Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killers Who Surrender

Self Defense

Elmer Wayne Henley
Elmer Wayne Henley

In Houston, Texas on August 8, 1973, a tearful Elmer Wayne Henley, 17, alerted law enforcement to his part in the schemes of a murdering predator. Jack Olson documented the case in The Man with the Candy. During this call, Henley told officials he had just killed Dean Corll, 33, known locally as the "Candy Man." He claimed that he, Corll and another accomplice, David Brooks, had been luring boys into Corll's home for sex and torture. Indeed, the police found that Corll had been shot six times, and Henley said it had happened because he anticipated that Corll was about to kill him. Corll had threatened him with a gun, but Henley had managed to get the gun away and he then used the opportunity to shoot the man. Rather than bury the body, as he'd done with over two-dozen victims, he had turned himself in.

Dean Corll
Dean Corll

As Henley showed the police one buried boy after another, he described Corll's diabolical schemes. Corll had paid Brooks and Henley to bring young boys to him for drugs and then his brand of aggressive sex. After handcuffing his victims to a board and torturing them with large implements, he eventually turned to murder. Sometimes, Henley added, Corll even chewed off their genitals or castrated them. A few times he killed two together, and the youngest victim was only nine. But for at least two years, Henley and Brooks had not tried to stop him. That made them just as culpable.

Seventeen bodies of white males were found stuffed under a boathouse, along with containers of genitalia. At two other sites, ten more bodies were exhumed. By the time all was said and done, there were 27 victims, the largest serial murder toll at the time in U.S. history. Brooks and Henley both received life sentences for their parts in this string of vicious murders.

Dean Corll's victims
Dean Corll's victims

Henley has since been featured in a documentary, Collectors, about serial killers who sell their artwork. Supposedly, he enjoys painting sunsets. When some of his paintings went into a Texas art gallery in 1998, protesters showed up with signs reading, "Hang Henley, not his art." Some sources report that he's remorseful.

Sometimes killers who stop themselves are not nearly as articulate as he was; in fact, their state of mind comes into question.

 

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