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The Lost Boys

By Richard C. Vara

Feb. 12, 2022

Most people have heard of the legend of the Candyman or the Pied Piper. Mostly from adults who tell the stories to keep their kids from doing something bad or to scare them into going to bed. However, in the 1970s in Houston, Texas, the Candyman and the Pied Piper were all too real and wreaking havoc under the unknown name of Dean Corll. The mass murders of 28 boys are known as the Houston Mass Murders that took place from 1970-73. In the pantheon of serial killers, Corll is not the most well-known name. We tend to think of names such as Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dommer and others who have reached a morbid rockstar status in society for their crimes.

This could also be due to the nature of Corll’s victims. Corll is officially responsible for the torture, rape, and murder of 28 boys in the Houston area and possibly more according to a KHOU 11 news report on Nov 10, 2021. Texas EquuSearch and Recovery founder Tim Miller believes there could still be 20 more victims that have not been discovered.

However, Corll did not work alone in luring in all his victims. He worked with two teenage boys at the time, David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley. In 1967, Corll had been carrying on an inappropriate relationship with Brooks when he was only 12 years old. Corll met Brooks by giving away candy from his family’s candy company called Corll Candy Company. Corll was famous for giving away free candy to kids in the Heights neighborhood, gaining him the nickname “Candy Man” and the “Pied Piper.” Brooks introduced Henley to Corll in 1971 where an odd partnership was formed between the three. Corll would pay both Brooks and Henley $200 for boys that they could lure to him.

Brooks and Henley would lure boys in by promising them drugs and a good time. Once the victim agreed they took them to meet Corll on the corner of 11th and Heights Blvd.  From there they would ride off in Corll’s Corvette, never to be seen again.

Pick up spot. Heights Blvd and 11th Street Houston, Texas.
Photo by Richard C. Vara

It’s been 49 years since The Houston Mass Murders and people still call Texas EquuSearch with tips or claiming to know where more victims are buried. Tammy Phillips, Director of Development, says, 

“From time to time, it’s not often, but we do get tips on those cases still.”

When asked how often they receive calls about the Houston Mass murders, she had this to say,

“About every other month we get a tip or an inquiry about those cases.” 

When dealing with calls about the murders, no tip is ever turned away in hopes of being able to recover a victim. Texas EquuSearch takes all information very seriously no matter the source.

“Most of the ones we received so far have been dead ends, and you know we get some mediums who call us and tell us about things. Those have all been dead ends of course, but you know we don’t want to ever turn any tip away, in hopes that it will be a legitimate one,” says Phillips.

Texas EquuSearch uses every resource they can in order to investigate all claims. They will use ground-penetrating sonar, backhoes, and even hand digging sites in order to bring justice to any case they receive.

Another person who is working to bring justice to people who have suffered from the crimes of Corll is Sergeant Anderson, who joined the Pasadena Police Department (PPD) in 1974 and is still with the PPD to this day. Anderson has become one of the leading experts when it comes to Dean Corll and the “Hoston Mass Murders.”

I asked Sgt. Anderson to clarify some of the confusion I found in my research as to whether people were aware of what was happening, or no one knew until Corll was killed. He had this to say,

“Sex drugs and rock n roll was the theme from the 60’s to the mid-’70s and a lot of these kids disappeared from the same neighborhood in Houston and back then you didn’t have computerized crime records and information that we have today.

Either someone over in the juvenile division of HPD was receiving all this information about runaways and people that were missing and a lot of them were just… hey look my sons missing, and they (HPD) would say, your son has just run away. Since your kid walked out, he just ran away, because all the kids were running away back then. I don’t think anyone drew the connection to it till it was too late. Till he (Henley) started naming names because he was arrested for killing Dean Corll. It was just an extraordinary number of kids missing and even to this day, I find it surprising that no one ever put two and two together.”

As Sgt. Anderson and I went on talking, his passion for communication was revealed when he talked about how he studied journalism at San Jacinto Community College, it was also discussed how events like this would be red-flagged a lot sooner nowadays due to the advancements in technology. Communication is a key component to that.  It is believed there are more bodies that have not been recovered. There are still lost boys buried in various parts of Houston or other areas in Texas needing to be discovered.

Abandoned complex. Houston, Texas.
Photo by Richard C. Vara

This idea is not only echoed by Tim Miller and Sgt. Anderson, but also by David Mulligan who was the lead investigator on the case. Mulligan expressed this belief to Sgt. Anderson many years ago along with a couple of former district attorneys at the time. Anderson also added,

“At this time, we have been in contact with the last surviving member, which is Elmer Wayne Henley. He is doing life here in Texas and he has agreed to assist us in possibly locating more bodies.”     

Sgt. Anderson went on to say,

 “There is only one set of parents left from the 28 that were killed. If we can find a body, get it identified, and bring some closure to some family members, that is what we are looking for.”

Henley is the last remaining survivor of this gruesome threesome. Corll was killed by Henley in 1973 as an act of self-defense. Brooks died in a prison hospital in Galveston, Texas due to covid. Henley was given six consecutive 99-year terms and is serving life in a Texas prison. The killing of Corll was legally ruled as self-defense.

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