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  • Writer's picturetracy6164

Could you be groomed into a killing machine?

In August of 1973, the United States' largest mass murder was discovered in Houston, Texas.  It came as a result of Elmer Wayne Henley, a 17-year old boy, shooting a man by the name of Dean Corll - a 33-year old sexual sadist who had spent almost 3 years slowly grooming Henley into a killing machine.


Corll met 14-year old Henley as the result of another teenager who lived with Corll, David Brooks.  First Brooks introduced himself to Henley by asking him if he wanted a ride, then the two played pool and smoked weed together.  Not long after, Corll was introduced by Brooks as a friend.  Corll initiated his relationship with Henley simply by being charming and providing more weed and alcohol.  Then he cracked a few dirty jokes to see how Henley, a devout Christian, would react.  After months of conversation, Corll knew Henley had an abusive father and a mother who needed money to keep their house of six afloat: Corll offered money to Henley if he'd steal.  Things ratcheted up until Henley found himself bringing Corll other boys to meet, not knowing Corll would rape and kill them.  Once trapped in that cycle, and after Corll told Henley "no one would believe he was innocent of a crime", Corll manipulated Henley into killing alongside him.


The scenario is an extreme example of how one agenda - sexual sadism - can be superimposed on another, more vulnerable person - the devout Christian and teen who had been Elmer Wayne Henley.  But it's important to note that even though we, as a society, consider grooming insidious, we also see it as something that happens to other people, not ourselves. Yet there are other, just as insidious methods to manipulate and coerce us to behave in ways that are against our nature.  We are all potential victims by degree.


By way of comparison, let's look at something as innocuous as the history of credit and loans. 

It might be hard to believe, but most people in America prior to the 1960s paid their bills entirely with cash.  Sure stores had layaway or their own credit cards to attract customers buying larger purchases, but the entire US financial system was still somewhat underpinned by what was known as the Gold Standard: that every dollar's value was directly linked to how much gold the country had in its vaults.  Americans saw their integrity and the integrity of the country as based upon keeping their word when it came to finance.  It was a cultural norm.


By 1971, inflation was high and in an effort to stem it, President Richard Nixon took the US off the Gold Standard in the hopes it would lower inflation and stem any potential gold runs by other countries.  This introduced a "buy now, pay later" mentality: before 1971, there was a limit to how much money could be printed based on our stores of gold, but afterwards, printing money was really tied to how much money was needed to stabilize the economy.  Ten years earlier, that would have seemed criminal.  But through propaganda and manipulation, taxpayers were convinced it was in the national interest.  And for icing on the cake, banks saw an opportunity to rope consumers into credit cards: if inflation made something too hard to afford, pay it off later (for a fee, of course).


Inflation was also blamed for a thing called the Savings and Loan Crisis, which began in the late 1970s.  It used to be that banks didn't lend money for home mortgages, so Savings and Loans (S&Ls) were created by communities in the 19th century for just such a thing.  By 1980, following a marketing onslaught with guarantees of cheap loans and high interest rates on savings, more than 4000 S&Ls existed with $600 billion worth of assets among them.  The problem was, many of the S&Ls cooked their books.  And instead of fixing the problem, regulators and legislators made it EASIER for insolvent Savings and Loans to continue operating with abandon. 


It would have been bad enough that 1300 S&Ls collapsed, leaving taxpayers on the hook to clean up the mess. But there was another crisis on top of that that took things to a whole new level of disaster. Farmers who took advantage of loans during this period found their savings wiped out by bankrupt S&Ls, resulting in a vast amount of farm foreclosures.  As everything came crashing down, murder and suicide skyrocketed in rural areas: a tangible human toll S&L owners didn't factor in during their corrupt business dealings.


The costs of the S&L crisis went into the hundreds of billions.  One estimate was that every household paid $5000 for a debt that was rubber stamped by regulators and politicians, some of whom are still in office today.  In fact, so well-groomed were we, the US citizen, that we let it happen again in the 2008 financial crisis that begat the Great Recession and in the various tech bubbles that culminated with Silicon Valley Bank going under in 2023. You can see a pattern, right?


The point is, as a society, we're vulnerable because money is at the apex of our lives and livelihoods.  But few of us are the kind of wonks who understand monetary policies that impact those lives.  Ergo, we remain open to the continued grooming that normalizes these expensive crises we have no control over.


An example taken straight out of the 2008 crisis playbook was a company called American International Group (AIG).  It had a history of integrity and was allowed to operate fairly unregulated. Left to regulate itself, it bought toxic loans and junk bonds that eventually made it "too big to fail": even though much of that growth was achieved through what's basically fraud, otherwise known as criminal behavior. Instead of having real consequences, US taxpayers were instructed that AIGs financial dealings required a $180 billion bailout.  Effectively, hundreds of billions of dollars were stolen.  Twice. There should have been chaos in the streets.  Instead, history shows us the past is written by those in power which encourages business as usual through nuance and obfuscation. And we're docile in the face of such things - how convenient.


Which leads me back to Elmer Wayne Henley who, after killing Dean Corll, then showed police where he believed some of the victims may be buried in an effort to right himself.  But with Corll dead, 27 bodies of teenage boys being unearthed and rumors that those in power ignored pleas from parents of missing children, someone was going to be assigned blame.  Soon, all 5'4" of Henley came to be reviled as Public Enemy Number 1, the mastermind of every murder committed in the sordid tale and to most, he rightfully received more than 500 years in prison. 


Pulling back to look at the bigger picture we can now see through research, at least 11 of Corll's victims were forced to make pornographic images before they were murdered, something Henley had no inkling of.  Those images were found in pornographic magazines throughout the 1970s and more than likely live somewhere on the dark web - so there had to be a larger network distributing these images, not just a crazy, lone wolf named Dean Corll.  In one cache of literally TONS of child pornography found in a Houston warehouse in 1974, the owner, Roy Clifton Ames, was offered a deal by police that if he'd turn over other child pornographers, he'd get a reduced sentence.  Ames simply said he was going to continue making millions of dollars in front or behind bars.  Ten years later, he left federal prison and stuck to his word.


Something much larger than Elmer Wayne Henley was at play and by several accounts, a trafficking ring associated with the events in Houston carried on for decades thereafter.  The real human toll of that ring ie dead boys is unimaginable, while the amount of money made by these traffickers and pornographers is incalculable. 

The groomed are left to suffer in silence and shame while those in the grooming business walk away...


It makes me wonder, how we as humans can educate ourselves to spot these tragically unequal scenarios and avoid them when we see them in this kind of bas relief?


If you found this interesting, The Serial Killer's Apprentice by myself and Dr. Katherine Ramsland, available April 16, 2024 explains more about the grooming process and what society can do to stem it. You can find it here:



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Feb 29

Your ability to put this information into a historical perspective makes so much sense to me. Thank you. Can't wait to read.

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