Derrick Todd Lee (November 5, 1968 – January 21, 2016), also known as the Baton Rouge Serial Killer, was an American serial killer. His killing spree began in 1992 and ended in 2003, and consisted of seven women.
Prior to his murder charges, Lee had been arrested for stalking women and watching them in their homes. Despite this, he was initially overlooked by police, because they incorrectly believed the killer was white. Lee was linked by DNA tests to the deaths of seven women in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas in Louisiana, and in 2004 was convicted, in separate trials, of the murders of Geralyn DeSoto and Charlotte Murray Pace. The Pace trial resulted in a death sentence.
Newspapers suggested Lee was responsible for other unsolved murders in the area, but the police lacked DNA evidence to prove these connections. After Lee’s arrest, it was discovered that another serial killer, Sean Vincent Gillis, was operating in the Baton Rouge area during the same time as Lee.
Lee died on January 21, 2016, of heart disease at a hospital in Louisiana, where he was transported for treatment from Louisiana State Penitentiary, where he had been awaiting execution.
Lee’s methods varied with nearly each murder. Similarities between the crimes included the removal of cell phones from the victim’s belongings, and a lack of any visible signs of forced entry into the location where the victim was attacked. Two of the victims’ bodies were discovered at the Whiskey Bay boat launch, approximately 30 miles west of Baton Rouge, just off Interstate 10.
Because the majority of highly publicized serial killers are white and based on erroneous eyewitness accounts, police originally believed the killer to be white. Police therefore administered thousands of DNA tests to Caucasian men in and around the general area of the murders. Having no leads, police then allowed the now defunct company DNAPrint Genomics to access DNA left at the crime scenes. DNAPrint Genomics generated an ancestry profile indicating that the suspect was 85% African, thus changing the course of the investigation: Police then knew they were searching for a black man for the January 2002 slaying of Geralyn Barr DeSoto. More specific analysis of the DNA evidence found under the fingernails of DeSoto linked Lee to the 21-year-old Addis, Louisiana woman’s death.
Lee entered the St. Martin Parish home of Dianne Alexander on July 9, 2002. Lee beat Alexander severely and attempted to rape her. Dianne Alexander is the only known survivor of Derrick Todd Lee. Alexander survived because her son walked in during the commission of the crime, frightening Lee out of the back of the house. Alexander’s son chased Lee through the back of the house and was able to get a description of the car. Alexander had details as to what Lee looked like and on May 22, 2003, Alexander was able to describe Lee to a police sketch artist.
Between the DNA evidence gathered off of the deceased victims, the psychological profile made by Mary Ellen O’Toole, and the police sketch based on Alexander’s description, the police went public with the information. Police in the nearby town of Zachary, LA recognized the man by a recent peeping tom incident they had just investigated. Police in Zachary called the police in Baton Rouge to let them know the name of the suspected perpetrator. Additionally, the Zachary Police Department also let the Baton Rouge Police Department know that they had a DNA sample from Lee due to a prior murder investigation from 6–8 months earlier. The DNA lab ran and compared the samples and they were a match to Derrick Todd Lee.
Alexander’s survival and description of Lee assisted investigators in his arrest. Alexander felt she deserved the Lafayette Crime Stoppers Inc. public reward offering of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of Lee. On or about August 14, 2003 Alexander contacted Lafayette Crime Stoppers Inc. and inquired about the offer. It was then that Lafayette Crime Stoppers Inc. informed Alexander that she was not eligible to receive the reward.
On February 22, 2006 Alexander hired Attorney L. Clayton Burgess to pursue the case. Lafayette Crime Stoppers Inc. claimed that the reward offer expired on August 1, 2003 and that, although Alexander had gone to the police, she did not contact Lafayette Crime Stoppers Inc. before August 1, 2003. Furthermore, Lafayette Crime Stoppers Inc. claimed that she [Alexander] did not use the tipster hotline and, thereby did not comply with the “form, terms, or conditions” required by Lafayette Crime Stoppers Inc. The case was decided in Lafayette Crime Stoppers Inc.’s favor.
Once Lee was identified as the primary suspect in these crimes, law enforcement located and captured him in Atlanta, Georgia. Lee waived extradition and was returned to Baton Rouge, where he was tried in August 2004 for the murder of Geralyn DeSoto. Desoto had been found dead in her home in Addis, stabbed numerous times.
DeSoto’s husband had initially been the primary suspect in her murder, but as the investigation progressed, DNA evidence linking Lee to the crime had been discovered. Although Lee was eligible for first degree murder charges, the District Attorney elected to try Lee for murder in the second degree because DeSoto had not been sexually assaulted, which meant a first-degree murder conviction would be harder to obtain. Lee was convicted by jury and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
Charlotte Murray Pace
There was some argument that Derrick Lee was perhaps incompetent to stand trial. During psychiatric evaluations, he scored an average of 65 on various standardized IQ tests; a score below 69 is considered to be the threshold for what can be considered mental retardation. Lee was, however, deemed fit to stand trial despite his low IQ.
