Gillis found guilty of 1st degree murder - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

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Gillis found guilty of 1st degree murder

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An East Baton Rouge Parish jury has found Sean Vincent Gillis guilty of first-degree murder in the 2004 strangulation death of Donna Bennett Johnston. It took the jury less than three-and-a-half hours Friday to bring in a new conviction against the serial killer.

That same jury returns to district court Saturday at 1:00 p.m. to begin the task of recommending an appropriate sentence for Gillis. During the penalty phase, prosecutors will introduce evidence of two additional murders that Sean Gillis is accused of committing. Although those murders are not necessarily going to be prosecuted, the evidence will be to be put before the jury.

Prosecutors will use that evidence to try to convince the jury to put Sean Vincent Gillis to death. Also, victim impact statements will be heard from the family members of victims. The penalty phase of the trial is expected to last two or three days.

The jury returns to district court Saturday at 1:00 p.m. to begin the task of recommending an appropriate sentence for Gillis. During the penalty phase, prosecutors will introduce evidence of two additional murders that Sean Gillis is accused of committing. Although those murders are not necessarily going to be prosecuted, the evidence will be to be put before the jury.

Prosecutors will use that evidence to try to convince the jury to put Sean Vincent Gillis to death. Also, victim impact statements will be heard from the family members of victims. The penalty phase of the trial is expected to last two or three days.

Doctor Cecile Guin and her team of researchers at LSU investigate cases like these every day. Gillis has only been convicted in the murder of two women, but police have said he's confessed to killing eight in all. Guin says the video of investigators questioning Gillis before he was officially in their custody shows a very different image than the one the killer portrays now.

"All serial killers are very manipulative types of people and so, there's probably a huge part of him that really enjoyed that." However, now that he's in police custody, the doctor sees a change in behavior. "Later times, he is kind of slumped over, disinterested, sluggish." Guin says now that Gillis is behind bars, he can no longer indulge what she calls his compulsion to kill. "His joy was in the actual murder itself."

Investigators say Gillis cut off parts of his victims' bodies and kept them as a kind of trophy. "The control came in with the control he had on their bodies as he picked them up and as he killed them." Now that Gillis is behind bars, he can control very little in his life. Guin says it even looks as though Gillis is heavily medicated on some kind of anti-depressant. "He clearly has some mental disabilities and probably has for a long time."

Guin says serial killers often have a compulsion to kill at an early age. She and her team of researchers say Gillis was always known to be eccentric. They say his strained, somewhat unusual relationship with his parents likely contributed to his compulsion to kill.

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