Details of Disappearance
Annette's family last saw her on October 5, 1984 in Sulphur, Louisiana. Her husband, William Felix Vail Sr., who is addressed by his middle name, told the neighbors she'd gone to visit friends in Denver, Colorado. She has never been heard from again.
Annette's mother reported her as a missing person on October 22. Felix told the police she suffered from mental illness and had left of her own accord, taking a bus from St. Louis, Missouri to Mexico, not Denver. It's unclear whether Annette ever arrived in Mexico. She had been there before during her mid-teens and had fallen in love with a Mexican man and tried to get him to come to the United States with her.
The police didn't believe Felix's explanation of his wife's disappearance, in part because the bus station he said he dropped her off at did not exist, but they found no evidence of foul play. In December 1984, Felix filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences and desertion. He gave all of Annette's belongings and clothing to charity. She allegedly said she wanted to disappear. She has never been heard from again.
Felix's first wife, Mary Elizabeth Horton Vail, drowned in Louisiana in 1962. Photographs of Felix and Mary are posted with this case summary. They had one son, named William Felix Vail Jr. and called Bill.
Felix said Mary had fallen in the Calcasieu River while they were running trotlines at night, but Mary was afraid of water, that section of the river was unsuitable for trotlines, and authorities found the trotlines still inside Felix's tackle box.
He was arrested for murder, held for three days and then released without charge, and the case was never put before a grand jury. Felix had $150,000 in life insurance on Mary, but only collected $10,000 from the insurance company because of the doubts about the manner of Mary's death.
Over 50 years later, a pathologist examined the autopsy report and found evidence of foul play, including large bruises on Mary's neck and legs and a scarf in her mouth. The pathologist believes Mary was forcibly asphyxiated and possibly struck with an oar before her body went in the river.
After Mary's death, Felix took his son and moved to California. In 1970, he began seeing Sharon Hensley
, a native of Bismarck, North Dakota. They were involved with drugs, and that year Bill, who was only eight years old at the time, went to the police and told them his father kept drugs in the house and had forced him to use them, and that he'd heard him confess to Mary's murder.
Felix was arrested for drug possession, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child abuse as a result of Bill's report, the child went to live with Mary's parents. He pleaded guilty to the drug charge and was sentenced to six months in jail. California authorities passed Bill's information on to the police in Mississippi, but they still found insufficient evidence to prosecute Felix for Mary's murder.
In 1973, Hensley disappeared. She wasn't reported missing for over 35 years, however.
Felix's explanation for her vanishing was similar to the story he gave about Annette: he said Hensley had burned all her identification, told him she wanted to disappear and forget everyone she knew, and left with an Australian couple to sail around the world. She has never been heard from again.
Annette first met Felix when she was fifteen years old and he was forty-four. She and Felix married when she was seventeen. Four months later, after Annette turned 18, she collected $98,000 in life insurance from the estate of her father, who had died years earlier. Rose sold her house to Annette for $7,000.
After Annette graduated high school, she and Felix went on a cross-country motorcycle trip. Months later, Annette returned home to her mother, Mary Craver Rose, without her husband. She said she'd had an abortion, and that she wanted to divorce Felix and live with her mother again. She isolated herself in a room in her mother's home and spoke to no one, including Felix, who kept trying to call her.
Felix eventually came to Rose's home, and he and Annette reconciled. Annette added Felix to the deed of the house, and a month later she took her own name off the deed, leaving Felix the sole owner of the residence. They asked Rose to move out. Annette and Felix used her father's life insurance money to pay off Felix's loans and buy a car, and deposited $36,000 in the bank, leaving $41,000 in cash. Felix said she took the money with her when she disappeared.
Rose was active in the search for Annette, contacting anyone who knew either Annette or Felix to ask if they had information, as well as hiring private detectives. She found out about Mary's death and Hensley's disappearance. Felix wrote Rose a letter accusing her of slandering him. He wrote Annette had emotional problems stemming from Rose's bad parenting, called both Annette a "zero image whore" and said he wouldn't reveal where she was even if he knew.
In September 1985, almost a year after Annette's disappearance, Felix told her mother she had contacted him. He said Annette told him she was traveling with two men among the "natives" in the jungle and had had a baby.
Felix said he dropped Annette off at a Trailways bus station in St. Louis on September 16, 1984, but relatives reported seeing the couple over a month later. Furthermore, there is not and has never been any Trailways station in St. Louis, only a Greyhound bus station between 11th and 12th streets.
Felix claimed he went to Mexico to search for Annette in either 1986 or 1987, but his passport shows no evidence of any such trip. He claimed he'd been in repeated contact with Annette since her disappearance, but never produced any evidence for this, and his stories about their communications contradicted each other. Police have since seized the diaries he kept during the 1980s, and they don't mention his having heard from Annette.
The FBI began investigating Felix as a possible serial killer in 1993; it's statistically highly improbable that he would coincidentally have one wife and one girlfriend who disappeared, and one wife who died under suspicious circumstances.
They interviewed one of Felix's girlfriends from the 1980s and she said he was physically violent towards her and eventually she got a restraining order against him. The FBI closed the investigation the following year, however, without finding enough evidence to file charges.
Felix and Mary's son Bill died of esophageal cancer in 2009, at the age of 46. Before his passing he made a video statement of everything he claimed he'd heard his father say about Mary's murder. One of Felix's neighbors from the 1960s said he had cursed his first wife and claimed he'd killed her because she was pregnant again.
The investigations into Mary's death and Hensley and Annette's disappearances were reopened in 2012 after Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter for the Mississippi newspaper The Clarion-Ledger, ran some articles on the case.
Felix was living in Mississippi at the time. When Mitchell tried to interview him about Mary and the missing women, he suddenly left the area, leaving some of his belongings behind. In May 2013, Felix was arrested in Comal County, Texas and charged again with murder in Mary's 1962 death.
At his trial, his attorney argued Mary's death was an accident, but three former friends testified that Felix had confessed to murdering her, and two forensic pathologists said Mary's case was a homicide.
In August 2016, nearly 54 years after Mary's death, Felix was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and his conviction was upheld in 2018. In an interview given with the KPLC-TV news station, Felix claimed both Hensley and Annette were alive and he knew where they were but wouldn't say where because "they’re in the Felix Vail witness protection program."
Annette's mother held a memorial service for her in 1997. Tulsa, Oklahoma police currently investigate her case. Foul play is suspected due to the circumstances involved.