Lee Found Guilty In Geralyn DeSoto's Murder

Published: Aug. 9, 2004 at 7:15 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2006 at 6:48 PM CDT
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It took a West Baton Rouge jury less than two hours to find accused serial killer Derrick Todd Lee guilty of the murder of 21-year-old Geralyn DeSoto. DeSoto, an LSU grad student, was brutally beaten to death in her Addis home on January 14, 2002. Lee was charged with 2nd degree murder, which carries an automatic life sentence.

The jury began deliberating Lee's fate at 3:35 p.m. One hour and 40 minutes later, the jury came back with an 11 to 1 guilty verdict. When the verdict was read, Derrick Lee was extremely quiet and calm.

The prosecution took three days to present their case, while the defense took only three hours present their side. The defense never refuted DNA evidence against Lee, but tried to shift focus to another suspect.

During closing arguments prosecutor Tony Clayton showed the jury graphic autopsy pictures of Geralyn's brutally beaten body. One of the photos shows Geralyn's visibly clenched fist. It's a clear indication she put up a fight and in doing so captured Derrick Lee's DNA underneath her fingernails. Clayton made reference to it, "She's been screaming out all this week, 'I've got the killer in the palm of my hands!'"

Clayton also left the jury with this, "At the close of your deliberations when you get on the elevator and go home don't leave room for him, he needs to be in a cage."

Defense attorney Tommy Thompson said, "Are we going to try this case on emotion and media hype? Hell, then let's drag him out now and hang him under a tree. But we don't live in a country like that."

Among the evidence presented in court was Derrick Lee's DNA found under Geralyn's fingernails.  It also included the door frame of Geralyn's trailer, as well as the floor with the bloody footprints, matching the sole of a pair of boots Lee owned.

Lee is formally charged in two other murders -- death penalty cases in nearby Baton Rouge and Lafayette -- and an attempt to rape and murder another woman. Lee has pleaded innocent to all charges.

Besides DeSoto, authorities say Lee has been linked by DNA evidence to the deaths of Gina Wilson Green, Charlotte Murray Pace, Pam Kinamore, Trineisha Dene Colomb, Carrie Yoder and Randi Mebruer.

Lee will stand trial for the murder of Pace next month in an East Baton Rouge courtroom.

Victims' Family Members React To Guilty Verdict

Throughout the entire trial family members of the serial killer victims remained confident they would get a "guilty" verdict. They say the jury's decision gives them even more confidence going into the upcoming trials against Derrick Lee.

"Ever since Dene' got killed, this is what we wanted. It didn't matter what case went on trial first," said Sterling Colomb, Jr., brother of serial killer victim Dene' Colomb. "We've all become a big family. This is a victory for all families... this is what we wanted."

"Seeing somebody else's family member being cut up like that, it was very disturbing. So now I know what I have to get myself up for in days.," said Sterling Colomb, Sr., father of serial killer victim Dene' Colomb. "Today he got life. For Dene' I want the death penalty."

"I'm thrilled, most of all I'm happy for the Barr family. This has been horrible for them to have had to sit and watch those photographs of their daughter." said Lynne Marino, mother of serial killer victim Pam Kinamore. "They had the evidence and it was well presented. They did an outstanding job."

Marino also commented on Derrick Lee's behavior in court. "Derrick Todd Lee is a smooth talker, he's talked his way in and out of everything his whole life. And even his attitude in court. Like I said before -- he laughed, he didn't take it seriously. Well now he who laughs last has the best laugh. I want to see if he's going to be laughing on his way to Angola."

Testimony Key In Guilty Verdict

During the four day trial, several people testified against the accused serial killer, including his girlfriend and son. Derrick Todd Lee, Jr. goes by the initials "D.L." and excells at football and school. The 15-year-old told prosecutors the knife that is believed to have killed Geralyn belongs to his father. D.L. also testified seeing his dad sharpen the knife many times. But when prosecutor Tony Clayton asked D.L. to reveal what his dad has said to him in recent phone conversations, D.L. hesitated to answer, nearly bringing he and his parents to tears.

Prosecutors recovered a pair of boots that match the bloody footprints in Geralyn's trailer. Boots they found in the home of Lee's girlfriend, Cassandra Green.

Green testified the boots that match the blood-stained footprints in Geralyn's home, do look like they belong to Derrick Todd Lee. Although they perfectly matched, crime scene experts cannot say Derrick Lee's boots are the only ones in the world that could have left the footprint in Geralyn's home. The defense presented evidence that the boot print in Geralyn's trailer was made by the most common work boot in the world.

At one point Lee tried to fire his attorney, Public Defender Tommy Thompson. The jury also heard emotional testimony from DeSoto's husband, the man defense attorney's tried to implicate in the crime.

But perhaps some of the most compelling testimony came from Diane Alexander of Breaux Bridge.  DNA has linked Lee to attempted rape and attempted murder of Alexander back in July of 2002.   Alexander stared and pointed at Derrick Lee saying she was positive he was the man who attacked her. She said quote, "I am definitely sure, while my eyes were closed, I have never forgotten your face."

Prosecutors say Alexander's testimony was invaluable because they believe her attack closely mirrors what happened to DeSoto. Alexander testified the man who almost strangled her to death came up to her door, politely asked to use the phone for directions and then pushed his way inside after hearing her husband wasn't home.

Continue to watch WAFB for updates on this developing story.