by Charles Montaldo
Dean Corll was a 33-year-old electrician living in Houston who, with two teen accomplices, kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered at least 27 young boys in Houston in the early 1970s. “The Candy Man Murders,” as the case was called, was one of the most horrific series of murders in U.S. history.
Corll’s Childhood Years
Corll was born on Christmas Eve in 1939 in Fort Wayne, Ind. After his parents divorced, he and his brother, Stanley, moved with their mother to Houston. Corll seemed to adjust to the change, doing well in school and described by his teachers as polite and well-behaved.
In 1964, Corll was drafted into the military but received a hardship discharge a year later to help his mother with her candy business. He earned the nickname “The Candy Man” because he often treated children to free candy. After the business closed, his mother moved to Colorado and Corll began training as an electrician.
An Odd Trio
There was nothing remarkable about Corll except his odd choice of friends, mostly young male teens. Two were particularly close to Corll: Elmer Wayne Henley and David Brooks. They hung around Corll’s house or rode in his van until Aug. 8, 1973, when Henley shot and killed Corll at his home. When police interviewed Henley about the shooting and searched Corll’s home, a bizarre, brutal story of torture, rape, and murder emerged, called “The Candy Man Murders.”
During police interrogation, Henley said Corll paid him $200 or more “per head” to lure young boys to his house. Most were from low-income neighborhoods, easily persuaded to come to a party with free alcohol and drugs. Many were Henley’s childhood friends and trusted him. But once inside Corll’s home, they become victims of his sadistic, murderous obsessions.
The Torture Chamber
Police found a bedroom at Corll’s house that appeared to have been designed for torture and murder, including a board with handcuffs attached, ropes, a large dildo, and plastic covering the carpet.
Henley told police that he’d infuriated Corll by bringing his girlfriend and another friend, Tim Kerley, to the house. They drank and did drugs, and all fell asleep. When Henley awoke, his feet were bound and Corll was handcuffing him to his “torture” board. His girlfriend and Tim also were bound, with electrical tape over their mouths.
Henley knew what would follow, having witnessed this scenario before. He convinced Corll to free him by promising to participate in the torture and murder of his friends. Then he followed Corll’s instructions, including attempting to rape the young woman. Meanwhile, Corll was trying to rape Tim, but he fought so much that Corll became frustrated and left the room. Henley grabbed Corll’s gun, which he’d left behind. When Corll returned, Henley shot him six times, killing him.
Henley readily talked about his part in the murderous activity and led police to the victims’ burial sites. At the first location, a boat shed Corll rented in southwest Houston, police uncovered the remains of 17 boys. Ten more were found at other sites in or near Houston. Altogether, 27 bodies were recovered.
Examinations revealed that some boys had been shot while others were strangled. Signs of torture were visible, including castration, objects inserted into victims’ rectums, and glass rods pushed into their urethras. All had been sodomized.
Houston police were criticized for failing to investigate missing persons’ reports filed by the dead boys’ parents. The police viewed most reports as probable runaways, although many came from the same area. Their ages ranged from 9 to 21; most were in their teens. Two families lost two sons to Corll’s rage.
Henley confessed to knowing about Corll’s brutal crimes and participating in one murder. Brooks, although closer to Corll than Henley, told police he had no knowledge of the crimes. Following the investigation, Henley insisted three more boys had been murdered, but their bodies were never found.
In a highly publicized trial, Brooks was convicted of one murder and sentenced to life in prison. Henley was convicted of six murders and received six 99-year terms. Killing “The Candy Man” was judged an act of self-defense.