Momma… I killed Dean
The depravity of Dean Corll, known as the Candyman
‘To the locals at the Houston Heights in Texas, Dean Corll was a role model to all the children. He even owned a candy making factory and lavishly treated the kids who were from socioeconomically challenged backgrounds. They flocked to him and he loved it.
But he was keeping a secret, a secret so cruel and disturbing. The reality of this narcissistic serial killer reverberated throughout the USA for many years to come. Unlucky for the families, but lucky for the rest of humanity, Corll never saw the inside of a courtroom to answer for his crimes. Killed by one of his accomplices, then the story broke wide. The full extent of the killings and the malevolence of the police to chase up missing children when Corll’s name was mentioned many times.
The full extent of his crimes can be found in this month’s Criminal Club, and I had a lot of fun writing the fictional story.
Hope you enjoy it.
Read the research
On the discovery of the Dean Corll’s horrific murder spree, they considered it one of the biggest murder investigations ever launched. The victims known was 27, but the true number could run into the hundreds.
The victims were young boys, teenagers. He exposed these boys to the most horrific torture and death that you could think of, and this was because Corll, to his core, was a sociopathic sadist. We call him a sociopath because he could love and nurture. With this kind of psychopathy, this made him a dangerous individual, because it was that capacity to love that allowed him to kill so prolifically. The notion that if it looks like a dog, and barks like a dog, then you guessed it, it’s a dog. Corll bucked this trend because on the outside, he was a nice guy. Amiable, even. He cared for the surrounding people, but lurking inside was a monster not seen before.
Let’s step into the world of Dean Corll, aka The Candy Man.
Arnold and Mary Corll had their first child, born December 24th, 1939, and they called him Dean Arnold Corll. They had another son, Stanley.
Corll’s father was a strict old-fashioned disciplinarian. The boys worked hard, punished frequently and treated poorly. The boys’ mother was very protective, often stepping in the father’s way of abuse, which resulted in quarrels. The arguing wasn’t always because of the boys, and four years after Stanley was born, Mary filed for divorce, the family home sold and she moved to Memphis, Tennessee.
Dean was a reserved boy, often playing alone, but showed empathy to his peers, always wanting to take care of them if they were hurt.
When he was seven, Dean contracted rheumatoid fever, which laid him up for months. Doctors also discovering a heart murmur was then excluded from any form of physical education at school.
In 1950, both his parents remarried, moved to Pasadena, Texas to start a new life. His father showed little regard to the two boys and discarded them as an annoyance. The second marriage ended three years later, the courts giving equal custody to the parents. Deans father was no model dad, but Dean remained in contact with him throughout his childhood.
Mary, Deans mother married a travelling pecan nut sales man called Jake West in 1955 where Dean gained a sister. The family started a small candy making company called The Pecan Prince. It was a cottage industry start-up in the family’s garage. Dean helped tirelessly, working before and after school. He used the candy as a bartering tool to gain friends while at school. At school, Dean was an average student, helpful in class, and his teachers said he was a well-mannered boy but was a bit of a loner. He enjoyed playing in the school band as a trombone player.
After graduating high school, the family moved to Houston so the business could be closer to the city.
Dean moved to Indiana and spent two years there, no records of note while he was there, but he returned to work at the family business where he formed a close bond with a girl. He rejected a proposal by her for marriage. When moved back from Indiana, he occupied the apartment above the candy factory so he could be on site all the time to operate the busy machines pumping out candy.
In 1963, Mary divorced Jake West and opened her own candy making business called the Corll Candy Company. It is unsure that Corll moved back to help his mother. It was that same year that an adolescent male employee had complained to Mary that Dean had made sexual advances toward him. She promptly fired the employee and ignored the complaint.
Notwithstanding the heart murmur. The army conscripted Corll into the military, there is no record to suggest that Corll tried to be exempt from military service. On August 10th, 1964, Corll turned up at Fort Polk in Louisiana for basic training. He then cycled through Benning in Georgia, then Fort Hood. His service ended after successfully gaining discharge on grounds of hardship and having to return home to help in the family business. It was during this time that Corll stepped out of the closet. He had multiple sexual experiences with other homosexuals in the army. It was then that Corll saw himself as a gay man.
