Derrick Todd Lee, known as the Baton Rouge Serial Killer, prowled communities of south Louisiana for years before his capture and eventual conviction in two of seven cases of the rape and murder of women to which he was linked by DNA. He was suspected in a range of brutality from 1992 to 2003. Lee died of natural causes before he could be executed.
Lee was born on November 5, 1968, in St. Francisville, Louisiana, to Samuel Ruth and Florence Lee. His father left Florence soon after Derrick was born. For her and the children, having Ruth out of the picture was good. He suffered from mental illness and ended up in a mental institution after being charged with the attempted murder of his ex-wife.
Florence later married Coleman Barrow, a responsible man who raised Derrick and his sisters as if they were his own children. Together they taught their children the importance of education and 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. Lee struggled academically, often being outshone by his younger sister, who was a year younger than he but advanced in school faster. His IQ, calculated 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, which he continued to do as an adult. He also liked to torture dogs and cats.
At 13, Lee was arrested for simple burglary. He was known to the local police because of his voyeurism, but it wasn't until he turned 16 that his anger got him into real trouble. He pulled a knife on a boy during a fight and was charged with attempted second-degree murder, Lee's rap sheet was beginning to fill up.
At 17 Lee was arrested for being a Peeping Tom, but even though he was a high school dropout with multiple complaints and arrests, he avoided a stay in juvenile detention.
In 1988 Lee met and married Jacqueline Denise Sims. They 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 pleaded guilty to unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.
Over the next few years, he drifted in and out of two worlds: In one he was a responsible father who worked hard at his construction job and took his family on weekend outings. In the other, he cruised local bars dressed in dapper attire, drinking and planning extramarital affairs with women.
Jacqueline knew about his infidelity, but she was devoted to Lee. She became used to his being arrested. The times he spent in prison became almost a welcome relief compared to the volatile atmosphere he created when he was at home.
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 now could dress better, buy cars, and spend more money on his girlfriend, Casandra Green, but he blew through the money as quickly as it came in. By 1999 Lee was back to living off his earned wages, although now he had another mouth to feed. Casandra gave birth to their son, whom they named Dedrick Lee, in July that year.
In June 1999, Collette Walker, 36, of St. Francisville, filed stalking charges against Lee after he muscled his way into her apartment and tried to convince her that they should date. She did not know him, and when she eased him out of her apartment, he left his phone number and suggested that she call him.
Days later a friend who lived near Collette asked her about Lee, whom she had seen lurking around her apartment. On another occasion, Collette caught him peeping into her window and called the police.
Even with his history as a Peeping Tom plus various other arrests, Lee did little time for the charges of stalking and unlawful entry. In a plea bargain, Lee pleaded guilty and received probation. Against the directions of the court he again went looking for Collette, but she wisely had moved.
Life was becoming stressful for Lee. The money was gone and finances were tight. He was arguing a lot with Casandra and in February 2000, the fighting escalated to violence. She started 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 violently assaulted her.
Casandra pressed charges, and his probation was revoked. He spent the following year in prison until his release in February 2001. He was placed under house arrest and required to wear monitoring equipment.
In May he was found guilty of violating the terms of his parole by removing the equipment. Instead of having his probation revoked, however, he was given a legal slap on the hand and not returned to prison. Once again the opportunity to remove Lee from society was lost.
Lee's Third Side
When Lee committed his first or last rape and murder of an unsuspecting woman is unknown. What is known is that on April 2, 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 the couple, stopping and fleeing only when another car approached.
The couple survived and six years later, the girl, Michelle Chapman, picked Lee out of a lineup as her attacker, but the statute of limitations on the potential charges had expired…
Lee's brutal spree lasted 10 years after that attack, with DNA evidence eventually linking him to victims who suffered from his viciousness.
In addition to Chapman, Lee's suspected victims included:
- Randi Merrier, 28, April 18, 1998
- Gina Wilson Green, 41, September 24, 2001
- Geralyn DeSoto, 21, January 14, 2002
- Charlotte Murray Pace, 21, May 31, 2002
- Diane Alexander, July 9, 2002 (survived)
- Pamela Kinamore, 44, July 12, 2002
- Dene Colomb, 23, November 21, 2002
- Carrie Lynn Yoder, March 3, 2003
Connie Warner of Zachary, Louisiana, was bludgeoned to death with a hammer on August 23, 1992. Her body was found Sept. 2 near the Capital Lakes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. No evidence has linked Lee to her murder.
Eugenie Boisfontaine, who lived near Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, was murdered on June 13, 1997. Her body was discovered nine months later under a tire along the edge of Bayou Manchac. No evidence has linked Lee to that murder.
Too Many Serial Killers
Investigations into unsolved murder cases of women in Baton Rouge were going nowhere. There are many reasons why Lee, though mentally challenged, managed to avoid capture:
- Lee stayed on the move. In the 10 years it is suspected that he committed rape and murder, he was constantly changing jobs, moving between south Louisiana cities, and going in and out of prison. It was not until he focused on areas around LSU and left the bodies of two victims at a boat launch at Whiskey Bay that investigators moved from solving murders to looking for a serial killer.
- Communication among detectives from different cities was rare.
- From 1991 to 2001 there were 53 unsolved murders of women in Baton Rouge. They came from different backgrounds and ethnicities and the causes of death varied. 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 (county) detectives broadened. But instead of catching a serial killer, the task force ended up having more murders to solve.
Over the next two years, 18 more women were found dead, and the only evidence led police in the wrong direction. What investigators did not know at the time or did not tell the public was that two, maybe three serial killers were responsible for many of the murders.
When it came to tracking and capturing Lee, traditional 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 as a signature, so they receive credit for the kill. Lee used different methods.
But Lee did 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. Once the picture was released, the task force became inundated with phone calls, and the investigation bogged down following up on tips.
Then on May 23, 2003, the Multi-Agency Task Force released a sketch of a man wanted for questioning about attacks on a woman in St. Martin Parish. He was described as a clean-cut, light-skinned black male with short brown hair and brown eyes, probably in his late 20s or early 30s. Finally, the investigation was on track.
Around the time the new sketch was released, DNA was being collected in parishes where unsolved murders of women had occurred. At the time Lee was living in West Feliciana Parish and was asked to give a swab for DNA testing. Not only did his criminal history interest investigators, but also his appearance resembled the new sketch.
Investigators put a rush on Lee's DNA, and they had their answer within a few weeks. Lee's DNA matched samples taken from Yoder, Green, Pace, Kinamore, and Colomb.
Lee and his family fled Louisiana on the day that he provided his DNA. He was caught in Atlanta, Georgia, and returned to Louisiana a day after his arrest warrant was issued.
In August 2004 he was found guilty of the second-degree murder of DeSoto and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
In October 2004 Lee was found guilty of Pace's rape and murder and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. In 2008, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence. Lee remained on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana.
On Jan. 16, 2016, Lee, 47, was transferred to Lane Memorial Hospital in Zachary, Louisiana, for emergency treatment and died of heart disease on January 21.