CRIME: The Houston Horrors

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To prove his story, Henley led police to a boat shed in a secluded section of Houston where Corll had rented a vacant boat stall. It was there, Henley said, that many of the victims would be found. Trusties from a local jail began digging, and within hours they had exhumed eight corpses from a 6-ft.-deep mass grave. All were teen-age boys; some were wrapped in plastic bags, others covered with lime to disguise the stench of decay. The corpses were stacked one above the other, separated only by thin layers of dirt.

The grisly discovery proved to be only the beginning. With the trusties digging through the night—in exchange for time off from their sentences—police detectives donned rubber gloves and began sifting through the dirt for bits of bone, hair, flesh and clothing. Nine more bodies were recovered from the death shed.

Henley and Brooks led police to a second grave site near Sam Rayburn Reservoir, 150 miles northeast of Houston. In a wooded area, four more badly decayed corpses were found in a shallow grave. The two youths next led deputies to still a third burial site at High Island, a tiny beach town on the Gulf Coast, where two victims were unearthed, bringing the total thus far to 23.

As the search for more bodies continued, frightened parents from round the country telephoned the Houston police switchboard, supplying descriptions of lost or runaway children. Police began the difficult task of identifying the victims, drawing on Brooks' and Henley's recollections, analyzing the remains, and sifting through thick files on missing youngsters. More than 5,000 minors are annually reported missing in the Houston area. Because of the decomposition of the bodies, only two positive identifications had been made by week's end, and police were uncertain whether they would ever be able to name all the victims.

Shadowy Figure. In addition to the three grave sites pointed out by Henley and Brooks, police learned from the boatyard manager that Corll had put his name on a waiting list for still another boat stall. Police were looking into the possibility of other burial grounds perhaps unknown to either Brooks or Henley. Ominously, Corll had once told Henley that some of his early victims were in California, and he may have killed before Henley and Brooks became his companions in blood.

So far, Corll remains a shadowy figure to police investigators. An employee of the Houston Power and Light Co., Corll told neighbors that he came from Indiana and served in the Army. Whether those facts were true, and much else about Corll, was yet to be learned as the investigation proceeded.

Brooks was charged with one killing, Henley with two. When asked why he had taken police to the grave sites of their many victims, Henley replied: "I felt I owed it to their parents to let them know what happened to them."

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