Dean Arnold Corll
The Candy Man
The Dark Side of a “Sweet Man.”
The death of Dean Corll, also known as “The Candy Man” may have put a stop to his killing – he murdered at least 28 teenagers and young men between September 1970 and August 1973 – but it also uncovered a horrific story. The Houston Mass Murders were carried out by more than one person. Dean Corll didn’t act alone, he had the help of two teenage accomplices — David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr. They were coerced into bringing Corll fresh victims to torture and eventually kill. Not only were the deaths themselves cruel and sadistic in nature, but the way the young victims were led to their fate was equally cold-blooded.
The three quickly became good friends and even committed some break ins together, as a test of Henley’s loyalty to the other two. Henley never told anyone about their shared crimes. And after he had proven himself, Corll asked him if he’d be willing to kill for him. Henley said yes.
Scott Benjamin, host
He was known, in the words of one reporter, as the “pleasant, smiling candy man of the Heights,” always handing out treats to neighborhood children who dropped by his mother’s factory.
No one in the Heights could fathom that Corll, who had no criminal record of any kind, could be the worst predator in American history.
Scott Benjamin, host
Payne Lindsey: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the authors and participants, and do not necessarily represent those of iHeartMedia, Stuff Media, or its employees. Listener discretion is advised.
From iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV, Monster presents, “Insomniac.”
Scott Benjamin: 00:27 It was August 8th, 1973 and the bullet riddled nude body of Dean Corll, age 33, was stretched out along the baseboard of a hallway in his home in Pasadena, Texas, a city within the greater Houston metropolitan area. He fell facing the wall. He had been shot six times with a .22 caliber pistol and he was dead before he even hit the floor. The young man who pulled the trigger, Elmer Wayne Henley, age 17, was also the one who called the authorities almost immediately to tell them that he had just killed a man.Scott Benjamin: 01:08 He and two other teenagers, Tim Kerley and Rhonda Williams, then waited for the Pasadena police on the front porch of the small home. They knew they had some explaining to do, especially the shooter. When the police arrived, the three teens were placed in the back of the police car and the officers went inside to confirm the shooting victim was indeed dead. Dean Corll was dead all right. And the three of them were taken into custody and questioned about the shooting. Henley, the trigger man, claimed it was justifiable homicide, a case of self defense. His story was eventually verified and much later that’s the way it would be ruled in court too.Scott Benjamin: 01:56 He would not be charged for the shooting of Dean Corll in self defense, but as the authorities inspected Dean Corll’s home on that day, they knew almost immediately there was far more to the story, in particular the items they found in the bedroom troubled them most. They pointed to something sinister happening in the home on Lamar Drive. The police had questions, lots of questions. The homeowner was dead. He wasn’t much help but beginning in the same afternoon, due to the guilty conscious of the pistol wielding teenager that remained in custody, they would have all the answers they were looking for as he told them everything.Scott Benjamin: 02:41 Over the next several days, the story that Henley told and the grizzly evidence that was quickly being unearthed under the watchful eye of the media, both captivated and sickened not only the entire state of Texas, but the rest of the country and even the world. So what really led to the early morning murder on August 8th, 1973? Why was Dean Corll shot dead in his own home? The authorities in Pasadena, Texas were going to learn every detail. It was an appalling story that none of them wanted to hear and one that none of them would ever forget.Scott Benjamin: 03:32 I’m Scott Benjamin and everything I’m about to tell you is real. This is Insomniac.Scott Benjamin: 03:50 In late 1973, the entire state of Texas watched as a real life horror story unfolded right in front of their eyes, in print and on television. But it wasn’t just Texas that was watching. The entire country, and soon the world, was gripped by the daily reports of what was happening in the Houston area. There were cameras there to capture the aftermath of the killings. It would soon come to be known as the Houston Mass Murders and the name Dean Corll would be well known, but for all the wrong reasons.Scott Benjamin: 04:27 While he’s the main focus of our attention, you’ll quickly understand why there’s simply no way to tell this story without including two other critical characters, David Owen Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, two teenagers from a suburb of Houston, Texas that somehow found themselves in a bad situation. One that only got worse as the years passed. Let’s begin by introducing you to the man at the heart of our story, Dean Corll, also known as the Candy Man.Scott Benjamin: 05:06 Dean Corll was born on Christmas Eve, 1939 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He and his young brother Stanley had an unhappy childhood with their parents constantly fighting. They divorced in 1946 when Dean was just seven years old, but later patched things up and remarried in 1950. That’s when the family of four moved to Pasadena, Texas. The second marriage didn’t last long, however, and by 1953 Dean Corll’s parents were divorced once again. His mother married soon after and by 1955 