A Louisiana jury has returned a verdict of guilty in the murder trial of Felix Vail, who was convicted for the death of his wife Mary Horton Vail on Oct. 28, 1962. The case was turned over to the jury on Friday afternoon, and the unanimous verdict of guilty was returned in less than one hour, according to KPLC.
Felix Vail had attempted to make the disappearance of his wife appear an accidental drowning. The body of 22-year-old Mary Horton Vail was discovered on Oct. 30, 1962, in the Calcasieu river near Lake Charles, La. Crabs had burrowed their way into her scalp, and her body was covered with bruises. The Washington Post reports that Felix and Mary Horton Vail had an infant son, Bill, who was just four months old at the time of her death.
Dr. Michael Baden, the famed and well-respected forensic pathologist, was the last witness to take the stand during the trial. He told the jurors that Mary Horton Vail was killed. He said in his opinion, Felix Vail knocked her unconscious, tied a scarf around her neck, stuffed four inches of it inside of her mouth, and placed her in the river. Baden based his theory on information gleaned from the autopsy reports and photos taken of Mary Horton Vail’s body. The pathologist is known for his work on both John F. Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassinations as well as for his testimony in the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial.
Felix Vail did not take the stand to defend himself. His defense attorneys said that Mary Horton Vail fell out of a boat while fishing with her husband, and drowned in the river before he could rescue her.
Convicted murderer Felix Vail is also under suspicion in connection with the disappearances of two other women. His girlfriend Sharon Hensley was last seen in 1973, and his second wife Annette Vail disappeared in 1984. As far as the two other women who have not been seen for decades, Felix Vail’s defense team said without evidence of their deaths, it is impossible to prove they met with harm, and both could be alive and well somewhere.
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The public defender assigned to Felix Vail’s case, Andrew Casanave, spoke to the Associated Press. KPLC reports that he believes it to be unfair to try a case in which every one of the original investigators is dead. Casanave said the prosecution would have to base its case on “supposition, innuendo, rumor, and sympathy.”
Although he was arrested after the death of Mary Horton Vail, this is the first time Felix Vail has been charged in connection with any of the disappearances or deaths of women close to him. He was arrested for the second time in June 2013 and charged with second-degree murder in the death of his first wife. KPLC spoke with John DeRosier, district attorney of Calcasieu, in 2013, regarding the length of time between the murder and the filing of the charges against Felix Vail.
“We feel like we have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that this death was, in fact, a homicide. We feel like we can prove that in court. It is never too late. You know, when you drop out that anchor, it may have a long rope, but eventually justice is going to take care of it and it’s going to catch up with you.”
The families of both missing women believe Felix Vail is responsible for their disappearances. Family members of both women were allowed the chance to testify during Felix Vail’s murder trial. Allowing testimony regarding crimes for which a defendant has not been charged or convicted is unusual. In doing so, the courts cited a British murder case from the beginning of the 20th century.
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