Man arrested in Texas for 1962 death of La. woman

By The Associated Press

LAKE CHARLES, La. — A man arrested in a 51-year-old killing is being held in the Calcasieu Parish jail without bond.

Authorities arrested 73-year-old William Felix Vail Friday for the October 1962 killing of his wife, Mary Horton Vail. Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier says he intends to seek Felix Vail’s indictment for second-degree murder.

Mary Vail was ruled to have drowned, but family members found evidence tying Felix Vail to the disappearance of girlfriend Sharon Hensley in 1973 and wife Annette Craver Vail in 1984. This is the first time Vail has been charged with murder in connection with any of the women’s deaths.

Authorities reopened an investigation into Mary Vail’s death after stories written by The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss. Until recently, Vail lived in the northeast Mississippi hamlet of Montpelier.

The newspaper reports ( ) Vail was arrested outside the post office in Canyon Lake, Texas, Friday evening.

A Comal County deputy told Vail as he put the handcuffs on him at about 5:15 p.m. Friday that he didn’t know what it was about.

“I know what it’s about,” Vail replied.

Allen Horton Jr., Mary Vail’s 80-year-old brother, wept when he heard the news of Vail’s arrest.

“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.

“He’s getting what he deserves,” said Mary Vail’s brother, Will Horton. “Over the years, the freak fortune of fate has benefited him.”

At the time Mary Vail’s drowning, Felix Vail told authorities she had fallen out of a boat into 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.

Prompted by the newspaper’s reports beginning in May 2012, Calcasieu Parish Coroner Dr. Terry Welke reclassified Mary Vail’s death as a homicide after a review.

“We feel like we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that this death was, in fact, a homicide,” DeRosier told KPLC-TV. “We feel like we can prove that in court.”

The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office and DeRosier investigated the case, with deputies questioning Vail in January. Both DeRosier and Sheriff Tony Mancuso said it was the oldest case either of their offices had ever investigated.

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

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