Dean and Stanley had a half sister named Joyce.Scott Benjamin: 05:52 His mother made candies at home, pecan pralines, and apparently they were good enough that a friend of the family, a pecan nut salesman, encouraged her and her new husband to start their own small business selling them as a way to help support the family. The family operated company, Pecan Prince, was initially operated out of the family’s garage. Dean’s days were spent at high school where he was an average and well-behaved student and during the evenings he worked in the candy shop running the candy making machines and packaging the finished product. He graduated from high school in 1958 and his family moved to the edge of Houston where most of their candy was sold. In 1960, Dean’s mother asked him to move to Indiana to live with his widowed grandmother, but he was home again in Houston by 1962. Dean’s mother and stepfather divorced in 1963 and she started a new candy making business, The Corll Candy Company. Dean was Vice President and his younger brother Stanley was Secretary Treasurer.Scott Benjamin: 07:15 The first year in business, a teenage male employee of the Corll Candy Company said the Dean had made sexual advances toward him. Dean’s mother fired the teen. In the summer of 1964, at the age of 24, Dean was drafted into the United States Army. He hated it. Just 10 months later he requested and was granted a hardship discharge stating that he needed to return home to help his mother with the family candy business. It was during his brief time of service, during his training at Fort Benning, Georgia, that Dean realized that he was a homosexual. This was a secret he guarded fiercely. He kept that part of his life well hidden from nearly everyone, or at least he thought he did.Scott Benjamin: 08:09 In 1965 the Corll Candy Company moved again. This time it was directly across the street from Helms Elementary School in Houston Heights and Dean soon became well known as the Candy Man, the neighborhood candy maker that would give free samples to all the school children, especially the young boys. In fact, a lot of people began to notice how fond Dean was of being in the company of young boys, but allowed it to happen without question. At the time, he was a trusted member of the community, just a good guy who liked doing nice things for the children.Scott Benjamin: 08:48 In fact, encouraged his teenage employees, along with their young friends, to use the back area of the candy factory as a hangout. He even installed a pool table to make the offer more attractive. This was how he came to meet David Owen Brooks, a 12 year old from the neighborhood. Dean was known to be a little too flirty with the candy company’s male employees, but there was something that was even stranger about Dean Corll’s behavior. Sometimes Dean could be seen digging at night near the candy shop. He always claimed he was disposing of the spoiled candy.Scott Benjamin: 09:52 Almost every one of Dean Corll’s murders involves a common feature, his torture board. It’s fairly easy to find photos of Dean’s torture board using a simple online search and when you do, if you look closely, you’ll notice that he had built more than one of these devices. The board shown in some police evidence photos is eight feet long and three feet wide while the board shown in other photos appears to be slightly wider, yet shorter in length, maybe just under six feet long if I had to guess based on the County Sheriff’s deputy standing next to it. Dean always kept the torture board close at hand in every house he lived in. He hung it up on the wall when it wasn’t in use. It was a simple design, nothing more than a piece of plywood with holes drilled in each of the four corners. Nylon rope was tied through each of the holes and handcuffs were attached to the nylon rope at one end to secure his victim’s hands while the ropes at the other end were used to secure their feet.Scott Benjamin: 11:03 As soon as a drunk or drugged teenage boy passed out, he was striped naked and bound to the torture board. At this point, the captive was already as good as dead, but Dean made damn sure that didn’t happen too fast. Since he knew they wouldn’t be able to escape, he enjoyed the luxury of time and spent literally days molesting, torturing, and eventually killing his helpless victims. In the end, Dean Corll’s victims were all killed either by gunshot or strangulation. I imagine some, if not all of his young victims, actually welcomed their own death as a form of relief after having and endured day after day of excruciating pain and violent sexual assault all while strapped to Dean Corll’s torture board. But Dean Corll and his torture board are only part of the story. There were other monsters in this nightmare too.Scott Benjamin: 12:10 It was 1967 when David Owen Brooks first met Dean Corll. Brooks was in the sixth grade and he was one of the many, many young boys that used Corll Candy Company as a hangout. But the two quickly became friends. Brooks looked up to Corll as a father figure. Corll, well he had other ideas. They were an unlikely pair, a 12 year old and a 28 year old, but for a while the two seemed to be inseparable. In fact, at one point around 1970, David Brooks even moved in with Dean Corll.Scott Benjamin: 12:55 It was later discovered that from the age of just 12 Brooks would allow Corll to perform oral sex on him in exchange for gifts or cash. But Corll’s obsession with hanging around with young teen boys didn’t end with his friend David Brooks. In fact, he found it comforting to have young boys around a lot. He often picked up hitchhikers and in late 1970 he began a downward spiral that wouldn’t end until the summer of 1973.Scott Benjamin: 13:34 