Mother of Annette Craver Vail says she never believed Felix

Mother of Felix Vail's missing wife speaks to 7 News

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The arrest of 73-year-old Felix Vail has been a long time coming for Mary Rose.

"I was just so relieved that they had finally gotten him and put him behind bars," said Rose.

Rose's daughter, Annette Craver, met Felix in the early 80s. He was 40. Annette was just 15 at the time.

"They met at a yard sale we were having in Houston. Annette and I were moving to San Antonio so she could attend a private school. I honestly don't recall him at the yard sale," said Rose.

Felix and Annette would keep in touch and later marry when Annette turned 17.

"Shortly after Annette finished high school, he showed up and they started traveling together and they were all over the country," said Rose.

Rose said Felix's influence put a lot of distance between her only child. Rose claims Felix controlled nearly $100,000 Annette had inherited from her father.

"That was a lot of money for an 18-year-old in those days. Her father had died when she was a young age and I believe she was very vulnerable to being with an older man," said Rose.

Rose also claims Felix convinced Annette to sign over the deed to a home in Tulsa, Okla., she had given Annette.

"She was a completely different person than the one that I knew all of her life - as a fun loving, creative, loving person. She was like a robot ... Only asking Felix before she could make any decisions. Even simple decisions like giving me something from the garden. She said she couldn't make any decisions without asking him first. So, she was not the same person she was before she met him," said Rose.

According to Rose, Felix would turn Annette against her. She and Annette rarely talked but she was very guarded with what she would talk about.

Felix would tell Tulsa investigators he last saw Annette in September of 1984 when he put her on a bus bound for Mexico. But Felix's family can account for the couple to be in Sulphur in October of '84 more than a month later, when he and Annette attended the Cal-Cam Fair. Rose said she never believed Felix.

"I wanted to believe it. And I sat by the phone for years. Every holiday, her birthday, my birthday, Christmas - hoping that she would call me. This went on for years because I wanted to believe that she was still alive. Of course, there was part of me that just knew he was lying," said Rose.

Rose would eventually hire a private investigator in the late 80s. Her search for answers would eventually lead her to the families of two other women: Felix's first wife Mary Horton Vail, who Felix said died of an accidental drowning on the Calcasieu River in 1962 and a girlfriend, Sharon Hensley, whose disappearance in 1973 is similar to Annette's. Felix told Sharon's parents she hopped on a boat with an Australian couple she met in Key West to sail around the world.

"Felix had wrote me a letter telling me Annette's plan to leave the country and change her life and put her past behind her. I also received a letter that he wrote Sharon's mother. The parallels are stunning. Even though the destinations are different, the circumstances are the same. I was completely convinced Felix had killed Annette because Sharon had been missing for 11 years before Annette went missing and no one had heard from her," said Rose.

Convinced he was responsible for all three women is why Rose never gave up in her quest for the truth. Many credit her as the driving force behind keeping the investigation alive.

"My love for Annette and wanting justice. And seeing the pain of the other families had gone through. I wanted justice for them, too. And just not feeling at all that it was fair ... For Felix to be foot loose and fancy free living a carefree life with plenty of money and not being held accountable," said Rose.

Now that he faces murder charges in the case of Mary Horton, Rose hopes Felix will come clean with what happened to her daughter and Sharon.

"It would be a miracle ... He's a strange person. It would have to be a miracle for him to tell the truth but I believe in miracles. It's part of a miracle that he's behind bars now after so many years," said Rose.

Felix was arrested last month after Calcasieu Coroner Dr. Terry Welke ruled Mary Horton's death a homicide. Welke testified at a preliminary hearing last week that he didn't know how Mary Horton died but that it was no accident and that he is positive it is a homicide.

Basing his decision off two photos of Mary's body and the original autopsy report, Welke said he believes Mary was dead before she entered the water. Her body was rigid when it was pulled out of the water and her arms crossed across her chest - which is uncommon for a drowning victim. He also said black markings on her head, hands, clothing and shoes leads him to believe she was transported to the water face down or covered by a dirty cloth.

The grand jury is set to hear the case this Thursday. Meanwhile, Mary Rose said if the case ever goes to trial, she plans to be here to see it through.

Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved.