Live to Tell: Krystal's Courage

48 Hours: A 10-Year-Old Girl's Story of Survival and How she Brought a Serial Killer to Justice

Johnny Allen, Texas Ranger: Once we received a positive identification from Krystal, we turned around and headed back toward Del Rio, which is a two-and-a-half hour drive from San Antonio. The Val Verde County Sheriff's Office had handled Tommy Lynn Sells before on some accusations that were made there in Del Rio against him.

When we got to Tommy Lynn Sells' residence, it was approximately 5:30 in the mornin'. We knocked on the door. It was opened. We went right on in and were met near the front doorway by Tommy Lynn Sells. His comment was "I'm glad I finally got caught - I was tired of doing this." And then we told him he was under arrest for murder.

The murder weapon was an 11-inch butcher knife. It had been sharpened throughout the years so many times that it was such a thin blade and it was recovered beyond his residence in the brush where he had told us he had discarded the knife.

Pam Surles: I remember the phone ringing in the hospital room, and me answering it, and them telling me that they had caught Tommy Lynn Sells. And I remember turning to Krystal and telling her, and she was, like, "Yeah." But, at that point, it wasn't about him, it was about Krystal.

We would take walks in the morning and the afternoon, and Krystal was walking along with her IV and stopped to get a drink of water…The water fountain, of course, they are kind of shiny, and that's the first time that she saw her neck, was in the water fountain. And so, then I knew she wanted to get to a mirror and I got her to a mirror, and she cried for a little bit, but she knew that it would get better. I think that it brought back some of what she was going through.

Krystal: She was like, "Krystal, it happened, there is nothing we can do now, but look you're here, and he's caught, and then think, if this would have never happened he would still be out there, who would he be hurting right now." I'm just lucky. People say I'm brave and everything. No, I'm just lucky.

Johnny Allen: Once Tommy Lynn Sells was taken to the Val Verde County Sheriff's Office he was very willing to cooperate with us. Confessions were obtained from him as well as his agreement to do a walk through of the crime scene.

Watch excerpts of Tommy Lynn Sells' walk-through confession

Ranger: You doing this walk though of your own free will?
Tommy Lynn Sells: Oh Yeah.
Ranger: OK

Johnny Allen: I thought this very - to be very odd. Here, this guy is under arrest for murder and attempted murder and his willing to cooperate with us to basically nail the nail in his coffin.

Tommy Lynn Sells: I walked over here to the edge of the house…

Johnny Allen: Low and behold, a window was left open that night, which allowed access a lot easier.

Tommy Lynn Sells: Then I came over here, there was a little girl sleeping here and I stood here for a minute. Then I looked in here, there were two girls sleeping in here.

Johnny Allen: He explained which - where the girls were lyin'. He explained - he walked over to the bottom bunk where Katy was lyin'.

Tommy Lynn Sells: I cut her bra off, and I cut the side of her… (motions to be cutting underwear) whatever she was wearing. Then I stabbed her here… and then she jumped back… then I (motions slicing throat)… Then I walked over here (moves to top bunk) and I went like this (demonstrates slashing Krystal's neck).

Johnny Allen: We feel like the motive in this murder and [the] attack on Krystal was sexual assault. We did find out that Sells was associated and friends with the Harris family. And - we feel like he specifically targeted Katy.

It's frightening that Sells had also made a comment that he actually thought about killing the six people that - that were in the trailer.

Pam Surles: One of the things that the Rangers offered for me to kinda get a better idea of what Krystal had gone through, to hopefully help her more in the recovery, is to get to go through the crime scene and see, with my own eyes, what actually had happened.

When I saw the crime scene, I literally felt like my legs were gonna fall out from underneath me. The blood (crying), there was so much blood everywhere. And it was all Krystal's except for that one area where Katy was, where she laid and died. The little handprints (crying) of my daughter's, I just can't even describe the helpless feeling that I felt. But, I needed to go through that so I knew her every step, so that I could better be there for her in the long run.

Johnny Allen: Following Tommy's arrest and on the way to jail, he was pretty quiet. And what kind of took us back more than anything was his comment, "I guess you wanna know about the other murders."

Harold Dow, "48 Hours" correspondent: I asked the Rangers if could sit in on that interrogation, not knowing what their answer would be. But I'm a smart enough journalist to know that in all the years I've worked in the news business, I never sat in on an interrogation. And I guess it's a reporter's instinct to ask for things that they normally can't have.

Johnny Allen: You know, in all my years of investigations, I've never allowed journalists in the same room with suspects. But we knew at this point in time that - that we could use assistance in gettin' his story out nationwide - in hopes of findin' other victims who possibly could have survived.

Harold Dow: I sat in that interrogation room for hours, listening to Tommy Lynn Sells go from state to state to state, talking about the people he killed - the men he killed, the women he killed, the children he killed.

That's when I realized, we were dealing with a serial killer - a cold-blooded serial killer.

Tommy Lynn Sells: My daddy told me a long time ago, "Dead men tell no tales…" I remember that to this day.

Johnny Allen: We spent the next nine months with Sells on additional homicides that he claimed to have committed. In the months and months that we spent with Sells we have confirmed he has committed 22 total murders.

Harold Dow: I mean, you know, you cover a story like this, I have to tell you, if you have children, you place your children in - in their situation, they were helpless. They were sleeping. They were totally vulnerable. And you've got this deranged killer climbing through the window with a knife. That knife was the ugliest looking knife I've ever seen in my life. I don't think it gets any scarier than that.

People were happy to know that this man was no longer gonna be in society. This man was no longer gonna be able to kill men, women, and children again.

Krystal: Going back to Kansas was a relief. But at the same time, I knew that I had to eventually go back to Texas and testify in front of him. But you know, I was ready. I felt ready to do it. I wanted to.