Without a Trace
Four friends from the same neighborhood had vanished without a trace. Their families and friends knew that they weren't runaways, but the police? That was another matter. They were considered runaways and that was the end of police involvement.
But that was not the end of it for families in The Heights. On May 21, 1972, 16-year-old Johnny Delome vanished along with his friend 17-year-old Billy Baulch. Three days after they disappeared, Mr. Baulch got a letter from Madisonville, Texas, 70 miles out of Houston:
Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry to do this, But Johnny and I found a better Job working for a trucker loading and unloading from Houston to Washington and we'll be back in three to four Weeks. After a week I will send money to help You and Mom out. Love, Billy.
The Baulches were not relieved when they read the letter. While the address on the envelope was in Billy's handwriting, the note itself was either made to look like Billy's handwriting or Billy had written it under duress. But, more sinister than that was that Mr. Baulch, who drove a truck for a living, realized that there was no job like what was described in the note.
Johnny's family also received a similar letter which they believed was in Johnny's handwriting, but the spelling was so perfect that they knew he had not composed it unassisted.
The police were no help, so the Baulches tried to run down clues on their own. As they trawled through suspicious incidents in their son's past, they remembered David Brooks had given Billy some dope, which they reported to the police. They also recalled Dean Corll, Brooks' companion, who used to have Billy and other neighborhood kids in his home on a continuous basis.
When Mrs. Baulch asked Billy what he and the other boys do for hours at the home of Dean Corll, Billy told her:
We play the stereo and watch TV, and Dean shows us things. Once he showed us his handcuffs. We were there with a couple of other boys, David Brooks and somebody else, and they got to playing around with the handcuffs and put them on one of the boys, and then Dean couldn't find the key. He like never found the key to take them off.
When Billy's father heard about that, he was very displeased. "It's not normal for a man that old to be playing games with little boys."
The Baulches went looking for the candy man. When they found him, Dean Corll was polite and respectful, but he said he had no idea where Billy or Johnny had gone.
Almost unbelievably, variations of this story played out for over one more year until August of 1973. But still, no one understood the magnitude of the tragedy that had unfolded. That is, until Wayne Henley took the police to the boat shed.