Lee was convicted on October 14, 2004, for the May 31, 2002, rape and murder of LSU graduate student Charlotte Murray Pace. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection. On January 16, 2008, the state Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction and death sentence. Lee was placed on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. During the manhunt, John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, added the Baton Rouge Serial Killer to his Top 10 Fugitives of 2002 at #3.
Lee was portrayed in an episode of the docudrama series Obsession: Dark Desires, which aired in March 2014 and centered on his stalking of surviving victim Collette Dwyer whose tips to police about Todd weren’t fully followed up.
“Crying baby” rumor
In early 2003, an urban legend began to circulate that Lee was using the taped sounds of a crying baby to lure victims to the door. The Baton Rouge Police were quick to deny that the information was coming from their office. Fueling the rumor were Season 3 episodes of the television series Criminal Minds titled “Children of the Dark” and “Tabula Rasa”. Lee and the “crying baby” rumor were mentioned in both episodes. Snopes reported on this urban legend.
Derrick Todd Lee
Profile of the Baton Rouge Serial Killer – Derrick Todd Lee
by Charles Montaldo
Derrick Todd Lee, also known as the Baton Rouge Serial Killer, prowled communities of south Louisiana for years before his capture and eventual conviction in two of at least seven cases of rape and murder of women in 2002 and 2003.
Derrick Todd Lee was born on November 5, 1968 in St. Francisville, Louisiana to Samuel Ruth and Florence Lee. Samuel Ruth left Florence soon after Derrick was born.
For Florence and the children, having Ruth out of the picture was good. He suffered from mental illness and eventually ended up in a mental institution after being charged with attempted murder of his ex-wife.
Florence later married Coleman Barrow who was a responsible man that raised Derrick and his sisters as if they were his own children. Together they taught their children the importance of an education and to follow the teachings of the Bible.
Lee grew up like many children in small towns around south Louisiana. His neighbors and play pals were mostly from his extended family.
His interest in school was limited to playing in the school band. Academically Lee struggled, often being out shined by his younger sister who was a year younger than him, but advanced in school faster. His IQ, ranging from below 70 to 75, made it challenging for him to maintain his grades.
By the time Lee turned 11 he had been caught peeping into the windows of girls in his neighborhood, something he continued to do as an adult.
He also had a liking for torturing dogs and cats.
At the age of 13 Lee was arrested for simple burglary. He was already known to the local police because of his voyeurism, but it wasn’t until he was 16 that his anger issues got him in real trouble. He pulled a knife on a boy during a fight.
Charged with attempted second-degree murder, Lee’s rap sheet was slowing beginning to fill up.
At age 17 Lee was arrested for being a Peeping Tom, but even though he was a high school drop out with multiple complaints and arrests, he managed to stay out of going to a juvenile detention home.
In 1988 Lee met and married Jacqueline Denise Sims and the couple had two children, a boy named after his father Derrick Todd Lee, Jr. and in 1992 a girl, Dorris Lee. Soon after their marriage Lee pled guilty to unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.
Over the next few years he drifted in and out of two worlds. In one world, he was the responsible father who worked hard at his construction job and took his family on weekend outings. In the other world, he cruised the local bars, dressed in dapper attire and spent time drinking and having extra marital affairs with women.
Jacqueline knew about his infidelity, but she was devoted to Lee. She also became used to him being arrested. The times he spent in prison became almost as a welcomed relief compared to the volatile atmosphere he created when he was at home.
MONEY CREATES MORE PROBLEMS
In 1996 Jacqueline’s father was killed in a plant explosion and she was awarded a quarter of a million dollars.
With the financial boost Lee was now able to dress better, buy cars and spend more money on his girlfriend Casandra Green. But as quickly as the money came, it was spent and by 1999 Lee was back to living off of his earned wages except now he had another mouth to feed. Casandra had given birth to their son who they named Dedrick Lee in July of the same year.
In June 1999, Collette Walker, 36, of St. Francisville, La., filed stalking charges against Lee after he muscled his way into her apartment, trying to convince her that the two should date. She did not know him and managed to ease him out of her apartment. He left her with his phone number and suggested that she give him a call.
Days later a friend who lived close to Collette asked her about Lee who she had seen lurking around her apartment.
On another occasion Collette caught him peeping into her window and called police.
Even with his history of being a Peeping Tom and various other arrests, Lee did very little time for the charges of stalking and unlawful entry. In a plea bargain Lee pled guilty and received probation. Against the directions of the court he again went looking for Collette, but smartly she had moved.
A LOST OPPORTUNITY
Life was becoming stressful for Lee. The money was gone and finances were tight. He was arguing with Casandra a lot and in February 2000 the fighting escalated to violence and she started the proceedings to get a protective order prohibiting Lee from getting near her. Three days later he caught up with her in a bar parking lot and beat her up.
Casandra pressed charges and his probation was revoked. He spent the following year in prison until his release in February 2001. He was placed on house arrest and was required to wear monitoring equipment.
In May he was found guilty of violating the terms of his parole by removing the equipment and instead of having his probation revoked, he was given a legal slap on the hand and not returned to prison. Once again the opportunity to remove Derrick Todd Lee from society was lost, a decision that likely haunts those who made it.
