HOUSTON – Houston has its share of modern-day crimes that we’ll always remember, but if you reach back into so-called simpler times, the same bizarre cruelty surfaces, from a child torturer in the Heights to a serial killer dumping women onto a desolate League City field. It tragically really happened here.
We recall these stories, but perhaps the hardest part of putting these accounts together for us at KPRC 2 was revisiting the locations. They’re part of our community. Time has changed them. People have often bulldozed and reclaimed and planted anew, but the memory remains if we recall it, not for the killers, but for the people who survived -- and still remember there’s good in the world, despite such darkness and human frailty.
Here are some of the places that tell the dark stories in our own backyard:
Sept. 24, 1972: Plastic surgeon killed at River Oaks mansion
📍 1500 block of Kirby Dr. in Houston
The stark white mansion in the 1500 block of Kirby Drive is where a plastic surgeon named Dr. John Hill was shot and killed at the front door. It’s the story explained and dramatized in the book “Blood and Money.” Here’s an abridged version of the 450-page book, as described by the Houston Chronicle:
“(Joan) Hill was the wife of one of the city’s leading plastic surgeons, Dr. John Hill, and was the daughter of a wealthy resident of River Oaks, oilman Ash Robinson.
“Joan Hill died on March 19, 1969. Dr. Hill was charged with causing her death by withholding medical attention. He went on trial in 1971, but it ended in a mistrial. Before Hill could be tried again, he was shot to death at the door of his River Oaks mansion. The reputed hit man, ex-convict Bobby Wayne Vandiver, in turn was shot to death by police in Longview before he could be tried.
“Two women, Lilla Paulus and Marcia McKittrick, were the only people convicted in the doctor’s death. They were accused of arranging Dr. Hill’s death, allegedly at the behest of Robinson. Robinson, however, was never charged in the case. He died in 1987 in Florida.”
Aug. 9, 1973: Dean Corll’s reign of terror ends
📍 2000 block of Lamar Dr. in Pasadena, Texas
Houston serial killer Dean “Candy Man” Corll lived in the Pasadena home seen above. Between 1970 and 1973, Dean Corll, murdered at least 28 young boys in the Houston area. The killings were dubbed the “Houston Mass Murders,” and at the time, they were considered the worst serial murders in U.S. history. It was at this home that Corll’s teenaged accomplice, Elmer Wayne Henley, fatally shot Corll multiple times with a .22 caliber pistol, thus ending Corll’s killing spree on Aug. 8, 1973.
It was then that Henley confessed to police all that he knew and led police to the graves of the dead. Jack Cato, a reporter for KPRC 2, accompanied Henley and police as Henley led them to a shed where he and Corll had buried some of the murder victims. Cato allowed Henley to call his mother on his telephone and captured the conversation on film. Henley is heard saying the words, “Mama, I killed Dean” into the receiver.
Three other locations have also been tied to the Corll case: 505 W 22nd, the Corll Candy store, his one-time apartment at 444 W 21st and a boat shed at 4500 block of Silver Bell St. where investigators found the remains of 16 boys and young men. Read more in this archive if you’re interested.
📍 505 W 22nd in Houston - former Corll Candy Company site owned by Corll’s mother and where Corll groomed child victims
📍 444 W 21st - location of Corll’s one-time apartment
📍 4500 block of Silver Bell St. in Houston - location of boat shed where the majority of Corll’s victims were found
Jan. 15, 1982: Iris Siff strangled at Alley Theatre
📍 Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue in Houston, Texas
Alley Theatre Managing Director Iris Siff was found slain at the Alley Theatre on Jan. 15, 1982. She had been working late on a government grant application when a man entered her office and strangled her with a phone cord, the Associated Press reported.
A television set, a fur coat, a watch and a ring had been taken from her office. Hours later, her car was found burning in another neighborhood.
A tipster led police to a suspect: Clifford X. Phillips, 47, who had been dismissed as a security guard a few weeks earlier for sleeping on the job. Phillips had a criminal record. He had served seven years in prison in New York State for killing his 3-year-old son in 1970 by forcing water down the child’s throat, the Associated Press reported. The child’s body was found in a suitcase. He was also accused of beating his daughter into a vegetative state.
