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Serial Killers


       October 02, 2011 1:13 PM

 Eyes Wide Shut


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One hot sweaty afternoon in July 2002, Baton Rouge antiques dealer Pam Kinamore left work and headed home. When her husband got home later, her car was there, but Pam was not.


Worried, he called police.


He had reason to worry. Within the past year, two other Baton Rouge women had been brutally murdered in their homes, and both cases remained unsolved.


The victims were Gina Wilson Green, murdered in September 2001, and Louisiana State University graduate student Charlotte Murray Pace, murdered in May 2002. Both had been sexually assaulted. Now Pam Kinamore was missing and her family feared the worst.


Five days after she disappeared, her body was found under a bridge located between Baton Rouge and Lafayette, LA. She too had been sexually assaulted. Moreover, the bodies of two other women had previously been found in the same area.

 

After hearing about Pam, a woman contacted police and said the night Pam disappeared she had seen a man driving a white pickup truck on the I-10 and may have seen Pam's body in the truck. The same truck appeared to be connected to the rape of a Mississippi woman two days after Pam disappeared. The victim told police she was coerced into a white truck on the I-10 and raped before the man let her go.

 

In August, law enforcement officials set up a Homicide Task Force—40 local and state investigators—to catch the killer. DNA evidence indicated the same man had murdered Green, Pace, and Pam Kinamore. Convinced they were seeking a serial killer, investigators began to compare the DNA samples with those taken from several dozen unsolved murder cases over the past decade.

 

In November, the body of Treneisha Dene Colomb was discovered in St. Landry Parish. DNA evidence linked her to the Pace, Green and Kinamore murders. Colomb, a 23-year-old female Marine, was the killer’s first known black victim and the first found outside the Baton Rouge area.


A Killer Profile and a Panicked Public

 

Based on the 4 murders, the Task Force released a profile of the killer: A man between the ages of 25 and 30, strong enough to carry the bodies and dispose of them; an insecure man who had difficulty interacting with women. They also released a composite of a "person of interest,” a man reportedly seen in a white pickup truck. Although the profile did not specify race, the Task Force said they expected the killer to be white or Hispanic because statistically serial killers usually are. However, one outside law enforcement expert, citing the increasing racial integration of society, said this assumption was outdated.

After seeing the sketch of the Caucasian-looking man, neighbors of Charlotte Pace reported seeing a black man outside her townhouse the day of her murder. When police refused to prepare a composite from their descriptions, they hired a criminology instructor to do one, a sketch that looked eerily similar to the man police eventually arrested. However, the Task Force told them not to release their sketch; the man hadn’t been seen entering or leaving Pace’s townhouse and could not be considered "a strong lead."

 

Public fears escalated. Attendance at LSU classes declined. Sales of guns and pepper spray, and enrollment in self-defense classes skyrocketed. Investigators ran updates about the killer on electronic billboards in the Lafayette and Baton Rouge area. In January 2003, investigators asked 600 suspects, white males, to give voluntary DNA samples. Men who refused were investigated further and pressured to comply.

 

In March 2003, Carrie Lynn Yoder, a doctoral student at LSU, disappeared. A fisherman found her body near the bridge where Pam Kinamore’s body had been found. DNA samples confirmed that she was the killer’s fifth [known] victim. Investigators also added another name to the list. Lillian Robinson had been found in February near the same bridge, but due to advanced decomposition, they were unable to get DNA samples to link her to the killer.


Criticism of the Task Force

 

One criminologist said it was a mistake to focus on cases linked by DNA and suggested the killer might already be in investigator’s files. Another pinpointed a triangle-shaped area on a map within which the killer might live and gave it to the Task Force. A forensic consultant who specialized in analyzing DNA for racial attributes told them his analysis of the killer's DNA showed a 67% probability the killer was black, a 11% probability he was white. Police later confirmed this. However, at the time, investigators had taken 600 DNA samples from white men to compare with the killer's DNA.

 

To be fair, the Task Force had a difficult job. They were sorting through 20,000 tips and a multitude of unsolved case files. After discovering the two black victims, Colomb and Robinson, and receiving tips about an attractive black man who had attacked three women in St. Martin Parish, investigators modified their profile and released a new composite: a light-skinned black man, described as clean cut, personable and handsome, a man who initially behaved in a non-threatening manner and tried to charm his victims. 