THIRD SIDE OF DERRICK TODD LEE
When Derrick Todd Lee committed his first or last rape and murder of an unsuspecting woman is unknown.
What is known is that in 1993 he allegedly attacked two teens who were necking in a parked car. Equipped with a six foot harvesting tool, he was accused of hacking away at the couple, only stopping and fleeing as another car approached.
The couple survived and six years later, the girl, Michelle Chapman, picked Lee out of a line-up as her attacker.
Lee’s raping and killing spree would last another 10 years, with DNA evidence eventually linking him to seven victims who suffered from his vicious attacks.
VICTIMS OF DERRICK TODD LEE
April 2, 1993 – A teenaged couple were parked in an isolated area when they were attacked by a large man who hacked at them with a six foot harvesting tool.
Both survived and the girl, Michelle Chapman, identified Derrick Todd Lee as the attacker in a police line-up in 1998.
Other victims include:
April 18, 1998 – Randi Merrier 28
September 24, 2001 – Gina Wilson Green, 41
January 14, 2002 – Geralyn DeSoto, 21
May 31, 2002 – Charlotte Murray Pace, 21
July 9, 2002 – Diane Alexander
July 12, 2002 – Pamela Kinamore, 44
November 21, 2002 – Dene Colomb, 23
March 3, 2003 – Carrie Lynn Yoder
Visit the Victims of Derrick Todd Lee page for more information about how the victims lived and how they died.
August 23 1992 – Connie Warner of Zachary, LA. was bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Her body was found on Sept. 2, near the Capital Lakes in Baton Rouge, La. So far no evidence has linked Lee to her murder.
June 13, 1997 – Eugenie Boisfontaine lived on Stanford Ave., near the Louisiana State University campus when she was murdered. Her body was discovered nine months later under a tire along the edge of Bayou Manchac. There has been no evidence linking Lee to the murder.
TOO MANY MURDERS AND SERIAL KILLERS
Investigations into the several unsolved murder cases of women in Baton Rouge was going nowhere. There are many reasons why Derrick Todd Lee, who is somewhat mentally challenged, managed to avoid getting caught. Here are just a few:
Derrick Todd Lee stayed on the move. In the 10 years that it is known that he was raping and killing women, he was also constantly changing jobs, moving to different cities in south Louisiana and doing time in and out of prison. It was not until he focused on areas around LSU and left the bodies of two of his victims at a boat launch at Whiskey Bay that investigators moved from solving murders to looking for a serial killer.
Communications among detectives from one city to another was rare and Lee jumped from one parish to another to strike and kill.
From 1991 to 2001 there were 53 unsolved murders of women in Baton Rouge. The women came from all different backgrounds and ethnicities, as did the way that they died. The city was on high alert and the government was on the hot seat.
In August 2002 the Baton Rouge area Multi-Agency Task Force was formed and communications between parish detectives broadened. But instead of catching a killer, the task force ended up having more murders to solve – a lot more murders.
For the next two years 18 more women turned up dead and the only leads police had headed them in the wrong direction. What investigators did not know at the time, or did not tell the public is that there were two, maybe three serial killers responsible for many of the murders.
When it came to discovering and capturing Derrick Todd Lee, serial killer profiling did not work.
He was black and most serial killers are white males.
Most serial killers pick victims of their own race. Lee killed both black and white women.
Most serial killers use the method of killing like a signature so that they receive credit for the kill.
Lee used different methods.
Lee did do one thing that fit the profile of a serial killer – he kept trinkets from his victims.
In 2002 a composite sketch of the suspected serial killer was released to the public. The picture was of a white male with a long nose, long face and long hair. As soon as the picture was released the task force became inundated with phone calls and the investigation became bogged down on following up on tips.
It was not until May 23, 2003, the Baton Rouge area Multi-Agency Task Force released a sketch of a man wanted for questioning about attacks on woman in St. Martin Parish. He was described as a clean-cut, light-skinned black male with short brown hair and brown eyes. It was said that he was probably in his late 20s or early 30s. Finally the investigation was on track.
Around the same time as the new sketch was released, DNA was being collected in parishes where there were unsolved murders of women. At the time Lee was living in West Feliciana Parish and was asked to give a swab. Not only did his criminal history interest investigators, but so did his appearance which resembled the newly distributed composite sketch.
Investigators asked for a rush job on Lee’s DNA and within a few weeks they had their answer. Lee’s DNA matched samples taken from Yoder, Green, Pace, Kinamore and Colomb.
Lee and his family fled Louisiana on the same day that he volunteered his DNA. He was caught in Atlanta and returned to Louisiana a day after his arrest warrant was issued.
In August 2004 he was found guilty of murder in the second degree of Geralyn DeSoto and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
In October 2004 Lee was found guilty of the rape and murder of Charlotte Murray Pace and was sentenced to death by lethal injection.
In 2008, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld his conviction and the sentence of death.
Lee is currently awaiting execution on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana.
Upadate: Derrick Todd Lee, 47, died January 21, 2016, at the Lane Memorial Hospital in Zachary, Louisiana. He was transferred there from death row for emergency treatment. An autopsy will determine the cause of death.