BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Convicted south Louisiana serial killer Derrick Todd Lee has died, officials confirmed Thursday morning.
Pam Laborde, spokeswoman with the Louisiana Department of Safety and Corrections, said Lee died shortly before 9 a.m. while being treated at a hospital. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. Lee reportedly had recent troubles with his pacemaker.
Lee was taken to the hospital early Saturday morning due to a medical condition, according to Laborde. Officials said additional information about Lee's medical condition cannot be released due to federal and state privacy laws.
Lee, 47, was linked through DNA to the deaths of multiple women. He was convicted in two of those deaths. In 2004, he was sentenced to death in the 2002 first-degree murder of Charlotte Murray Pace, 22, of Baton Rouge. She was a graduate student at LSU at the time of her death. Lee was also convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in the January 2002 killing of Geralyn DeSoto.
Lee is suspected of killing seven women between 1998 and 2003. The other murders include Pam Kinamore, Gina Wilson Green, Carrie Lynn Yoder and Trineisha Dene' Colomb. Prosecutors believe Lee also killed Randi Mebruer from Zachary.
"You know Greg, it's just a solemn moment for the victims," said Tony Clayton, lead prosecutor for the trial into the death of DeSoto. "I mean, they can finally start healing. Just hearing what you were saying about this case, it's devastating. Derrick wreaked a lot of havoc on a lot of folks families. So now, they can just start the healing process. So, in a weird kind of way, the victims can now begin to put this behind them as it relates to them waiting for his execution, etc. I just have to hang my head low in prayer for all the folks who suffered through this."
It seems like so long ago we worked on this case together. Derrick Todd Lee was never remorseful in any of his actions. He always tried to play like he still didn't do it and he was innocent and this was a big conspiracy. Is that why so many people hated this man?
"You know, a lot of times, serial killers, they deny all the way to the end. And that's what Derrick did. We had him red-handed with DNA placing him here and there and at the crime scenes, etc. And he just denied it 'til the end. It plays a roles with juries. Juries want you to man up and accept responsibility to what you've done. And the fact that he had no remorse and the fact that he didn't own up to what he had done, it creates the scenario, for lack of a better word, will put it in folks to not have much remorse for him," Clayton replied.
Geralyn DeSoto, that was the case that you prosecuted there. I'm sure her family is elated as well. This was a brutal crime that he did. This is, what we know of, was the first one that has actually connected through DNA.
"Yeah, we tried him the first case, the Geralyn Desoto case. It was horrible what happened to her. He cut her from ear to ear. And the way that he was able to link him through DNA was that he tried to put her throat back together and she captured his DNA under her fingernails as she was trying to fight him as well as her own DNA. And he stomped her in the end. It was a horrific crime. Maybe one of the worst I've ever seen," Clayton added.
When you think about what this will mean to the families, does that kind of put an end on this?
"Yeah. Well, it does as it relates to the having to wait for the appeals then having to wait for the actual execution. But I don't think that it will ever end for the victims. They will always have this deeply embedded in their minds. How their love ones were brutally murdered. But it does bring some closure in and sense that you don't have to watch the courts everyday waiting to see what the next saga in this, the plan out execution of this case," Clayton answered.
And honestly, there will be some people who will watch this and say, "Okay, good. Okay, he's dead now. Move on." But I think the part of the reason we're breaking into programming here is he touched so many lives in south Louisiana in a very negative way. A lot of families out there who still think that he probably murdered their loved one and never even got their day in court.
"You know, there were several cases. I linked Derrick Todd Lee to over, well in excess, in my investigation, over 20 murders. I don't have the numbers in front of me right now, but there are a lot of people who believe that he killed them. The problem was that you can only put a person to death so many times. So, it didn't make sense to keep trying him and trying again to keep convicting him. And, East Baton Rouge Parish got the death conviction and we got the life conviction with enough insurance that he would not be a threat to anyone again," Clayton stated.
District Attorney Moore, thank you for joining us. What is your first reaction? You weren't the district attorney at the time, but lived in Baton Rouge. You knew what this would put on your office eventually.
"Sure, I knew it was a big case in Baton Rouge and to people the surrounding areas," Moore said. "A lot of damage had been done at this man's hands. You know, this was obviously something that was expected with him going to the hospital with not a lot of word coming out. But surely, you never wish anything bad on anyone, regardless of what they've done. But this has obviously now come to pass with his death. So now, the appeals of him and this case is finally over."
