Man recalls encounter with serial killer's accomplice

February 8, 2012 4:27:47 PM PST
For 40 years a serial murder case has haunted Houstonians, but now we're hearing from a would-be victim whose survival story has haunted him his whole life.

To this day, there are still unidentified and even unknown victims of serial killer Dean Corll and his two counterparts.

"Dad has so many pictures," Bret Ashworth said.

Ashworth's memory of that day is hidden as deep as his father's old pictures from that era. But he's digging it up 41 years later.

"This is what I looked like in 1971. There I am, right there. That's when it happened, that's when I'm 11," Ashworth said.

It was a time in Houston when dozens of young boys were disappearing. Surprisingly, no one really noticed until at least 29 of them turned up dead at the hands of a single serial killer.

"Nobody had any idea, and I didn't know until I saw it on the news," Ashworth said.

But around that time, 11-year-old Ashworth was hitchhiking to a friend's house when a white van stopped to pick him up.

"I basically started to get in the van and what kept me from going in the van was I heard a mumbling sound and I was like, 'This isn't supposed to sound like this.' So I said, 'No man, it's all right,'" he said.

The driver, one of that serial killer's accomplices, wouldn't let him go, and Ashworth fought back.

"He grabbed my right hand, he tried to jerk me in the van and when he did -- I'm left handed -- and I always carried a knife," Ashworth said. "So when he had me by the hand, I was able to hit him with that and that's when he just went 'Ahh!' and he let go."

Back in 1971 when it happened on the streets of The Heights, Ashworth didn't really tell anyone about it -- not his parents or police. But the day a few years later that Elmer Wayne Henley was caught and he confessed, that's when Ashworth saw the one clue that helped him put all the pieces together.

"It was Wayne Henley who grabbed me," Ashworth said.

"You sure of that?" we asked.

"I'm positive. You can look at the scar on his hand today," he said.

"How can you be so positive?" we asked.

"That I know it was him? 'Cause I looked him right in the eye when he pulled me," Ashworth said. "And I saw him in handcuffs ... and I looked down and I said what the hell and I opened the picture further and saw his face and went oh my God. And I said no, that couldn't be him, and I looked at his hand and you could see the scar."

And so can we, faintly in old film but it's there. It's proof that at least someone got away from Elmer Wayne Henley, proof that the little boy in that old photograph grew up to be a man who could tell the story.

"I have a feeling he killed about 50 children. There was no remorse in this guy's eyes. He wanted to grab me and he didn't care how he did it," Ashworth said.

Ashworth got in touch with us when he saw word of a possible new victim from the Corll killings on our newscast. We showed you the recently unearthed picture of a possible new victim. If anyone knows the identity of the boy in the picture, they should contact the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences at 713-796-9292.