Years after daughter’s disappearance Greenfield woman may see some justice
Mary Rose sits in her Greenfield home with a picture of her daughter, Annette.
submitted photo of Mary Rose's daughter Annette
Mary Rose in her Greenfield home
GREENFIELD — The last time Mary Craver Rose of 1 Newell Court talked to her only daughter, Annette, was in June 1984, just weeks before the pretty, dark-haired 19-year-old disappeared.
“As soon as Annette disappeared, I knew something was amiss,” said Rose, who has lived in Franklin County for 15 years and Greenfield for six years. “I filed a missing person report.”
But, it never went very far, said Rose, who was living in California at the time.
Her daughter’s husband, Felix Vail, said Annette Craver had gotten on a bus to Mexico, and Rose said she couldn’t prove otherwise, because she and her daughter were estranged at the time and her daughter and Vail were living in Oklahoma.
Twenty-nine years later, the man Rose suspects killed her daughter has been indicted on second-degree murder charges in Lake Charles, La., for the alleged murder of his first wife in 1962, more than 50 years after that woman’s body was found in a Louisiana river.
Reports out of Louisiana say if convicted, Vail will recieve a life sentence without parole.
Craver was Vail’s second wife. A girlfriend of his also disappeared in 1973. She and Craver have never been found.
Many are now hailing Rose as the person responsible for bringing the 73-year-old Vail to justice, and the case is being called the oldest prosecution of a possible serial killer in U.S. history.
“I never gave up,” said Rose.
“This has been a long time coming,” she said.
Rose said she’s already made arrangements with a friend in Louisiana and plans to attend Vail’s trial, which probably won’t happen for another 12 to 18 months.
“As long as I know he’s in jail for life, I’ll have some closure,” said Rose. “My greatest hope is that he will want to talk with me and maybe confess or tell me where Annette is.”
Rose’s daughter met Vail in the early 1980s, said Rose.
“Annette was only 15 at the time,” she said. “He was 40. I wasn’t happy about it, but there wasn’t a lot I could do.”
The teen met Vail at a yard sale she and her mother were having and he kept in touch with Craver until they married when she was 17, said Rose.
Shortly after Craver graduated from high school, the couple started traveling together, and because of Vail’s influence, Rose’s relationship with her daughter became more and more strained.
She said her daughter had inherited $100,000 from her father when he died and Vail seemed to take control of the money.
“That was a lot of money for an 18-year-old,” she said.
Rose said that because her father died when she was young, she believes Craver was vulnerable to older men.
Rose, who moved to Massachusetts 13 years after her daughter disappeared, said Craver had also signed over the deed to the home she and her mother were living in Tulsa, Okla., to Vail, and Rose was asked to leave.
“After all these years, I understand that I was abused by him, just like she was,” said Rose. “Felix manipulated me too, and got me to do things so I would lose all contact with my only daughter.”
Rose said her daughter had become a “completely different person” with Vail.
“She was always so outgoing and fun-loving,” said Rose. “She had become quiet, like a robot. Felix made all of the decisions.”
In the late 1980s, about five years after her daughter disappeared, Rose hired a private investigator.
Rose’s search, with the help of the private investigator, eventually led her to the families of the two other women who had been in Vail’s life before Craver: his first wife, Mary Horton, and his girlfriend before Craver, Sharon Hensley.
Vail had told police that Horton died in an accidental drowning. He told Hensley’s parents that she had gotten on a boat with an Australian couple she met in Key West, Fla., to sail around the world.
“As I learned more and more, I was convinced Felix had killed Annette,” said Rose.
“I never gave up, because my love for Annette wouldn’t let me,” she said. “I wanted justice.”
Investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson, Miss., Clarion Ledger, who’s written a series of articles and a book about Vail, said “his is the oldest possible serial killer case in U.S. history.”
Mitchell reported that at the time of his first wife’s Oct. 28, 1962, death, Vail insisted she had fallen out of the boat while they were fishing in the Calcasieu River, which runs alongside downtown Lake Charles, La. The Clarion-Ledger reported that authorities ruled her death an accidental drowning, despite apparent contradictions in Vail’s story and the fact he had purchased a life insurance policy on Mary Vail months earlier.
In November, The Clarion-Ledger raised questions about possible foul play in Mary Vail’s death. Her autopsy showed she had a 4-inch bruise on the back of her neck and a scarf 4 inches into her mouth. That led authorities to revisit the case.
Rose said she still feels a deep sadness, and is still somewhat angry with Vail, but she has let go of the rage she once felt.
Now retired, she spent the last 15 years supporting herself by offering piano lessons and doing personal care. She said her whole life has revolved around bringing Vail to justice.
Now that he faces murder charges in the case of Mary Horton, Rose is hoping for a confession about Hensley and her daughter, but said she will settle for a conviction in the Horton case.
Vail was arrested in June after a coroner ruled his first wife’s death a homicide. The coroner, Dr. Terry Welke, testified at a preliminary hearing in late June that he didn’t know how Horton died, but that it was no accident and that he is positive it was a homicide.
According to reports, Welke based his decision on two photos of Horton’s body and the original autopsy report. He said he believes Horton was dead before she entered the water. Her body was rigid when it was pulled out of the water and her arms were crossed across her chest, which is uncommon for a drowning victim, he said.
He also said the black markings on her head, hands, clothing and shoes led him to believe she was transported to the water face down or covered by a dirty cloth.
Rose said Tuesday she will “sit and wait” until it is time for her to travel to Louisiana for the trial.