A new sketch of the last known victim of the notorious “Candy Man” serial killer Dean Corll has been released 50 years after he was discovered in a mass grave.
For decades, the young man whose mutilated body was found in belted brightly-colored swim trunks has only been known as “Swimsuit Boy” or “John Houston Doe” – but now officials are hoping the new sketch will finally be able to give the victim his name back.
The facial rendering was released by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) last week, on the 50th anniversary of the day many of the bodies were found in mass graves on 9 August 1973.
Corll, who was infamously nicknamed “The Candy Man” because he was known to hand out free candy to kids at his parents’ candy store, terrorised young men in the Houston area in the early 1970s.
Between 1970 and 1973, Corll and his accomplices David Owen Brooks, then 17, and Elmer Wayne Henley, then 18, kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed at least 28 males between the ages of 13 and 20. It’s believed the number of slayings, known as the “Houston Mass Murders,” were far more than 28.
The victims’ remains were found after Henley led Houston police to a boat storage shed, where 17 bodies were found wrapped in plastic or sheets and buried under a layer of lime plaster, according to Dean Corll: The True Story of The Houston Mass Murders: Historical Serial Killers and Murderers, by Jack Rosewood.
On 8 August 1973, a day before the bodies were found, Henley shot and killed 33-year-old Corll with the killer’s own .22 pistol, allegedly screaming: “I can’t go on any longer! I can’t have you kill all my friends!”, Texas Monthly reported.
Henley admitted direct involvement in six of the killings, and is serving six consecutive terms of 99 years of imprisonment with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He will be eligible for parole in October 2025 at the age of 70.
Brooks died from COVID-19 in 2020 in a Galveston hospital while serving a life sentence.
Over the past 50 years, investigators have been able to identify 27 of Corll’s known victims, giving each of “The Lost Boys” a name – except one – John Doe 1973.
The latest attempt to identify the final victim from the 1970s horror was revived this year after Corll’s house was razed in February. At least eight victims were shot and killed at that house, officials have said.
John Doe, who police believe was white possibly Hispanic, and between 15 and 18 when he was killed, was one of the 17 bodies found at the boat shed, according to NCMEC’s website.
He was found with belted “Catalina” swim trunks that had bright red, turquoise, gold, and dark blue stripes. The shorts also had the letter "C" with golden wings on the silver buckle.
The victim was wearing a khaki-colored long sleeved 70s style shirt that tied in the front, with a large red, white, and blue peace symbol and the letters “USA.”
Dark blue corduroys, a knotted leather ankle bracelet, and brown leather cowboy boots that were 12 inches in length and had the word "NEOLITE" on the heel, were also found.
It was later determined that the young man had a mild form of spina bifida, according to NCMEC.
Carol Schweitzer, supervisor of NCMEC’s Forensic Services Unit, said they “remain hopeful that this young man’s family and friends are still looking for him.”
“This young man’s friends and classmates would be in their late 60s to early 70s, and we hope that this new imagery reaches them and helps bring in that one single lead needed to resolve this case,” Ms Schweitzer said in a statement.
“He may have siblings, cousins, classmates, neighbors, or friends who have always wondered what happened to him. This young man’s friends and classmates would be in their late 60s to early 70s and we hope that this new imagery reaches them and helps bring in that one single lead needed to resolve this case.”
Anyone with information on “John Doe 1973,” is asked to call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences and reference case number ML73-3356.