Murder warrant issued in Louisiana serial killer case
BATON ROUGE, La. -- After examining DNA from more than 1,000 people, police issued a murder warrant Monday for a man described as the prime suspect in the killings of five women in south Louisiana, saying his DNA linked him to one of the deaths.
Derrick Todd Lee, 34, was charged in the warrant with murder and aggravated rape in the killing of Carrie Yoder, 26, a Louisiana State University graduate student who became the serial killer's fifth victim in March.
The FBI also issued a fugitive warrant Monday, and police released a photo of Lee and asked the public to help locate him.
"He is to be considered armed and dangerous," said Police Chief Pat Englade, head of the task force investigating the killings.
While the warrant accuses Lee only of Yoder's murder, it says the DNA evidence removed from Yoder's body matched that taken from the other four victims.
Lee's home in St. Francisville, a small town north of Baton Rouge, sat open and empty on Monday. Records show Lee and his wife filed for bankruptcy in November 2002, and a court order to allow foreclosure on his house was signed May 16.
Bankruptcy records listed Lee's occupation as a truck driver.
Jane Lee, who identified herself as Lee's grandmother when contacted by phone in St. Francisville, said her grandson and his wife have two children. She said she was concerned about the warrant but wouldn't answer further questions.
The naming of a suspect came nearly a year after police linked the murders of three Baton Rouge women to a single DNA profile, creating a frenzy in the area as women flocked to self defense classes and bought pepper spray and handguns.
Police conducted a massive 10-month DNA dragnet for the suspect, taking cheek scrapings and swabbings from more than 1,000 men. The search led some men to complain they felt pressured to volunteer their DNA to rid themselves of suspicion. Defense attorneys have questioned the legality of the search.
The warrant says a DNA sample was taken from Lee on May 5 but did not say why or under what circumstances. Police refused to answer questions about the DNA testing.
Two more victims were connected to the serial killer later, and monthly rallies to remember the victims often led to accusations the police weren't using enough outside help.
St. Francisville Police Chief Wendell Fontenot said Lee had "miscellaneous run-ins over time" with police, but he said he was unable to immediately give further details.
Newspaper accounts show Lee has a record of arrests on charges of peeping into homes, stalking, burglary and criminal trespassing. After a fight in a bar, he was arrested for allegedly running a roadblock and accused of attempted first-degree murder of a policeman, according to The Advocate newspaper of Baton Rouge.
A reporter walked through Lee's house outside St. Francisville Monday and found carpets ripped up, siding from the walls torn away, wires exposed, cabinets open, window shades ripped down and light fixtures torn out.
Sherman Drury, a neighbor, described Lee as "very clean and neatly dressed" and said he was seldom home but his wife and children stayed there. Drury said he had not seen Lee in about a week.
The DNA match to Lee, a black man, conflicts with descriptions in an FBI profile released months ago that said the killer likely was white. Police said after Yoder's murder that the killer could be of any race.
Yoder, from Tampa, Fla., was severely beaten, raped and strangled. The other victims were Gina Wilson Green, 41; Charlotte Murray Pace, 22; Pam Kinamore, 44, all of Baton Rouge; and Trineisha Dene Colomb, 23, of Lafayette.
Ann Pace, mother of the killer's second victim, said she was "overwhelmed and nauseated" when she heard a suspect was named in the case.
"You have to be glad because it seems inevitable, I hope, that they will catch him. That means no one else will die, and that's all that matters," Pace said.
"Of course, I wish it had happened sooner," she added.
Ed White, Kinamore's brother-in-law, said his family wouldn't be "totally elated" until Lee was captured, and warned women not to let down their guard. "We need the public's help in apprehending him because he's on the run," White said.
On Friday, investigators released a sketch of a possible suspect, a man who tried to rape one woman and approached two others last year. The photo of Lee bears a similarity to the sketch, but police said Monday they had not connected Lee to those encounters, which occurred in June and July 2002 in St. Martin Parish.
Those three women were not killed and officials said no conclusive evidence links that man to the serial killer.
On the Net:
Homicide Task Force: http://www.brgov.com/TaskForce/default.asp