About a month before the Thanksgiving holiday, Dean Corll committed his first known murder. It was a University of Texas student named Jeffrey Konen. He was an 18 year old freshman and he was last seen on September 25th, 1970 as he was hitchhiking home to Houston. He was picked up by Corll who took him to his apartment, bound his hands and feet, gagged him, and then sodomized him before killing him and dumping his body.Scott Benjamin: 14:12 The area that Corll lived in had a lot of teens, so there were plenty of potential victims for him to choose from and luring them to his place was easy. All it really took in most cases was the promise of a party, which included paint sniffing, glue sniffing, pot smoking, and alcohol, usually to the point of blacking out. And that’s when Corll would attack.Scott Benjamin: 14:41 But this tactic wasn’t always necessary to get what he wanted. A lot of the boys that Corll had to his place were desperate for money, like David Brooks, that allow him to perform oral sex on them for $5. The real problem began when oral sex wasn’t enough for Dean Corll. He wanted penetration, but a lot of the teens refused that and those were the ones that ended up dead. One of the stories that Brooks would later tell the police involved Dean Corll caught in a very compromising position with a couple of young teens.Scott Benjamin: 15:25 It was 1971 and Brooks had gone to Dean’s apartment without calling ahead. When he arrived, Dean was walking through the house naked and he was furious with Brooks. Brooks was a little confused, but on his way out, he caught a glance of what was going on in the bedroom. He could see two young boys naked and tied to Dean’s bed. The next time Dean saw Brooks he explained that he was part of a group of men that sold and traded young boys, a sexual slavery ring based out of Dallas. This was never proven to be true. Later Brooks would learn that both of the boys were killed and their bodies dumped.Scott Benjamin: 16:20 In an attempt to buy Brooks’ silence regarding the rape and murder of the boys, Corll promise to buy Brooks, who was now only a few months shy of 16 years old, a new car. And he made good on that promise, buying Brooks a green 1969 Chevrolet Corvette. But the Corvette served a dual purpose. Corll and Brooks would be able to cruise the streets together in a car that would attract the attention of teen boys. They used it in a search for new victims.Scott Benjamin: 17:00 In the winter of 1971 David Brooks brought another teen with them to Dean Corll’s home, potentially as another victim, but the boy impressed Corll and he felt that the teen might be an asset to his operation. That boy was Elmer Wayne Henley, age 15, a year younger than David Brooks. The three quickly became good friends and even committed some break-ins together as a test of Henley’s loyalty to the other two. Henley never told anyone about their share crimes and after he had proven himself, Corll ask him if he’d be willing to kill for him. Henley said yes.Scott Benjamin: 17:56 When the crime scene investigators were first called to the home at 2020 Lamar Drive in Pasadena, even as Dean Corll’s body was still laying in the hallway, they knew there was going to be a lot more to the story than just a self defense shooting death. They quickly discovered Corll’s bedroom was set up as his own private torture chamber. In his room, they found the plywood torture board. It was stretched out on top of a thick sheet of plastic that covered the entire floor. He also had several tools he used for his various torture techniques, more than a toolbox full, including the pliers he used to pluck out his victims pubic hairs one by one.Scott Benjamin: 18:45 The authorities found lengths of rope, rolls of tape, a large hunting knife, and spools of thick, clear plastic, the same plastic used to protect the carpet. They also found eight pairs of handcuffs, an electric motor with the wires attached that was used to shock the victims genitals, and an assortment of dildos and glass rods, lots of glass rods. I’ll tell you more about those later, but I will tell you this right now, Dean Corll’s use of those glass rods is easily one of the most horrific, most painful, and cruelest prolonged torture tactics I’ve ever heard of. And judging by the number of broken glass rods they found on his floor, it was also one of his preferred methods.Scott Benjamin: 19:41 But it seems the Dean didn’t always require tools to torture the teens. One of his victims angered him so much that Dean bid off his genitals while he was secured to the torture board. Later, when that particular victims remains were exhumed, they found his penis and testicles in a plastic bag separate from the body. The forensic researchers soon discovered that, based on the size and the shape of the wound, the boy was emasculated by a single violent bite from his attacker.Scott Benjamin: 20:19 Dean Corll’s bedroom was the scene of so many horrifying crimes and if you were a teenage boy living in Pasadena, Texas in the 1970s, you wouldn’t have made it out of there alive.Scott Benjamin: 20:36 Dean Corll was going to offer his two young apprentices a perverse and sadistic business opportunity. What exactly was this deadly trio up to between December of 1970 and August of 1973? And what awful secrets will be revealed in the aftermath? Next time on Insomniac.Speaker 3: 21:08 Insomniac is a production of iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV, written and hosted by Scott Benjamin and produced by Miranda Hawkins, Alex Williams, Matt Frederick, and Josh [Thane 00:21:19] . Music composed by Makeup and Vanity Set and cover art by Trevor [Eisler 00:00:21:24]. 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