In 1973, Texan teenager Wayne Henley shot and killed his adult friend Dean Corll. Shortly after, the horrible story of their friendship was revealed.
Corll was a serial killer who perpetrated the gruesome Candy Man murders. While at large, he regularly threw parties for teenagers as a guise for selecting his victims. Once a boy had been singled out, he would handcuff, rape, and murder them in a variety of brutal ways.
At the time of the investigation, the Houston police didn’t want people to know that a serial killer had been working under their noses for years, so they decided to stop counting victims at 27.
Then, in 2012, a filmmaker discovered a Polaroid that suggested Corll had at least one more victim. However, the photo poses more questions than answers. Is the boy in the photograph the 29th victim of Dean Corll? Or, did he suffer a more benign fate than the other boys from Houston?
The world may never know what happened to this John Doe, but there are a variety of theories about who he is and where he came from.
A Filmmakers Finds A Photo Of A Missing Boy
In 2012, Josh Vargas, a filmmaker researching Dean Corll's murders, was interviewing the mother of Wayne Henley, one of Corll's teenage accomplices. After the interview, she allowed Vargas to go through some of Henley's personal belongings that weren't turned over to the police.
It was here that Vargas discovered what may be a startling new piece of evidence. Inside a cardboard box was a sealed envelope containing a Polaroid photo of a young boy handcuffed near a toolbox. This photo matches both the crime scene photos from inside Corll's home and the killer's M.O.
Vargas told ABC, "While rummaging through those pictures, this Polaroid falls out. I take a look at it and, right off the bat, having studied the case and the crime scene photos and everything, I see Dean’s toolbox, and I see his implements in that tool box, and I see this kid right here with handcuffs on his arms."
The Boy In The Photo Wasn't One Of Corll's Known Victims
The biggest roadblock to discovering the identity of the boy in the photo is that he's not one of Corll's known victims. It's possible that the boy may be one of many children who went missing during the '70s in Houston. Unfortunately, at the time, police didn't keep records of children who were reported missing.
After discovering the photo, filmmaker Josh Vargas turned the picture over to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office. The office reviewed the photograph, but wasn't able to find any conclusive evidence that the boy suffered the same fate as the rest of Corll's victims.
Regarding the photo, an investigator stated "The relatively poor image quality does not allow for a conclusive comparison of features to known or unknown individuals associated with the 1973 murder cases. However, the individual depicted is not immediately recognizable as one of the known victims or missing persons in the photographs or descriptions in the HCIFS files."
Wayne Henley Didn't Remember The Boy In The Photo
Wayne Henley has been very open about his time with Dean Corll in the '70s. Not only does he not seem to mind discussing the murders, but he seems to have a good memory of everything that transpired.
When Henley was shown the photo that Vargas found in his belongings, he had no idea who the boy was or whether he'd been one of Corll's victims. Henley later admitted that it was entirely possible that the boy had been one of his mentor's victims and that he'd simply forgotten.
It's been theorized that Corll killed a lot more people than the 27 officially recognized victims, and since the murders all occurred in such a short span of time, it seems reasonable that Henley could have forgotten a few faces.
No One Had Looked Through Henley's Belongings In 40 Years
According to Vargas, he first started researching his film by interviewing Wayne Henley in prison. The two developed a solid rapport, and Henley soon suggested that the filmmaker reach out to his mother.
After meeting Henley's mother, the woman showed Vargas where she kept all of Henley's belongings from the time of the murders. She told the filmmaker that she boxed up all of teenaged Henley's things and stuffed them in an old school bus parked in a North Texas field. As the decades crept by, no one thought to investigate Henley's belongings, which remained in the now weed-covered bus.
Why wouldn't the police want to go through Henley's things to find evidence of more victims? In Jack Olsen's The Man With The Candy (which provides an excellent breakdown of the Corll murders) he explains that, at the time, the Houston police didn't want to be known for having a prolific serial killer on their hands. The moment they found the 27th body under Corll's storage shed, they immediately stopped investigating the case.