Hiding in Plain Sight

 

Ten years earlier in 1992, Connie Warner had been taken from her home in Zachary, a small town 25 miles northwest of Baton Rouge, murdered and dumped in a Baton Rouge drainage ditch. In 1998 Randi Mebruer had also disappeared from her Zachary home. A city of 12,000, Zachary averaged less than 10 homicides in a decade. These were its only unsolved murder cases, and Zachary police had a suspect: Derrick Todd Lee, a known burglar and peeping Tom, crimes serial killers typically commit as dry runs to scope out potential victims and practice entering their homes. Shortly after the Task Force assembled, Zachary police told them about Lee. But the Zachary victims had not been analyzed for DNA and Task Force investigators seemed uninterested in these cases.


Lee and first composite 

At Left: Derrick Todd Lee and the first police composite


Below right: Derrick Todd Lee and the second police composite.








Independent of the Task Force, Zachary police got a court order to take a swab of Lee’s saliva for DNA analysis. When they saw the March 2003 updated Task Force sketch, which resembled Lee, they called the crime lab.


After learning the Lee sample still awaited analysis, they urged the lab to speed up the process. In May, a technician processed Lee's DNA swabs and matched them to DNA samples taken from Carrie Lynn Yoder. The lab later linked Lee to three other Baton Rouge murders. On May 26, police issued an arrest warrant for Derrick Todd Lee, but by then Lee and his wife and two children were gone. The day Lee submitted the DNA sample he and his wife had packed their belongings and fled.


Caught!


On May 27 Atlanta police arrested him in a hotel room. Lee waived extradition and was flown to Louisiana. He had a long police record. Arrests between 1992 and 2001 included charges of peeping, stalking, burglary and attempted first-degree murder. Police determined that Lee had not been incarcerated during the dates of the homicides of Warner, Mebruer, Green, Pace, Kinamore, Colomb or Yoder. Outraged that Lee had not been found earlier, relatives and friends of the victims said their loved ones might still be alive had he been apprehended sooner.


In 2004, Derrick Todd Lee was convicted of murder and sentenced to die by lethal injection, a decision upheld in 2008 by the Louisiana State Supreme Court. He remains on death row at the Louisiana state Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana.


See more details on this and other cases in DARK DEEDS, Volume One

http://susanfleet.com/darkdeeds-v1.html#.UubLSrQo4dU


Sources: New Orleans Times-Picayune: various articles 2001-2003, "To Catch a Killer," Allen Johnson, Jr., Gambit Weekly, 2-4-2003

 

This case dominated the news from 2001 when I moved to New Orleans until the day Lee was caught, and inspired my first crime thriller, ABSOLUTION. I look forward to your comments. What do you think? Might Lee have been caught sooner if police had not put so much focus on white male suspects?         


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COMMENTS


[ Posted by Donna Fletcher Crow, October 04, 2011 6:11 PM ]
     What a gift you have for telling chilling stories, Susan!

[ Posted by admin, October 04, 2011 6:21 PM ]
     Thanks Donna ... it must be because "I see dead people." But seriously, everyone in the Baton Rouge/New Orleans are was terrified until they caught this guy. The daughter of one of my close friends was choosing which college to attend at the time and decided NOT to go to LSU because he hadn't been caught ... she wound up going to a college outside Louisiana.

[ Posted by Myrna, October 05, 2011 9:53 AM ]
     Perhaps the outcome would have come sooner without white focus, but it sounds like they couldn't tell yet at that time. Wow. "Seeing dead people" Do you know who they are right away when that happens?

[ Posted by Sandra McLeod Humphrey, October 05, 2011 2:40 PM ]
     What a waste of young womanhood--so many gifted women who never had a chance to follow their dreams! I'm glad he was finally apprehended, but it's too bad some of the investigators hadn't been more open-minded at the time. I'm definitely going to have to check out your books!

[ Posted by mike foldes, May 16, 2012 4:51 AM ]
     You may want to download "Sleeping Dogs: A true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping," for another look at an old 'solved' crime.

[ Posted by admin, May 16, 2012 8:18 AM ]
     Thanks for stopping by, Mike. Judging by your quote around "solved" you believe it wasn't, really. Thanks, I'll check it out!

posted by SUSAN FLEET   October 02, 2011 1:13 PM  Serial Killers 



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