Phillips confessed to killing Siff, but claimed self-defense, the United Press International reported. He admitted that he had slipped through an unlocked door, climbed to the fourth floor suite where Siff was typing, reached inside her door, switched off the light and told her he wanted money before strangling her to death with a phone cord, but it wasn’t murder – he was merely trying to protect himself. As Phillips told it, after he made his demands, the 58-year-old woman charged at him, punching and kicking. “She was strong. She was upsetting things. I got sort of scared. So I began to choke her, thinking I could refrain her from kicking me like she was doing (in the groin),” Phillips said.
Phillips was ultimately convicted of Siff’s murder. He died by lethal injection on Dec. 15, 1993. He gave a final statement that lasted nearly five minutes. In it he gave thanks to Allah and expressed love for his wife.
Siff’s family filed a wrongful death suit against theater’s security company and two of its employees. It was settled out of court in 1984.
Oct. 17, 1984: Bill List murdered with his own gun
📍 3300 Todville Road, now Seabrook’s Villa by the Sea
In Seabrook’s Villa by the Sea, several homes now stand on the location where a notorious mansion once stood. Bill List -- a 57-year-old reportedly known for sexually molesting teen boys -- owned that home at 3300 Todville Road. List was shot and killed by a young man with his own gun in 1984, reports say. After List’s death, a report says the property was later divided into 18 lots, where 13 houses stand.
Feb. 2, 1986: Laura Miller found dead in “The Killing Fields”
📍 3000 block of Calder Road
Located off Calder Road in League City, the “Killing Fields” is where the bodies of several girls – including the young daughter of EquuSearch’s Tim Miller, Laura Miller -- and other young women were found. Laura Miller’s body was found on Feb. 2, 1986, two years after she went missing after using a payphone to call her boyfriend.
Laura Miller was found in what has become known as the “Killing Fields,” an area off the dirt of Calder Road in League City. She was found with the bodies of three other women: Heidi Fye, Donna Prudhomme and Audrey Lee Cook.
The murders remain unsolved, according to the FBI, which adds there are no known witnesses to any of the killings, and no common person connects all four.
KPRC 2′s Robert Arnold has followed the tireless journey of Laura Miller’s father, Tim Miller, as he continues to seek justice in this case as well as help other people find their missing loved ones.
Jan 11, 1999: Belinda Temple shot to death at Katy home
📍 22500 block of Round Valley Drive in Katy, Texas
On Aug. 6, 2019, one of Houston’s most notorious killers was convicted a second time in his pregnant wife’s killing. 20 years prior, Belinda Temple, a high school teacher who was eight months pregnant, was shot to death in the couple’s Katy home. The 20-gauge shotgun used to kill her was never found.
During the retrial, prosecutors told jurors Temple staged a burglary at the couple’s home and shot his wife because he was having an affair with his co-worker Heather Scott, whom he married two years after the murder.
Defense attorneys argued Belinda was killed by a 16-year-old neighbor and student.
Temple himself has maintained his innocence.
A jury again found Temple guilty in his wife’s slaying.
The Temple’s home in Katy still stands and looks largely unchanged by time, at least on the outside.
June 20, 2001: Andrea Yates drowns her children in tub at Clear Lake home
📍 900 block of Beachcomber Lane in Houston, Texas
On June 21, 2001 Andrea Yates, who had been taking medication for postpartum depression, told police she killed her five young children by drowning them one at a time in the family’s home
Yates called the police shortly before 10 a.m. and, without specifying a problem, asked that officers to be sent to her home in Houston’s Clear Lake neighborhood, the Washington Post reported.
Soaked, Yates answered the responding officer’s knock on the door and announced “I killed my children.”
The officer found the bodies of three of Yates’s sons and her infant daughter in a bedroom, covered by a sheet. A second officer arrived and found a fifth child’s body in a bathtub, the Washington Post reported.
Police identified the dead children as Mary, 6 months; Luke, 2; Paul, 3; John, 5; and Noah, 7.
When Yates’s husband Russell Yates arrived home, police were in front of the house. They would not let him inside.
Retired KPRC 2 Investigative Reporter Phil Archer was the first journalist at the scene.
