BY JEFF CLARK
After more than five decades of investigation, an alleged serial killer with Clay County ties is finally behind bars. Felix Vail, formerly of Montpelier, was arrested Friday, May 17 at his home in Canyon Lake, Texas, and he was charged for the 1962 murder of his wife, Mary Horton Vail.
According to the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office in Calcasieu Parish, La., which began their investigation into Mary Horton Vail’s disappearance in 1962, Vail waived extradition and was transported to Lake Charles where he was booked into the Calcasieu Correctional Center.
The case was reopened recently when Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter with the Clarion Ledger, spurred by Mary Vail’s surviving family members, discovered evidence of the disappearance under suspicious circumstances of other women tied to Vail.
“That evidence, when weighed with the opinion of Calcasieu Coroner Dr. Terry Welke, who after a recent review classified the death a ‘homicide,’ was sufficient for Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s detectives to seek a warrant for the arrest of Vail,” said Holly Carter of the Calcasieu District Attorney’s Office. “Judge Robert Wyatt signed the warrant and ordered Vail to be held without bond.”
Lowndes County Connection
Before Vail was arrested by authorities in Texas, he was stopped by deputies with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office who were notified about his presence in the area.
“Vail still has family in the area,” LCSO Lt. Clint Sims said. “His brother, Ronald, is deceased but his wife and Vail’s sister-in-law still lives on Macon Road. We got word that Felix Vail was in the area and it was a two-day ordeal before we finally found him and pulled him over. He had made contact with his brother’s wife but she said she never really liked him.”
Sims said Vail could not be found on the first day of the search in Lowndes County, although a call to E-911 placed Vail at the port near the Tenn-Tom.
We just missed him on the first day,” Sims said. “My family is from Montpelier so they knew about Vail, and I went online and and did some research on Vail.”
Vail was intercepted by Sims and he was pulled over for a traffic stop that was anything but routine.
“We ran him through everything we could trying to find outstanding warrants on him,” Sims said.
According to Sims, Vail was a person of of interest in Louisiana for the death of Mary Horton Vail and in a missing person’s case in Missouri.
“I actually got a phone and called Louisiana and Missouri to see if they had any outstanding warrants on Vail,” Sims said. “But we couldn’t find anything.”
Although Vail could not be arrested in Lowndes County, Sims said the calls to Louisiana may have helped with his arrest in Texas a week later.
“From the information we shared with Louisiana, which wasn’t a lot, they were able to find him and arrest him on a second degree murder charge,” Sims said. “We helped put him back on the radar and they were able to get him when he went back home.”
Vail, Sims said, was stopped on Old Highway 182 earlier this month.
According to the Charley Project, a website devoted to cold cases, Vail said his wife, Mary Horton Vail, drowned in the Calcasieu River while they were fishing. Vail was initially arrested but was not charged in connection with her death. Vail had a $150,000 insurance policy on Mary Horton Vail but he only collected $10,000 because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.
Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier said he will schedule Vail for a preliminary examination within 45 days of his arrival in Calcasieu Parish and likely seek an indictment against him for second degree murder sometime thereafter.