Back home, he formed friendships with younger men, post pubescent boys, holding paint and glue parties in his apartment. Striking a case of friendship with David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley. Everyone could eat as much candy as they wished and got hit off the fumes of paint and glue. It was here that Corll experimented with bondage, his sadism creeping through. Brooks entered the apartment on one day to find Corll naked, two boys strapped to a home-made torture board. He released the boys and paid Brooks $200 for ensure his silence, Corll appearing embarrassed. He also offered a bounty to Brooks to buy young boys at $200 per head, Brooks agreed. $200 is $200, a large sum of money back then.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment the escalation of Corll’s behaviour stepped into murder.
An interview with Brooks states June/July 1970. “We killed a hitchhiker called Jeffery Konen.”
Most of the victims were from a disadvantaged part of Houston called the Heights. A downtrodden rough part of the city, sprawling tenements with people that drifted. The police had to deal with runaways from the Heights every day. Another person who disappeared was never followed up or taken seriously.
In December, James Glass, 14 years old, killed along with his mate David Yates following Donald and Jerry Waldrop, Wally Simoneaux and Richard Emery. Brothers Billy and Mike Baulch killed on separate occasions – can you imagine the mother?
Brooks lured a friend Elmer Wayne Henley, Corll spared the boy and offering him the same deal he offered Brooks, $200 per head.
They knew what Corll was up to because they helped dispose of the bodies after Corll had finished. Brooks moved in with Corll around this time, ‘to be closer to the action.’
Corll had given a Brooks a car, more bribery it seems. The two boys thought this was a sexual slavery thing, and murder wasn’t on the agenda that operated out of Dallas.
It didn’t take long for the two accomplices to start the murdering themselves after they found out the macabre secret that Corll was keeping. The next two years saw the end of over 27 lives. Young men whose lives were snuffed out, taken from their family homes.
The pickings were easy. The boys were bored, living in a rough part of the city. No genuine prospects. The excitement of drugs, booze and sex lured these teenagers to the candy mans home where they could drink themselves to a stupor or smoke weed. When unconscious, Corll would strip them naked, strap them to a torture board and torture them. For some the torture was short-lived, a.22 bullet in the head, for the less unfortunate, the torture lasted for up to seven days. Forced entry of a multitude of implements, electrocuted, mutilated and beaten senseless. A sick twist of Corll who found this aspect clever, forcing the victims to write to their parents they have runaway. The police using this to ignore the missing persons protocol.
The party ended on the evening of August 7th, 1973. They invited a young man called Timothy Cordell Kerley to a party at Corll’s house by Henley. Brooks was absent.
Prior to the attempted murder, Kerley and Henley left Corll’s house to buy sandwiches where they came across 15-year-old Rhonda Williams. Williams had run away from home. Her abusive alcoholic father was in ‘one of those zones’ and she needed to get out. Bruised and upset, she knew Kerley agreed to come to the party.
When they arrived at the house, Corll went mad. How dare they bring a woman to the house? Corll was explicitly a homosexual and his victims had to be male, Henley placating the incandescent Corll. Reluctantly, Corll offered the three of them weed and booze. Pacing himself, Dean watched the three with a keen interest. After a couple hours, the visitors had passed out.
Corll woke Henley as he secured his wrists with handcuffs, Henley realised that his ankles had been secured to the bed frame too. Glancing over, he saw Williams and Kerley facedown and bound too.
Corll was still furious, and his true intention had come to the surface. Bringing a woman to the party was a step too far and pointed that out to Henley. He abused Williams in front of Henley and then kicked her repeatedly in the chest. Then he dragged Henley into the kitchen, rage in his eyes placed the pistol against his head. Henley, the gift of the gab, worked overtime to placate his friend further. Convincing Corll that killing a woman would be ‘awesome,’ they could both torture the two of them together and then kill both of them, Corll agreed and removed Henley’s bonds. He ordered Henley to cut away the woman’s clothes and he was to rape Williams while Corll himself would rape and kill Kerley.
Henley started cutting away at William’s clothes while Corll got naked, tortured Kerley. They were awake. Imagine what you must think waking to this?
Williams asked Henley if this was for real?
Henley told Corll that he was going to take the girl to the other room and kill her there, Corll was busy and ignored Henley. He reached and grabbed Corll’s gun and shouted, “you’ve gone far enough.”
Corll stopped, and turned he approached Henley and goaded him, told him he didn’t have the guts to shoot. But Henley did.
