Becoming A Serial Killer: How Elmer Wayne Henley Was Shaped By Relationship With Notorious 'Candy Man'

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News & Politics
Sarah Guy

From the outside looking in, Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr. was seemingly primed to travel down a violent path. After being raised by an abusive father and dropping out of high school, it appeared that Henley was searching for someone to shape his life moving forward. During these pivotal years, he encountered serial killer Dean Corll and his trajectory would be forever changed.

Early Life

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Elmer Wayne Henley Jr. was born on May 9, 1956. Until the age of 14, Henley was subjected to abuse at the hands of his violent alcoholic father. Eventually, his mother took Henley, along with his three brothers, and left her husband.

Even though the everyday abuse had subsided, the damage continued to stay with Henley and affect his life. The absence of a father figure also impacted him in the following years.


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Meeting The 'Candy Man'

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Around the time that he dropped out of high school, he encountered 16-year-old David Owen Brooks. When the duo met, Brooks already knew Dean Corll, an older man who frequently gave out candy to local kids and was called "The Candy Man."

Initially, Henley was unsure about the nature of their relationship. Unbeknownst to him, Corll had been molesting Brooks since he was 14. During those troubled years, Brooks had also walked in on Corll raping two teenage boys. He later found out that he had, in actuality, killed them. To hide his secret, Corll purchased a car for Brooks to obtain his loyalty.

In 1971, Henley was also introduced to Corll. Brooks had allegedly brought him to Corll to "sell" him, but things took an unexpected turn when Henley developed a fascination with him, along with a deep admiration. During their next encounter, Corll told Henley about an organization in Dallas that trafficked young boys. At that time, he offered to pay Henley $200 for every boy he brought to him. This disturbing pattern would serve as a precursor for the troubled path that Henley would later travel down himself.

First Murder

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While Henley seemingly ignored Corll's initial offer, he eventually took him up on it in 1972 when he allegedly needed the money. Once the two agreed, they opted to drive around and look for a boy. Eventually, they stumbled upon one and invited him back to Corll's apartment to smoke weed. After arriving, Henley left.

Even though Henley had been under the impression that Corll would sell the boy to the organization, he later discovered that he had raped and murdered him.

Violence Continues

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After learning of Corll's true motives, Henley continued to work alongside Corll. He even brought one of his friends, Frank Aguirre, to him at one point. Later, Henley, Corll, and Brooks buried him on High Island, a beach in Houston.

Over the years, there were at least six instances when Henley fired the shots or pulled the cords that strangled their victims. By July 25, 1973, he had brought more than two dozen boys to Corll.

Death Of Corll

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On Aug. 8, 1973, Henley brought Tim Kerley and Rhonda Williams, two of his friends, to Corll's home. The fact that a female was there allegedly infuriated Corll, but his anger subsided after Henley suggested that they could kill Kerley and Williams together.

That night, Corll likely thought that he had everything under control, but Henley had other plans. Shortly after Corll tied his friends to his "torture board," Henley entered the bedroom, shot him in the forehead, and fired rounds into his shoulder and back. He freed his friends, called 911, and reported his crime to the authorities.

Trial And Conviction

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When investigators arrived at the scene, they asked Henley about various items, including handcuffs and various tools. During the line of questioning, he admitted that Corll had been murdering young boys for two and a half years. He also stated that most of them had been buried at Southwest Boat Storage, Sam Rayburn Lake, and High Island Beach. They eventually recovered more than 25 bodies.

Henley's trial began in July 1974, and on July 16, he was convicted of six counts of murder. He was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences of 99 years each. However, on July 25, 1974, his lawyer filed an appeal, and he was granted a new trial. But, in June 1979, his second trial concluded with the same outcome as the first.

Brooks was also convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. However, he died on May 28, 2020, after contracting COVID-19 in jail.

Medical Parole Denied

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In August, Henley, now 66, applied for compassionate release due to his declining health. Ultimately, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice decided not to forward his case to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole for review. It is unclear what medical issues he is facing now, but he will remain behind bars for the foreseeable future.

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