How frustrating is it to look at a family and you tell them, "Look, we have the death sentence, but we could be 10 years down the road." Lee was convicted of 2004, I believe. We are way past that 10 years where most of time the appeals take. How frustrated is it to say, "Yeah, we have the death sentence, but he's going to be around for a lot longer?"
"Well, it's always a tough conversation to have with families and unfortunately, we've have that with many families, these fine families, the victims of this person. But surely, it is frustrating and as you know, now running around for 20 to 25 years of appeals before you actually get to the United States Supreme Court for a final word. And then, that we've seen in recent times, once you get there, sometimes it bounces back again for another hearing. So again, these families re-live the second wound so often and multiple years of second wounds and second injuries to the families. It's difficult to get any type of closure," Moore responded.
The families in this, I don't know if you heard, I spoke earlier with Ann Pace, mother of the one Charlotte Murray Pace, who was convicted under your office. I said earlier that I never heard her cry so much. She said it was just such a relief. Charlotte Murray Pace killed just off of Sharlow near the LSU campus. Such a relief just to kind of figure out. She is in Jackson, Mississippi trying to call her daughter. She couldn't get her on the cell phone. So, you can just imagine, as with these families so many times, the phone chains going around saying that this just happened. "Oh my God. I can't believe it." Maybe there is a piece of closure. Maybe not.
"Yeah, they always feel threatened and just not safe. Can't really breathe until they see the final outcome. As we know now around the country, they have seen a study going on in psychology and the victimization that these families and generations of families go through. You have to remember that it's just not the immediate mother or sister. It's the other children that come along and what do you do at Christmas time and other holiday times, family times. What would usually happen then because it usually never goes away," Moore explained.
I was talking with David McDavid earlier. He was the Zachary police chief. He has been investigating Derrick Todd Lee for a good part of his career. And this is a guy he thinks about those cases and the ones that got way. This is definitely one: Randi Mebruer. They found her little boy, just to tell you how brutal Derrick Todd Lee is. They found her little boy just by himself, neighbors say, in the house. And, Derrick Todd Lee had taken Randi Mebruer and killed her and who knows what else, but left his DNA behind on a trash bag. And, that little boy was left there, probably witnessed his own mother's murder. They never found her body. So, that's one thing that they still look, but one thing they did find was his DNA.
"There have been a lot of victimization at his hands. Also, a lot of talented work being put into these cases - all of the numerous investigative agencies, prosecutors and even the lawyers that represented this man vigorously," Moore said.
A big cost, too. How much did this cost them to keep doing these things?
"That has been something that has been done by a cost committee now. But when you talk about 20 to 25 years in the pen, you're talking about a million dollars, lots of money. Talking about me, now, being the DA, that's only in his tenth or so year, there might be two or three DAs, elected DAs that might eventually handle that final outcome. So, I know I'm working on cases that are 25 years old and it's kind of frustrating," Moore answered.
Earlier, I brought up John Singuefield, the man who went after, what he called, south Louisiana justice for Derrick Todd Lee. I know this is probably a different day for you. Mr. Singuefield, what's going through your mind?
"Well, I think this is important," Sinquefield said. "I hope it provides closure to the family members of the victims of Derrick Todd Lee through his actions of what he was found guilty and sentenced to death. This is a tragic circumstance, not only for the victims who died, but also their family members. Feelings go on forever. I hope this does provide some closure and comfort to the family members that nobody has to worry about him getting out and committing any other crimes."
John, you're able to live long enough to be able to talk about in court about a little bit of what happened. You can pretty much bring up anything. The sheer brutality of some of these things, we never released a lot of these things on the news just because it was just so horrific in a lot of these cases. You know some of the brutality. But this man was just an absolute monster in what he was convicted of doing - just to Charlotte Murray Pace, not to mention Pan Kinamore.
"I've been prosecuting for over 40 years in the state of Louisiana and easily, the violence that was done to these victims, the forces that happened to their bodies just beyond all human understanding. So, as one of the attorneys said, you can't understand why he would do such things. But, he was convicted in front of an East Baton Rouge jury and sentenced to death and years more in the federal court in habeus corpus proceedings. All of that now will come to an end. And again, I am glad this very tragic chapter in south Louisiana history has been closed with the death of the south Louisiana serial killer," Sinquefield stated.
Lee had been in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola since Oct. 14, 2004.
The West Feliciana Coroner expects a wait of two to three weeks before the autopsy results are final.