Dean Corll (1939-1973), the real “Candy Man”, tortured at least 28 victims, all males aged 13 to 20, prior to killing them, from 1970 to 1973, when he was himself shot to death by an accomplice.
Nicknamed the Candy Man and the Pied Piper because his family owned a candy factory and because he often gave candy to children, Corll, unlike most serial killers, displayed no antisocial tendencies as a child, showing signs of empathy and being well-behaved in school. He was shy, however, and his parents went through a bitter divorce.
Somewhere along the line, however, Corll developed an obsession with teenage boys, and began to make advances towards young male employees of the family company. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1964, saw no combat and was honorably discharged the following year.
In 1967, he met a 12-year-old boy who, like him, had divorced parents, and began to molest him. At this time, however, Corll did not display the extreme violence for which he is now notorious.
What may have led Corll’s mind towards darker, even more deviant fantasies was that his mother, who had doted on him in his boyhood, had just gone through a third failed marriage, and for whatever reason, she and Dean Corll never reunited in person for the rest of Corll’s life. The same year, 1968, the family candy company went out of business, and these two events seem to have unleashed something horrible in Dean Corll.
Generally preying on boys from Houston Heights, a low-income neighborhood in Houston, Texas, Corll subjected victims to such tortures as castration (while still alive) and impaling them with glass rods and then shattering the glass inside their bodies, muffling their screams with cloth rags and adhesive tape. He then murdered them by strangulation or shooting. He worked with more than one accomplice, but overplayed his hand with Elmer Wayne Henley when he demanded that Henley murder his own girlfriend, of whom Corll was jealous. Henley grabbed Corll’s pistol and shot him dead.
It was Henley who led the police to a boat shed in which 8 bodies were discovered, and the immediately confirmed body count of 27, found with Henley’s assistance, was at the time the highest confirmed body count of any American serial killer. Police were criticized for not suspecting Corll sooner, since they had again and again casually dismissed the low-income boys as runaways until after Dean Corll was himself dead.
Corll’s deadly influence did not end with his own death, however, as John Wayne Gacy admitted that he based most of his crimes, including his “handcuff trick”, on those of Corll. Corll may also have been involved in human trafficking.
Elmer Wayne Henley is still alive, serving life in prison.