accomplice
David Owen Brooks, then 12, met and was befriended by Dean Corll in 1967, who then worked at a family-run candy company. Corll was known to give free candy to the local children, and Brooks began to look at him as a father figure as Corll gave him money and gifts. This relationship would grow to a sexual by 1969 in which Corll paid Brooks for sexual favors.
In 1970, Corll abducted two teenagers and was in the process of torturing and molesting them when he was interrupted in his home by Brooks. Corll promised Brooks a car for his silence, and the youth agreed. Brooks kept his silence, while Corll kept his promise and bought the teen a corvette. Corll would later confess to Brooks that the two abducted teens were killed after he (Brooks) had left them. Their bodies were buried near 18-year-old college freshman, Jeffrey Konen, who was Corll's first known victim.
Contract with the Devil
Corll made Brooks an offer then. He would pay $200.00 for every victim he
brought him. Brooks agreed, bringing local kids to the Corll's murderous lair. Brooks
delivered one potential victim, Elmer Wayne Henley, to Corll's house, but
rather than kill the young man, Corll took a liking to Henley and groomed him as
a second accomplice.Then Henley was on the hunt for victims.
Children were missing, but authorities had no idea of the magnitude of their problem or the sheer number of children. Many victims forced to call or write their parents saying that they had run away. The torture of these children was beyond insidious. Corll had a box of torture devices he kept next to a 4X8 sheet of plywood fashioned with handcuffs and rope coined, "the murder board." The Corll house was a torture chamber beyond all belief, paralleling the torturous deeds of the Spanish inquisition, but worse, they were doing this to innocent children.
With Henley and Brooks recruiting young victims, the disappearance of young boys in the Houston Heights rose substantially. Still, police wrote most of them off as runaway kids, due in part to the false messages of leaving home forced by Corll and his accomplices. The level of depravity in the torture killings was so grotesque, going beyond the worst humanity can dish out and into the bowels of hell itself. Corll delighted in torturing his victims with such things as dildos, biting and mutilation, and even inserting glass rods into the urethra of his victims then breaking them off. Many victims were kept inside Corll's home for days until they either succumbed to the brutality or were executed with a gun and left to bleed out.
A Call to Police – August 8, 1973
The Pasadena Police Department received a call The call from Elmer Wayne Henley on that fateful morning. Henley claimed to have shot and killed 34-year-old Dean Corll in self-defense after Corll attempted to rape and kill him and two teenage friends. Pasadena police detective David Mullican responded to the call. Inside the house, shot multiple times, a naked dead Dean Corll lay sprawled in the hallway.
"It started out as any other homicide, Mullican remarked. But in the hours that would follow, Henley's admissions would lead to the arrest of himself and accomplice David Brooks, three mass graves, and the eventual uncovering of 28 victims.
First, Henley led them to a boathouse on Silver Bell Street in Houston. There, authorities unearthed the bodies of eight children on the first day. All were naked, wrapped in plastic, covered with lye, and in various states of decomposition. The scene inside the boathouse was a gruesome spectacle in which men shoveled separated body parts in wheelbarrows and puledl the plastic cocoons of horror from their secret graves. The second day they removed nine more bodies.
Warning! This video is of a very graphic nature, showing Elmer Wayne Henley at the infamous boathouse. Click to watch.
Henley also led them to Lake Sam Rayburn, where four more bodies were uncovered.
David Brooks joined them after turning himself in for his involvement in the murders, and the two would lead them to High Island, where six more bodies would be discovered.
Dubbed: THE HOUSTON MASS MURDER
Evidence and accusations would paint both Brooks and Corll as willing participants in the killings, and Brooks would go on to allege that Henley took pleasure in not only the killing but the torture as well. Both boys would be found guilty and sentenced for their crimes,
In total, authorities unearthed 28 known victims; in one case, two brothers, Donald and Jerry Waldrop were taken and killed on January 30, 1971. There is speculation that other victims may exist. Victims abducted and killed before Corll's association with Brooks and Henley.
An Unknown Victim - 2012
Vargas asserts that the kid is probably deceased. Having read the case files, and given that he was attached to the instrument of torture, I would say Vargas is right. Authorities have ruled out the picture as being one of Corll's known victims. To date, there is no evidence beyond the photo, and the victim's identity remains a mystery.
David Brooks dies of Covid-19
After 20 denied parole applications, David Brooks contracted COVID-19 in prison and succumbed to the virus on May 28, 2020, leaving Henley as the only living member of the trio. Brooks is an enigma in all of this. He cooperated with authorities in the initial investigation. Yet, unlike the talkative Henley, Brooks kept to himself and stayed out of the media spotlight for the entirety of his life. The only time his name would appear in the media was during the many attempts at parole.
Elmer Wayne Henley – Artist?
Henley remains in prison, supported by his mother, painting, and selling artwork without alleged profit from those sales. His art is substandard, most pieces looking like a novice trying watercolors for the first time. But what draws people to the art of Elmer Wayne Henley is not the art itself, but the artist. There is a growing community of collectors drawn to the works of such monsters. In interviews, Henley places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Dean Corll, presenting himself as just another victim of Dean Corll, but Henley is the stereotypical sociopath. He has relived his crimes through interviews, exploiting them through media notoriety and interest, and now enjoying some rekindled celebrity due to Netflix's MINDHUNTER Series.
Conclusion - References.
There are so many details not listed in this short blog. If it interests you to find out more, there is plenty of information available. From books like THE MAN WITH THE CANDY by Jack Olsen and THE TRUE STORY OF THE HOUSTON MASS MURDERS by Jack Rosewood. To date, Josh Vargas film, IN A MADMAN'S WORLD is not available to this authors knowledge.