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Missing Since 10/22/1984
Classification Endangered Missing
Date of Birth Used 12/07/1965 (55)
Age 18 years old
Height and Weight 5'6 - 5'7, 115 pounds
Felix's first wife, Mary Elizabeth Horton Vail, drowned in Louisiana in 1962. Photographs of Felix and Mary are posted with this case summary. They had one son, named William Felix Vail Jr. and called Bill.
Felix said Mary had fallen in the Calcasieu River while they were running trotlines at night, but Mary was afraid of water, that section of the river was unsuitable for trotlines, and authorities found the trotlines still inside Felix's tackle box.
Over 50 years later, a pathologist examined the autopsy report and found evidence of foul play, including large bruises on Mary's neck and legs and a scarf in her mouth. The pathologist believes Mary was forcibly asphyxiated and possibly struck with an oar before her body went in the river.
After Mary's death, Felix took his son and moved to California. In 1970, he began seeing Sharon Hensley"> , a native of Bismarck, North Dakota. They were involved with drugs, and that year Bill, who was only eight years old at the time, went to the police and told them his father kept drugs in the house and had forced him to use them, and that he'd heard him confess to Mary's murder.
Felix was arrested for drug possession, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child abuse as a result of Bill's report, the child went to live with Mary's parents. He pleaded guilty to the drug charge and was sentenced to six months in jail. California authorities passed Bill's information on to the police in Mississippi, but they still found insufficient evidence to prosecute Felix for Mary's murder.
In 1973, Hensley disappeared. She wasn't reported missing for over 35 years, however.
The FBI began investigating Felix as a possible serial killer in 1993; it's statistically highly improbable that he would coincidentally have one wife and one girlfriend who disappeared, and one wife who died under suspicious circumstances.
They interviewed one of Felix's girlfriends from the 1980s and she said he was physically violent towards her and eventually she got a restraining order against him. The FBI closed the investigation the following year, however, without finding enough evidence to file charges.
Felix and Mary's son Bill died of esophageal cancer in 2009, at the age of 46. Before his passing he made a video statement of everything he claimed he'd heard his father say about Mary's murder. One of Felix's neighbors from the 1960s said he had cursed his first wife and claimed he'd killed her because she was pregnant again.
At his trial, his attorney argued Mary's death was an accident, but three former friends testified that Felix had confessed to murdering her, and two forensic pathologists said Mary's case was a homicide.