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'Oldest Possible Serial Killer Case' Ever Uncovered

Journalist's crusade led to Felix Vail's arrest
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2013 3:52 PM CDT

(Newser) – A grand jury yesterday indicted a man for the murder of his wife—a crime he allegedly committed 50 years ago. Felix Vail, 73, will automatically get life without parole if convicted, reports Jerry Mitchell at the Clarion Ledger, where he calls it "the oldest possible serial killer case in US history." That Vail is in jail at all is largely Mitchell's doing; police re-opened the case of Mary Vail's death after the journalist published a story about the case in November. "I began digging into the case in May 2012," after getting a call from the mother of Annette Vail, another wife of Felix's who disappeared in 1984, he writes in a blog post. "The more I dug, the more questions I had."

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Mary Vail died in 1962. Felix reported that she had fallen overboard and drowned during a trotline fishing expedition, but there were numerous contradictions in his story, and when Mitchell checked the autopsy report, he found that she'd had a 4-inch bruise on the back of her neck and a scarf shoved 4 inches into her mouth. In addition to Mary and Annette, Vail's longtime girlfriend, Sharon Hensley, disappeared in 1973. Her brothers are now submitting DNA to a database, and say they hope the indictment gives police time "to fill in the blanks on the other cases." (Read more Felix Vail stories.)

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