Time is a funny thing in the way it warps perception. In May of 2009, my mother, Sherry Sharp, died of cancer. To this day, that year is surreal and blurry to me. The genesis of Lane Bowden 1973 was in the middle of that fuzzy year, 2009. The moment of research that changed everything was the funeral, not my mother's, but the one for a victim only known as ML73-3356.
I wanted to learn more about the true crimes of the Houston Mass Murders, the worst reported at that time in the summer of 1973. A serial killer, Dean Coryl, went on a spree of torturing and killing 29 (possibly more) boys from 1970 - 1973 with the help of two teenage accomplices, David Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley. The only available information was a couple of books, the microfishe of old Houston newspapers, and some documentary footage on the internet. I made a plan to visit the Heights neighborhood and find the boatshed where half of the bodies were found, as it still stands as a stroage facility.
I asked around to find people who remember the time and my inquiries led me to David Babb who worked on The Prison Show on 90.1 KPFT and with the county morgue (coroner’s office) in the capacity of the removal of bodies. After talking to David, I got in touch with Ray Hill. Expecting a conversation about the past, he surprised me and invited me to a funeral of an unidentified 29th victim on November 13th, 2009 at a potters field in Galveston County. The place was eerie and flat. All the markers only had numbers, no names. I briefly talked to Ray Hill and Sharon Derrick, the forensic anthropologist who was sorting out the remains and mistakes of the past through DNA testing. I watched as the media took pictures and some words were said. There was a computer generated picture of what the boy would have looked like decades ago when he vanished. They had him pegged as a white male between fifteen to twenty years of age with perfect teeth, five-foot-two to five-foot-seven in height, with brown hair about seven inches long, and a description of what items they found on him (corduroy slacks thirty-two by thirty, red, white, and blue striped, stretch swim trunks, a beige T-shirt with a peace symbol on back, a knotted rope bracelet, and cowboy boots). His body was found as the sign said, boatshed, center, back of room.
The image and the tiny coffin struck me hard. Perhaps, I was still in shock from my mother's funeral. I could not write about ML73-3356 out of respect for his lost soul. My heart ached and my mind raced. Here was a teenager that no one knew who he was. What was his story? How can someone vanish and not be missed? What was it like in the Houston Heights in 1973? I kept coming back to the tragedy of it all and that is how my character, Lane Bowden, was born.
The story I wanted to tell took on a different dimension, one of self discovery and what happens when one is not aware of the danger lurking in one's surroundings. So, after a time of more research, I began the first draft of what was then called The Journey of Lane Bowden (rechristened as Lane Bowden 1973.)
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