Felix Vail arrived in Lake Charles on a Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office plane late Friday night. Vail, charged Friday with second-degree murder in the 1962 death of his wife Mary Horton Vail, was arrested Friday afternoon in Comal County, Texas. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 10:22 PM
Even though Sharon Hensley was last seen with William Felix Vail in Sulphur in 1973, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said evidence would be needed to prove that a crime happened.
Vail, 73, was arrested in Canyon Lake, Texas, Friday and charged with second-degree murder in the 50-year-old drowning death of his wife, Mary Horton Vail.
Mary Vail was pulled from the Calcasieu River in 1962.
Felix Vail claimed it was an accident that occurred while they were running trot lines. He was arrested and spent three days in jail. A grand jury later pretermitted the case, meaning it declined to make a decision.
Vail is also a suspect in the disappearances of Hensley, his girlfriend, and his second wife, Annette Craver Vail.
“The common denominator is apparently he was the last person they saw,” District Attorney John DeRosier said Friday night while waiting for Vail to be flown into Lake Charles Regional Airport.
Vail has claimed he last saw Hensley in Florida. He said she left to sail around the world with an Australian couple.
“We would have to have some type of evidence,” to charge Vail in Hensley’s disappearance, Mancuso said.
“In my opinion, we would have to have something to indicate that a crime took place here in Calcasieu Parish,” he said. “Either find a body, a credible witness or somebody to tell us, look, we know he took her from this location, and, this is possibly where they went or what happened.”
The file on Mary Horton Vail’s death was reopened when Mississippi journalist Jerry Mitchell began investigating Felix Vail’s involvement with the three women.
Calcasieu Coroner Terry Welke examined the autopsy in 2012 and ruled Mary Vail’s death a homicide. The coroner in 1962, Avery Cook, ruled her death an accidental drowning.
“We can’t go on speculation or hearsay, we have to go on facts,” Mancuso said. “At least in this case we know he was the last one with her, we know what the evidence shows when the body was recovered and we feel like at least with that amount of evidence, the coroner re-opening the case and declaring it a homicide, at least we have some credible evidence that we feel is prosecutable.”
Whether Vail is suspected in the deaths or disappearance of anyone besides the three women “is certainly something at the top of our list to take a look at,” DeRosier said.