“Cops were crying,” Archer recalled. “There was a lot of emotion there. They were the guys that had gone in that house and had to recover the bodies. They brought Andrea out and her clothes were still wet, and her hair was still wet from the bathtub. And they brought her out, and she looked like a zombie. There was a sort of wildness in her eyes.”
Yates was convicted of murder in 2002. That conviction was overturned in 2005 because of erroneous testimony. During the second murder trial, a jury found Yates was insane when she drowned her children and acquitted her of capital murder.
After the trial, she was committed to a mental hospital in Texas, where’s she stayed ever since.
The Yates family home still stands. Per a Realtor.com property listing, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was last sold in 2004. As of 2017, the homeowner lived at the home alone with his dog Chotty. He told AOL Real Estate that the home’s history didn’t bother him.
Sept. 28, 2001: Robert Durst fatally shoots elderly neighbor, dismembers him and dumps body in Gulf
📍 2200 block of Avenue K in Galveston, Texas
Infamous millionaire Robert Durst moved to Galveston in 2000 disguised as a mute woman– the same year his best friend and longtime confidante Susan Berman was murdered execution-style in her Los Angeles home. The same year authorities reopened the investigation into his wife Kathleen’s 1982 disappearance.
Death followed Durst to Texas.
Durst, whose family runs The Durst Organization, a privately held billion-dollar New York company, took up residence in a $300-a-month apartment on the island’s east end. There, he struck up a friendship with his neighbor, Morris Black, a 71-year-old cantankerous former merchant seaman, the New York Times reported.
One night, the two men argued, Durst pulled a gun, and they fought for the weapon. As Durst told it, they fell to the floor, and the gun went off in Black’s face, killing him, the New York Times detailed.
Durst said he panicked and cut up the body to dispose of it. He dumped Black’s body parts in the Galveston Bay.
Soon after, a boy out fishing found Black’s headless torso floating in the water. Divers later found the arms and legs in two garbage bags. Police never found Black’s head.
Arrested on a murder charge, Durst jumped bail and a 45-day manhunt ensued. He was ultimately captured in a Pennsylvania supermarket for trying to steal a single Band-Aid and a chicken sandwich. Police found $37,000 in cash in his rental car.
In 2003, Durst was tried for Black’s murder and was acquitted of the charge.
The Galveston rooming house where Durst beheaded and dismembered Black still stands. Per a Realtor.com property listing, the 2,537-square-foot building was last sold in 2021 and is now off the market. It was described as a “4 Plex with two efficiencies, one 1 bedroom and one 2 bedroom unit, [with] paved off street parking, central laundry room, found on the east end close to beach and the Strand area.”
July 24, 2002: Dentist runs down husband with her car at Nassau Bay hotel
📍 Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake, 3000 E NASA Parkway in Houston, Texas
On May 11, 2018, one of Houston’s most infamous killers was released from prison. Sixteen years prior, Clara Harris had been a Colombian-Houston beauty queen-turned-dentist who lived in Friendswood with her orthodontist husband David, and their twin sons. On July 24, 2002, Harris got into her silver Mercedes-Benz and drove to the Nassau Bay Hilton, the hotel where she and David had wed on Valentine’s Day 1992. Accompanying her in the Mercedes was Lindsey, David’s 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
When Clara stormed into the hotel lobby, she spotted David and his receptionist-turned-lover, Gail Bridges, emerge from the elevator holding hands. Days earlier, David confessed to Clara that he and Gail had been having a nearly three-month affair, and he had promised Clara that he would end it. Clara, who had been tipped off to David’s whereabouts by a private investigator she had hired to trail him, confronted the couple.
Eventually, Clara returned to her Mercedes. Moments later, when she glimpsed David walking Gail to her SUV, Clara revved her Mercedes, raced toward the couple, struck David, turned in a tight circle and struck him again, and then again – all while Lindsey screamed in the passenger seat.
The whole scene was captured on videotape by the private detective firm that Clara had hired.
That night, as an officer led Clara away in handcuffs, she told KPRC 2 “It was an accident.”
In court, Clara testified as much. She said she unintentionally hit David while in a heartsick daze, that she had wanted only to damage Gail’s black Lincoln Navigator.
“I think I closed my eyes,” Clara testified. “After that, I didn’t know who was driving. Everything seemed like a dream.”
The Nassau Bay Hilton was later renamed Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake.