Accused Killer Back In Louisiana

Derrick Todd Lee, 34, stands before Fulton County (Ga.) Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks in Atlanta, Wednesday, May 28, 2003 as he waived extradition to Louisiana during a court appearance. Lee is suspected in the serial killings of five women. He could return to Louisiana immediately AP

After a long manhunt, suspected serial killer Derrick Todd Lee is back in Louisiana.

The man suspected in the killings of five women was arrested peacefully outside a tire store and agreed Wednesday to be returned to Louisiana, ending a months-long manhunt in a case that terrified women across that southern U.S. state.

Derrick Todd Lee was taken into custody by three police officers Tuesday evening, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington said.

"We have taken a very dangerous person that is a serial murder suspect off the streets," Pennington said.

Lee, 34, is suspected in the deaths of at least five southern Louisiana women since September 2001. The serial killings triggered a 10-month DNA dragnet in which police took cheek scrapings and swabbings from more than 1,000 men.

He appeared in court Wednesday and waived extradition, which means he could be returned to Louisiana immediately.

Handcuffed and with his head down, Lee told Fulton County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks in a quiet voice that he understood the charges and would not fight the transfer to Louisiana.

When he arrives in Louisiana, Lee will be booked into custody on an existing warrant. Prosecutors will then seek a grand jury indictment.

Lee was charged Monday with murder and aggravated rape in the killing of Carrie Yoder, 26, a Louisiana State University student who became the serial killer's fifth suspected victim in March.

A fugitive warrant issued for Lee before his arrest says DNA evidence indicates the same person who killed Yoder killed four other women starting in September 2001.

Lee is also a suspect in a sixth death more than a decade ago and the disappearance of another woman in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, suburb.

It was those two cases that led police to Lee. Lee was linked to the five slayings by a DNA sample police obtained from him in the investigation of the 1998 disappearance of Randi Mebruer, 28, and the 1992 murder of Connie Warner, 41.

New Orleans' Times-Picayune newspaper reported that Pennington intends to reopen the probe of several murders of prostitutes in 1993 to see if Lee's DNA matches samples taken in those cases.

The day Lee gave his DNA, he abruptly pulled his two children out of school in St. Francisville, La., according to a school official who says Lee explained then that the family was moving to Los Angeles.

Authorities have said they do not know the whereabouts of Lee's wife and children.

Police say over the past few weeks, Lee traveled by bus from Louisiana to Chicago and then to Atlanta. He's believed to have been there for at least a week, and may have been working at various construction and concrete contracting jobs.

Police say Lee had been living in a $135 a week room in an Atlanta motel but left Monday shortly after authorities held a news conference announcing the federal warrant for his arrest and appealing to the public for any information on his whereabouts.

By the time marshals got to the motel, Lee was gone, taken to a train station by a resident who thought he was headed to Louisiana to see his sick mother.

Lee was taken into custody at the tire store at 8:30 p.m. Pennington told the CBS News Early Show that the arrest occurred after an anonymous caller told the task force hunting Lee that he was in southwest Atlanta.

Police went to the location, and Lee showed identification and turned himself over. Authorities learned they had earlier narrowly missed capturing Lee at a homeless shelter where he had eaten lunch.

When arrested, Lee "was very docile. He did not make any comment," said Pennington. "It was like he was just kind of elated that he had been apprehended."

Residents at the Lakewood Motor Lodge said Lee had spent at least the last week there. Neighbors described him as a smooth talker who dated several women and promised them cognac if they would come to his room.

Police say Lee's alleged victims were apparently taken in by charm and a friendly face, according to CBS New Correspondent Bob McNamara.

While living in the Atlanta motor lodge, Lee made friends with many of the 50 or so residents. He grilled ribs and chicken at a party, and started a Bible study.

"He didn't talk about violence," said resident Brenda Jones. "He talked about the Bible a lot. Let me tell you, he knew the Bible."

Ed White, brother-in-law of Pam Kinamore, the serial killer's third victim, said his family was relieved to hear that a suspect was finally in custody.

"We're ecstatic. This part of the nightmare is over," White said Tuesday night.

Lynne Marino, mother of murder victim Pam Kinamore, was relieved to hear of the arrest.

"I'm thrilled," said Marino. "I was worried that he was going to turn around and come back to his safe haven - Louisiana."

Marino has previously expressed frustration with the way authorities have handled the case.

"I'm sorry, they have made so many mistakes. I wonder how many of these women could have been saved," said Marino, in an interview Tuesday. "They talk about five (victims). I guarantee there's way more than five."
  • Francie Grace

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