Homosexual Rape, Torture and Serial Killings in Texas

The names John Wayne Gacy, Jr. and Jeffrey Dahmer strike fear and disgust in the hearts of anyone who's familiar with their crimes. However, for some reason Dean Corll, who raped, tortured and killed ten more teenage boys than did Dahmer (but six fewer than Gacy) is not nearly as well-known as the killers who came after him. The reason for this may have been because Corll committed his crimes between 1970 and 1973; people weren't ready or willing to hear about serial killers; much less serial killers who rape, torture and mutilate their victims. One source for this piece suggests that in conservative, religious early-'70s Texas, homosexual rape was a crime worse than murder.

He was goin' to pay me to find people and bring 'em to him; and help him do his thing; help kill 'em.

— Elmer Wayne Henley

Dean Corll was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on Christmas Eve, 1939. His parents divorced and he and his brother moved with their mother to a shabby neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Growing up, he was described by teachers as being well-behaved and earning good grades at school.

Corll was known in his neighborhood as "The Candy Man." He'd spent years working at home with his mother, making candies and selling them in a small shop attached to the house, once the garage.

A stint in the Army beginning in 1964 was cut short because of a hardship petition made so Dean could return home and help his mother with the candy shop. Corll, a bachelor, was described as a polite man with a gift of kindness. One acquaintance told reporters that Corll must've gone through about a dozen television sets because he would give them away to kids in the neighborhood.

When Corll's mother moved to Colorado, he moved into a home in Houston suburb Pasadena, Texas once owned by his father, a modest but neat place. He hired on with the Houston electric utility where he trained to become an electrician. He made a good living and was well-liked by his co-workers and superiors.

Nobody really noticed how peculiar it was for a man in his thirties to be hanging around with boys half his age. Corll and his two friends, Elmer Henley and David Brooks, could be seen driving around in Corll's white van. In fact, on occasion, the van (equipped with a couch in the back) would be filled with young teenagers, on the way to swimming or camping trips. By mid-1969, both Henley and once A-student Brooks had dropped out of high school and began spending much of their time with Corll.

"I Shot Him in Self-Defense"

Early in the morning of August 8, 1973, police dispatchers received a call from a young man who said he'd just shot his friend. It was Elmer Henley. He, Brooks and Henley's girlfriend, 15-year-old Rhonda Williams waited outside of the house and greeted the police who arrived.

Initially it looked like a cut-and-dry case of an argument that had gotten out of hand and ended in gunplay. Dean Corll was found on his living room floor; dead from six gunshot wounds. The police were shocked by what they heard next. Elmer calmly described the three-year spree of procuring victims for Corll, the tortures and murders, and disposal of the bodies. Investigators were about to write-off Elmer's story as the ramblings of a drunk, drugged-up teenager; however, they found some peculiar things in Corll's house that piqued their curiosity.

Most peculiar was that many of the surfaces, especially in a hallway and bedroom, were covered with sheet plastic. There was a blood stain on a hallway wall. In the master bedroom, there was a "torture board;" a thick piece of plywood with shackles for hands and feet. Also found were various instruments of torture and assorted dildos and other sex toys.

Apparently Corll had become enraged at Elmer for bringing the young girl to the house. The young people drank and sniffed glue until they passed out. Elmer awoke to find himself and his friends bound at the hands and feet. Somehow, the boy managed to convince Corll that he'd help him carry out the murders of the other two. As soon as Elmer, now freed, got his hands on Corll's gun; he shot Corll at point blank range and killed him instantly.

The Boat Shed and Other Hiding Places

Police figured it wouldn't hurt to test some of the allegations being made by Elmer Henley. Henley led them to the secluded boat shed and the police, aided by trusties from a local prison, began digging. The first body, that of a 13-year-old boy, wrapped in plastic, was uncovered easily; less than a foot of dirt had been scattered on the corpse. It became apparent that Corll had spread lime around the shallow graves to hide the stench. One by one, they removed decomposing and skeletal remains. Even the most hard-boiled police investigators were filled with horror:

They had all seen death, but none had encountered the wholesale transfiguration of rollicking boys into reeking sacks of carrion.

— Author Jack Olson, The Man With The Candy, Simon & Schuster, 1974.

The police were led by Elmer Wayne Henley to two other secluded spots that yielded yet more remains. Many were identified by cross-referencing missing persons reports. The victims were all residents of the hamlet of Pasadena or just nearby. Quite a few were from Corll's own neighborhood.

Police had not followed up properly on the missing persons reports; even when four boys on the same block went missing within a year's time. The Houston area was growing and the police were up to their eyeballs in more serious matters than what they thought were run-away teenagers. No attention to the concentration of disappearances in the neighborhood was given.

Many of the bodies recovered showed signs of mutilation and torture. A common practice was to insert a glass pipette or rod into the urethra of a victim and break it.


David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley were given life sentences in prison, where they remain to this day. Every ten years, their parole applications are denied.

As recently as October 23, 2008, intrepid forensic workers have attached identities to all but a few of the victims. The process, decades after the crimes, is indeed akin to finding a needle in a haystack. DNA testing of the unidentified remains brought closure to two sisters of one of the victims.


Video: Archival news footage; low-quality but graphic

"How a Serial Killer Victim was Finally Identified" by Monica Rhor, Associated Press, October 24, 2008

"The Houston Horrors" (Author unattributed) Time August 20, 1973

"Dean Corll - The Candy Man" Unsolved Mysteries writers' website

"Dean Corll, Elmer Wayne Henley & David Owen Brooks" The Wacky World of Murder

"Dean Corll and the Houston Mass Murders," by Charles Montaldo, About.com

"Dean Corll" by Marilyn Bardsley, TruTV.com

"It took painstaking DNA tests and a skeletal analysis for morgue to link a victim to a serial killer and bring closure to two sisters" by Peggy O'Hare, The Houston Chronicle October 23, 2008


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