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DNA helps ID another victim of Houston killer

December 1, 2011 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston teenager who left for work four decades ago and was never heard from again was among at least 28 young men and boys who were kidnapped, tortured and killed by a serial killer in the early 1970s.

Harris County forensic anthropologist Sharon Derrick said Wednesday that DNA and circumstantial evidence enabled investigators to identify Roy Eugene Bunton as one of Dean Corll’s many victims, the Houston Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/tjRwvV ).

Bunton was last seen leaving for work at a Houston shoe store, and the medical examiner’s office said that was in 1971 or 1972, when he would have been 17 or 18. Like many of Corll’s victims, investigators believe Bunton may have accepted a ride from Corll or one of Corll’s two teenage accomplices.

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Corll’s known victims were found in three mass graves. Four bodies were buried in St. Augustine near Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas; seven were buried on the beach at High Island in Southeast Texas; and 17 were buried in a Houston boathouse of Corll’s. Authorities say Corll forced some of his victims to write false runaway letters to their families.

Corll’s killing spree ended when he was slain by one of his two accomplices, Elmer Wayne Henley Jr., in August 1973.

Henley and another accomplice, David Brooks, were convicted in the teen murders and remain in prison.

Bunton’s body had been one of two still unidentified victims of the serial killer.

A Houston woman contacted Derrick in 2009 to say Corll might have killed her missing brother.

Derrick reviewed her files, but found no unsolved cases that could have matched Bunton, an unusually long-legged teen with blonde hair and a wide smile who was 6-feet tall.

But in 2010, Derrick discovered an error had been made back in 1973: A body buried in a family plot thought to be that of Michael Baulch, another Corll victim, was not Baulch after all.

The body was recently exhumed and examined by Derrick and her team.

“As I kept working, I kept seeing things that reminded me of Roy Bunton. He would have gone missing at the same time and he was either 18 or 19,” Derrick said.

Derrick also found the body had unusually long legs, just like Bunton, and the shape of the teeth also matched.

Ultimately it was a combination of DNA and circumstantial evidence that led to Bunton’s identification.

Bunton’s family plans a private burial.

Derrick is working to identify the last unnamed victim of Corll. The unknown boy likely went missing in 1971 or 1972 and died while wearing distinctive red, white and blue striped swim trunks and a tan shirt with a huge peace symbol. When examined under a microscope, the shirt revealed several tiny letters that might be LB4 MF or possibly LBHMF.

Derrick said she is hoping for yet another relative to call about this boy whose body was discovered buried near Bunton’s.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com