He operated the trigger and the low velocity.22 round smashed into Corll’s skull but didn’t penetrate, ricocheting off into the room. Stunned, Corll stopped for a moment then kept up his advances, Henley operated the trigger two more times, the rounds slamming into Corll’s shoulder. Corll turned and made a run for the door. In the hallway Henley walked through and fired another three rounds into Corll’s back. Sliding down the wall, dying where he stood.
After shooting Corll, Henley went back to the victims and untied them. They didn’t know what to do. It was Kerley that suggested that they called the police.
At 8:24AM, the police received a phone call, Henley said, “Y’all better come right now, I just killed a man.”
Henley conveyed the address and stated on the phone that was recorded that he shot Corll four of fives times, Henley then called this mother which was also recorded famously saying “momma, I killed Dean.”
Within minutes, the police arrived to find the three teenagers sat on the step of the porch of Corll’s house. Henley had told Kerley that he would’ve gotten $200 bucks for him. He also told the police that ‘he wanted to get things off his chest.’ In custody, and Brooks, who the police went to arrest after a preliminary interview with Henley. Henley with no coercion or pressure from the police confessed to helping Corll buy young victims with Brooks. Who they lured, their names and
where they were buried. All the victims were known to the Henley and Brooks, the community was a close one.
The police didn’t believe the claims that Henley was making, as the story he was telling was so remarkable and terrible. Three boys that had recently gone missing pinged the police radar. Cobble, Hilligiest and Jones, boys that had recently gone missing and no one outside of the police knew of the boys’ absence. Reluctantly they followed Henley’s confession to shallow graves that confirmed the three boys’ fate.
They discovered a whole raft of paraphernalia in Corll’s van, peg board, wooden box with air holes and instruments that can only be described as implements of torture.
Henley and Brooks accompanied the authorities to the rented boat house where most of the bodies were buried. So many bodies. It took a bulldozer to uncover the remains, and it was a challenge to differentiate who was who. There were even skeletal remains that wouldn’t have been part of Henley and Brooks’s involvement with the murders.
Brooks maintain’s that he agreed to buy victims and the disposal of the victims, but maintained that he wasn’t present at the time of the murders. They found bodies on the beach at high Island Beach.
Families of the missing boys were highly critical of the Police department and their handling of the subsequent investigation who did nothing to search for these boys, specifically over the three-year period of 1970 to 1973. There was already a trend forming to see, yet the police still did nothing. The families arguing if they turned over stones in the community looking for these boys, the Candyman would have been found earlier. Almost all the kids missing where their remains were found came from the Heights area.
The final official tally of Corll’s murder was 28 and let’s not leave out Henley and Brooks. They were as much of a part of these murders as Corll. The authorities suspect that Corll had killed earlier, but adding two other people to his spree created a trail. With Corll dead, there is no way in corroborating this. All the victims were killed through slow strangulation or a bullet in the head.
Since 1970, over 40 boys had absconded from home and reported missing. Corll’s whereabouts without the knowledge of Henley or Brooks is impossible to determine. The police think Corll had killed more kids without the knowledge of his accomplices. Interviewing the previous employees of the candy factory throughout the 60s said Corll was always outside digging. He told the staff at the factory it was spoilt candy.
More sinisterly, in the latter part of the 70s, pornographic material of boys being tortured and killed surface. They positively identified Corll in some material giving rise to Corll’s claims to Henley and Brooks that he was part of the paedophile sex
slavery ring out of Dallas may have been true. This led to the arrest of five individuals that were cleared immediately of Corll’s murdering spree, but detained and sentenced for their involvement in child pornography.
Henley and Brooks were tried separately. They were charged with six murders, and Henley charge with manslaughter of Dean Corll, determined by the state prosecutor as self defence.
Henley was found guilty by a unanimous verdict and was sentenced to 594 years in prison.
Brooks’s verdict was delivered in under 70 minutes, in a trial that lasted less than a week, the judge imposing a whole life tariff with no chance of parole. He showed no emotion to the sentence, while his wife in the gallery burst into tears and had to be removed from the courtroom.
Dean Corll was a sociopath and not a psychopath with a sadistic tendency. The sociopath in him because he had the ability to love and care. It demonstrated this throughout his short, miserable life. Perhaps allowing to have accomplices confirms that he wasn’t a true psychopath, Even on his last day, he agreed Henley by letting him go. Psychopaths are egocentric and work only alone. Showing these moments in the personality of a psychopath just wouldn’t happen.