Half a century after his first wife went missing, Felix Vail is facing in court over three murders in a case that has become the US’s oldest prosecution.
Mary Horton, Annette Vail and Sharon Hensley were all in love with Felix Vail — a fate that proved deadly. Mary Horton died in 1962, and his girlfriend Sharon Hensley and second wife Annette Vail have been missing for decades. Now, more than 53 years after his first wife’s death — initially considered to be a drowning accident — Vail is facing a murder charge, prompting new inquires into each case and a Making Of A Murderer style documentary.
When the Mississippi native, now 73, faces court this month, the case will become the oldest prosecution of a serial killer suspect in U.S history, reports news.com.au
At the time of his wife's drowning, Felix Vail told authorities she had accidentally fallen into the Calcasieu River in Mississippi after he steered to avoid a stump. Authorities jailed Vail for questioning, but he was released a few days later.
In 2012, USA Today network The Clarion Ledger compiled a special report detailing the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mary Horton’s drowning and the fate of the two other women who went on to have relationships with Vail, prompting authorities to reopen the investigation and the eventual arrest of Vail in 2013. The story is part of the new investigative series GONE, by journalist Jerry Mitchell and the USA Today Network.
Fifty years after her death, Mitchell tracked down Vail’s childhood friend Wesley Turnage, who admitted that Vail had confessed to murdering his wife. “He said, ‘Well, that damn ***** wanted another baby … thought it might help save our marriage, but said I didn’t want the one I got, and I sure didn’t want another one’,” he told Mitchell. “He said, ‘I fixed that damn *****. She won’t never have another one’. And right then I knew that I was sitting beside a murder.”
After analyzing the autopsy of Mary Horton, renowned New York pathologist Dr. Michael Baden said he believed foul play took place. The autopsy revealed large bruises with bleeding into tissues on the left side of the neck, which suggested Horton suffered forceful neck trauma before entering the water, Baden said. Most convincingly of all, authorities found a scarf around her neck that extended 4 inches into her mouth, suggesting traumatic asphyxia.
Despite the disappearance of his girlfriend Sharon Hensley in 1973 and his second wife, Annette Vail in 1984, this is the first time Vail has been charged with murder in connection with any of the women.