Death of Mary Horton Vail Solved After 50 Years

Vail murder arrest

Mary Horton Vail drowned on Oct. 28, 1962.  Her husband, Felix, said she had fallen out of their boat when he swerved to avoid a stump.  He was unable to save her.  Fifty years later, Felix Vail was arrested in Texas for her murder.

The incident happened in Mississippi on the Calcasieu River while they were fishing.  A Calcasieu Parish grand jury failed to indict Vail in January 1963. But an autopsy report showed Vail had bruises on her neck, right calf and left leg before falling into the water that suggested a struggle. Authorities also found a scarf around her neck and in her mouth which suggested she may suffered traumatic asphyxia, a form of suffocation.

The story was retold in the The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi in May 2012.  It also reported that two other women with relationships to Vail had gone missing.  Sharon Hensley, a girlfriend disappeared in 1973, and another wife, Annette Craver Vail, disappeared in 1984.   A November 11 report prompted authorities to re-open the investigation.

“It’s been a long time coming. That family has suffered for many, many years,” said Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John Derosier. “This process is just beginning, but hopefully this will give the family some closure.”

Mary Horton Vail’s brother Allen, who is now 80 years old was pleased to hear that Vail had finally been charged with his sister’s murder.  “I wish my sister, mother and father were here to see this. However, I’m confident that they are very aware of what’s happening,” he said.

Vail sold his Mississippi property in 2012 and disappeared.  He was finally traced to Canyon Lake, Texas.

Mary and Vail were married in July of 1961.  A year later, they had a baby boy.  Just after her son was born, she told her family that the marriage was a mistake, and that she was thinking of leaving him.  She decided to try and make it work, only to drown in the lake two months later.  The former home-coming queen was just 22 years old when she died.

Enzo Yaksic, founder of the Serial Homicide Expertise and Information Sharing Collaborative, says that the length of time between Vail’s arrest and the murder, is the longest in American history.

The unsavory record was previously held by Dennis Rader, also known as the “BTK Killer”.  Rader is serving 10 consecutive life sentences in Kansas.  He was arrested 31 years after his crimes.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express

3 Responses to "Death of Mary Horton Vail Solved After 50 Years"

  1. Sgh   May 23, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Graduated Eunice High 1958

  2. Kjun   May 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Where was Mary Horton from before she married Vail? Where did she attend High School in Louisiana and what year did she graduate? Her photo looks familiar and I wonder if I attended school with her in Eunice, LA.

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