The Unnamed: Swimsuit Doe
This month’s Doe case is the only unidentified victim of serial killer Dean Corll. Where did this young person come from, and how did he end up ensnared in the web of a serial killer known as the Candy Man? Let’s explore.
I am not going to get too into the weeds with this section. Books can and have been written about Dean Corll. Rather than focus on the nature of his upbringing or the debate of nature vs. nurture here, we’re going to take a look at his victim profile and process for luring them into his grasp. This, in my opinion, is far more valuable with unidentified descendants, as we are looking for people who may have found themselves in such situations (though, of course, they could be the exception that proves the rule, etc, etc).
Dean Corll enlisted the cooperation of a few teenage boys to lure boys to his home. Commonly, victims were hitchhikers needing rides or teenagers eager to attend a party – sometimes they were friends of the teenage boys Corll enlisted to assist him. Between the years of 1970 and 1973, Corll used this ruse and these teenaged accomplices to capture dozens of young men from Houston Heights, TX. Corll has 28 confirmed victims. Of these victims, the youngest was 13 and the oldest was 20, though most were between 15 and 17 years old. He was also known to have paid his accomplices for delivering him victims.
On the night of August 7, 1973, a teenage accomplice of Corll named Elmer Wayne Henley attended a party with another teenage boy. Henley was targeting the second teen to bring back to Corll’s home. However, they both got high at the party and ended up leaving to get food. Then stopped near Henley’s home, where the pair noticed Rhonda Williams, who had been beaten by her father that night. In some misguided effort to protect his neighbor, he offered for her to join their plans. After Williams agreed, the three drove to Corll’s home.
Corll was incensed at the idea that Henley had brought a girl to his home. Henley explained the situation and Corll appeared to back off – but he watched like a hawk as the three teens huffed paint, smoked, and drank until they passed out. He then gagged Henley, taped his ankles together, and attempted to restrain his wrists with handcuffs. Feeling the handcuffs, Henley woke up and once again placated Corll, agreeing to engage in acts of abuse against the other two teens if Corll let him go. Corll found this acceptable, and told him to rape and murder Williams. Williams, however, managed to convince Henley to stop.
Henley then confronted Corll about stopping the abuse, saying that he had gone far enough. Henley took Corll’s gun from him, and backed up. Corll mocked and goaded Henley into shooting him. He steadily advanced. Henley ended up shooting him six times before he finally fell. Henley released the other two teens and together they all called the police. During the investigation of Corll’s crimes, Henley led the authorities to a boat shed owned by Corll. Inside, 14 bodies in varying states of decomposition were discovered. Swimsuit Doe is the only remaining victim that still does not have their name.
The last remaining victim with no name was biologically male and estimated to be between 15 and 19 years old. They were estimated to stand between 5’2” and 5’7” tall. They had brown hair that was 7 inches long. Their eye color remains unknown to this day. They had good teeth that did not have fillings or evidence of any procedures or issues. Examination showed that they had a mild case of spina bifida that may have resulted in the Doe struggling with back pain. The Swimsuit Doe was wearing a gray shirt with peace symbol on the front and “USMC L84MF” on the back. This is extremely interesting to me, as the only meaning I could find for USMC is the United States Marine Corp – which leads me to think that the “L84MF” could be some sort of rank or identifier, but I’ve hit a dead end in this line of research – if you have more knowledge about the military or more niche resources, please run with this! If the Doe was not old enough to enlist, perhaps the shirt belonged to a family member or older friend. The Doe was also wearing vertically-striped swim trunks that were white, green, red, and blue in color. The Doe was also wearing 12” brown cowboy boots with the word NEOLITE across the heel. The Doe was also found with dark blue pants in a corduroy material with the measurements of 32×30. As for accessories, the Doe was wearing a leather ankle bracelet and a brown leather belt with a belt buckle. The buckle was silver and had the letter “C” with gold wings.
As of the writing of this blog, 13 missing persons have been ruled out as being the Swimsuit Doe. These exclusions are: Alan Bourque who went missing from Orleans County, LA on 3/10/70; Earl Joggerst who went missing from Jefferson County, MO on 8/4/72; Joseph Spears who went missing from Harrison County, MS on 7/31/73; Richard Lamson and Peter Bonick who went both missing from San Mateo County, CA on 2/22/70; Mitchel Weiser who went missing from Sullivan County, NY on 7/27/73; Dermot Kelly who went missing from LaSalle County, IL on 1/30/72; Derran Rogers who went missing from Stanislaus, CA on 2/27/73; James Egan who went missing from Ozaukee, WI on 8/6/72; Norman Prater who went missing from Dallas County, TX on 1/14/73; Mark Bachelder and David Hesterlee who both went missing from Bryan Beach, TX on 9/22/74; and David Waggoner who went missing from Pasadena, TX on 10/9/71.
After searching through NamUs and the Charley Project, I have come up with a handful of other possibilities. First, let’s take a look at Ralph Hamton Miller. Ralph went missing from Lakeland, FL on 9/19/70. He was seventeen at the time and stood between 5’5 and 5’10. While the vital statistics between the Doe and Ralph do somewhat match up, and he does somewhat resemble the reconstruction, this is admittedly a long shot. There is nothing stating that Ralph had plans or dreams or connections that would have led him to Texas.
Our next possibility is James Charles Stanford. James disappeared from Overland, MO on 5/1/71. He was 16 at the time and stood over six feet tall. Now, obviously, that little fact would usually be exclusionary – but the Doe’s remains were skeletal at the time of discovery. If bones got mixed up somewhere along the line or the measurement was off due to the high stress of the situation, that could account for such a difference. One reason I think James could possibly be a match is that he told his family he wanted to go to Texas or California to join a convent. If he somehow made it to Texas, I think it’s absolutely possible he ended up at Corll’s house.
The final possibility we will consider is that the decedent was not reported missing or the report was not taken seriously. Anyone familiar with true crime knows that the 60s and 70s were rife with investigators brushing missing persons, especially teenagers, as runaways. If a formal report was never taken for this missing person, they would not show up in any databases, publicly available or otherwise. And, depending on the actual age of the Doe, their family may have truly believed they left to start over in a new city and simply cut contact. This is the trickiest aspect of researching these sections – not every missing person is considered missing.
Someone out there is missing this person, and has been for decades. Ask around your families, especially if you’re from the area. Maybe your uncle went missing in the late 60s or early 70s. Maybe they looked like the reconstruction. If you believe you have information regarding this case, there are a few agencies you can contact with your tip. First, Sharon Derick with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences can be reached at 713-796-6774 in reference to agency case number ML73-3356. The second agency is the Texas Department of Public Safety, which can be reached at 512-424-5074 in reference to case number U0312016. The last agency is Dr. Ginesse Listi at the LSU FACES Lab, who can be reached at 225-578-3906 in reference to case number LSU 07-19-C. The National Crime Information Center case number is U030020650. The NamUs case number is 4547. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children case number is 1109009. The DNA Doe Project is also working on this case.