Derrick Todd Lee (born in 1968 in St. Francisville, Louisiana, USA), dubbed the Baton Rouge Serial Killer, has been linked by DNA to the deaths of seven women in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas in Louisiana. Newspapers have suggested a link with other unsolved murders in the area, but the police lack DNA evidence to prove these connections.
The murder method has varied with nearly each case. Similarities between the crimes include the removal of phones from the victim's belongings and the lack of forced entry. Most murders were committed in the area around Louisiana State University (LSU), with two of the bodies being found in Whiskey Bay.
Public hysteria had created many rumors and false suspect reports in the area. Previously, the suspect was believed to be a white man driving a white pickup truck. Further new evidence then pointed to an African-American man from the Breaux Bridge area driving a gold 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage who was also wanted in connection with an attempted rape. Lee was captured in Atlanta, Georgia, in May 2003.
During the last week of May 2003, DNA swabs taken from a West Feliciana Parish man who resembled the most recent composite of the suspect were rushed to the crime labs for analysis. It didn't take long for the lab technician processing the samples to realize that there was a positive match between the suspects DNA and samples taken from Carrie Lynn Yoder. Technicians were able to further link the suspect to three more murders attributed to the suspected Baton Rouge serial killer. After many long months, investigators finally had their key suspect, thirty-four-year old Derrick Todd Lee.
On Monday 26, 2003 police issued an arrest warrant for Lee, who fled to Chicago and then Atlanta in an effort to escape murder charges. At the time the warrant was issued, he and his family had been gone for approximately three weeks. Police learned that on the day Lee voluntarily provided a DNA sample, his wife Jacqueline withdrew their young son and daughter from school, claiming they were moving to Los Angeles. The couple then quickly packed up their belongings and abandoned their brown-brick ranch style house on 4273 U.S. 61 in St.Francisville of West Feliciana Parish, La.
On May 27, 2003, Atlanta police working with a joint FBI-metropolitan Atlanta task force apprehended Lee at a hotel where he was lodging. Lee waived extradition and was flown back to Louisiana the following day. Initially he was charged with only Carrie Lynn Yoder's murder. However, by early June he was also accused of the rape and murder of Green, Pace, Kinamore and Colomb based on DNA evidence linking him to the crimes.
During the investigation into Lee, the police learned that he had an extensive criminal history. According to Penny Brown Roberts, staff writer for 2theadvocate.com, Lee's youthful record included a string of juvenile offenses that stretched back to 1984 when he was caught peeping into the home of a St. Francisville woman's home. It would mark the first of many such offenses. Robert's further states that Lee never really outgrew his teenage fetish.
As Lee grew older his "rap sheet" became more extended, including arrests for attempted first-degree murder, stalking, peeping into homes, as well as break in and burglary, among other crimes. According to Roberts, Dunne and Millhollon, Lee's arrests and related incidents between 1992 and 2001 were as follows:
November 1992: Lee arrested for illegal entry and burglary of Zachary resident Rob Benge's house.
January 1993: Lee and his accomplice, Thomas Whitaker Jr. were arrested for breaking into the home of seventy-three-year old Melvin Foster, whom they beat with a stick and robbed.
July 1993: Lee sentenced to one year in prison for burglary.
September 1995: Lee arrested for a peeping incident and resisting arrest, after being chased and caught by police after looking into the window of a woman. During the same month, Lee was arrested again for stealing from a Salvation Army Thrift Store.
August 1997: Lee arrested after being caught looking into the windows of a woman.
August 1999: Lee arrested after being caught in a woman's residence uninvited, for being a peeping Tom and stalking.
December 1999: Received a suspended sentence on a misdemeanor stalking charge.
January 2000: Accused of attempted first-degree murder after severely kicking and stomping his girlfriend Consandra Green at a bar after an argument over Lee's advances towards another woman. While trying to flee from the police following the incident he allegedly tried and to run over the sheriff's deputy with a car. Lee was sentenced to two years for the incident.
September 2001: Lee arrested for battery against wife but charges later dismissed.
Following the release of Lee's vast criminal history, residents of Baton Rouge were shocked that he was never suspected in the Baton Rouge murders, especially when the focus was changed to a man of color in March of 2003. Moreover, the task force was heavily criticized because Lee had been overlooked after having been brought to their attention by the Zachary Police Department in 2002. The Zachary Police suspected Lee in the murder of forty-one-year old Connie Warner in 1992 and the disappearance of twenty-year old Randi Mebruer in 1998. Despite the mistakes made in the case, the task force was congratulated for their work in catching the killer.
After Lee had been taken into police custody, the police with the help of the FBI immediately were focusing on trying to locate his estranged wife Jacqueline and the couple's two children. It was hoped that Jacqueline might be able to provide clues into Lee's behavior and whereabouts during the crimes. Family members suspected she was hiding out of fear.
According to Ned Randolph, a reporter for the Baton Rouge news site 2theadvocate.com, family members of Jacqueline Denise Lee claimed that "she lived in denial of her husband's transgressions, which include stalking, peeping into windows and infidelity." According to Advocate writer Ned Randolph, Jacqueline's aunt claimed she was afraid of her husband and at one point against her wishes he had a mistress move into their home.
Initially, Jacqueline and the couple's two children could not be traced. Eventually in June 2003, the FBI located the three in Chicago. Investigators were interested in Jacqueline not only for questioning purposes but also because they needed her consent before they could begin digging up the property of her former residence.
Lee was tried in August 2004 for the murder of Geralyn DeSoto, who was found dead in her home in Addis, Louisiana. DeSoto had been stabbed numerous times. Desoto's husband was the primary suspect, but DNA evidence creating a possible link to Lee was discovered as the murder investigation progressed. Although eligible for first degree murder charges, the District Attorney elected to try Lee for murder in the second degree, since DeSoto was not sexually assaulted and thus a first-degree murder conviction would be harder to obtain. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the benefit of parole.
One of Lee's victims is believed to have been Mari Ann Fowler (born 1937), wife of former Louisiana Elections Commissioner Jerry M. Fowler. Mrs. Fowler was abducted on Christmas eve 2002 from a sandwich shop in Port Allen in West Baton Rouge Parish. She was never found and was declared legally dead in 2004.
Lee was convicted on October 14, 2004, for the May 31, 2002 rape and murder of LSU graduate student Charlotte Murray Pace. Lee was sentenced to die by lethal injection, and he currently resides on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.