Derrick Todd Lee, Baton Rouge Serial Killer
In 2002 task force investigators began using electronic billboards to run ads about the killer. The billboards, provided by a local company called Lamar Advertising, were used to display up-to-date information concerning the murders, including the white truck and a composite of the suspect. The number of billboards increased from two to six in 2003, covering the Lafayette and Baton Rouge area. Investigators were looking for the best means possible to keep the public informed in the hopes it would lead to the killers capture and the prevention of further deaths.
As the investigation reached its one and half year mark, it began to receive harsh criticism. One of the most vocal critics was author and criminologist Dr. Robert Keppel, known for his unique approach used to investigate serial killers, such as Ted Bundy and the Green River killer. According to TheNewOrleansChannel.com, during an interview in February 2003 Keppel focused on four major mistakes made by the task force.
Keppel first suggested there was a great possibility that the murderer's name was already in the task force's possession but could easily get overlooked in the files, especially with such a flood of information coming in. Police often obtained the name of a killer within the first 30 days of an investigation, Keppel said.
Keppel also criticized the task force for revealing the DNA link between the victims, saying it might hinder the investigation. He said it increased the likelihood that the killer might take greater care in leaving behind genetic evidence at the scene of future crimes.
Keppel further stated that the public release of information concerning the shoes might also cause the killer to destroy them, making the murders more difficult to connect with him if ever caught. Moreover, he criticized the psychological profile, explaining that it only adds to information overload and takes away valuable time from the investigation. In his opinion, the only useful knowledge released by the task force was the composite sketch of the leading suspect and the information about the truck. In the interview, Keppel explained that it would be in the investigation's best interest not to focus on "unusual" characters that might stand out, but on someone who blends in and is "usually there."
On March 3, 2003, 26-year-old Carrie Lynn Yoder, a doctoral student at LSU, went missing from her home at 4250 Dodson Avenue. She lived only a few miles from Gina Green and Charlotte Pace's home. Like Colomb, she lived alone. Her boyfriend of three years, Lee Stanton, reported her missing to police two days after she failed to contact him.
Stanton told police he had last talked to Yoder March 3 and she told him she was going to the Winn Dixie grocery store on Burbank Drive. They made plans to talk that night or the following day, but when he did not hear from her he began to worry. The next day he went to check on her and noticed that her car was there and the lights were on in the house, but he did not go in.
On March 5, after still no contact, he decided to return to her house and look inside. He noticed that her keys, cellular phone and purse were on the counter and the back door was open. It was then he began to realize that something was terribly wrong.
He immediately called the police. An article by TheNewOrleansChannel.com stated that Stanton found everything else in the house appeared normal except for a wall-mounted key holder by the front door, which was dangling by one screw as if knocked off its hinges by force. He suggested there could have been a struggle in that area, but police did not suspect foul play.
Police removed items from Yoder's home and took them to be analyzed at the crime lab. The items included her personal computer, her car and the front door. They hoped to find fingerprints, messages, fibers or other evidence. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that Yoder had indeed returned from the grocery store and had been home for several hours before she disappeared.
Police intensely investigated her home and the surrounding area. They conducted a search using helicopters, in the hopes that an aerial position might make it easier to locate her. The Associated Press wrote that investigators also handed out questionnaires at the Winn Dixie, looking for any information concerning her whereabouts.
On March 13, 2003, Carrie Yoder's family and friends were confronted with their worst fears. On the rainy day, a man fishing in the Atchafalaya River Basin discovered Yoder's badly beaten body near the Whisky Bay Bridge. She was found in the water near where Kinamore's body had been discovered some eight months earlier.
According to medical examiners, she had died from strangulation. Moreover, it was determined that she had struggled with her killer before being asphyxiated. One week after her death, investigators initially claimed that there was no known link between her murder and the Baton Rouge serial killer. However, after DNA tests made from samples from the scene, she was proven to be the killer's fifth victim.
Local organizations and individuals throughout Louisiana were shocked at the rash of deaths at the hand of the same person. The residents of southern Louisiana were living in daily fear that they might be the killer's next victim. Many people and area organizations donated substantial funds toward a reward for information into the arrest and conviction of the serial killer. On March 17, 2003, the friends and family of some of the victims rallied on the steps of the Louisiana state capital demanding an end to the murders. They had had enough of the senseless loss of lives. Something more had to be done.
According to Kelly Weston, a writer for ThePittsburghchannel.com, a North Carolina investigative psychologist named Dr. Maurice Godwin claimed to have critical evidence concerning the murders. Godwin said he had constructed a geographical profile, containing the places where the victims disappeared and where their bodies were discovered. He found that the crime scenes, formed a triangular-shaped pattern on a map, which he believed pinpointed the area where the killer lived.
Godwin claimed he presented his unique finding to task force investigators months before Yoder's death, but they showed no interest in his discovery. Godwin further claimed he was able to predict where the next murder would take place. Intriguingly, Yoder was abducted and found within the triangular-shaped pattern revealed by Godwin.
In some respects, Godwin's theory agrees with one aspect of the profile, concerning the theory that the murders could have been planned. In Weston's article, Godwin states he believed it was, "not a coincidence that Yoder was abducted from the same area where Pace and Green were murdered". Moreover, it was also not a coincidence that her remains were discovered in the same vicinity as Kinamore's.
Near the end of March, the task force released important new information. The task force stated the public should no longer focus primarily on the latest sketches of the suspect previously released by investigators, but on a person of any race. Moreover, the public should also be on the lookout for more than just the white truck, but any vehicle that might seem suspicious. The new information suggested that the sketch of the "person of interest" might not be directly related to the murders. The change in focus came after research and investigation into Carrie Yoder's case, specifically from talking with witnesses in the area.
Another possible breakthrough in the case came to the public's attention just days after the task force's change of focus. According to TheNewOrleansChannel.com, a jogger found a letter addressed to Yoder several blocks from her home. Intriguingly, the letter was found on the same street where victims Gina Green and Charlotte Pace had once lived before their deaths. To date, there has been no new information concerning the letter or its content.
On April 8, 2003, the task force claimed another victim might be added to the growing list. Fifty-two-year old prostitute Lillian Robinson from St. Martin, Louisiana, disappeared in January 2002. Robinson's niece was the last known person to see her alive. One month later on February 10, a fisherman had discovered Robinson's nude body floating in the waters of the Atchafalaya River, close to Whisky Bay Bridge. She was found in the same vicinity where Kinamore and Yoder were later found.
According to police, Robinson's remains were in an advanced state of decomposition when found, due to the fact she had been in the water for nearly one week. This made it virtually impossible to extract adequate DNA samples from her body, which could connect her with her killer. According to an article by Kevin Blanchard, she had been murdered in a similar manner as the other victims who were linked with the Baton Rouge killer. Evidence concerning Robinson's case was handed over to the task force in the hopes that a connection could be made between her death and that of the five murdered women. The article quoted Robinson's sister as saying that she, "believe[d] that the guy started out with easy targets and it got too easy for him…he needed to be challenged a little bit more, so he started targeting women that would not agree to go with him."
Task force investigators were also looking into the alleged abduction of another woman, who may have fallen victim to the Baton Rouge serial killer. Thirty-one-year-old mother of two and nurse, Melinda McGhee, disappeared from her home in Atmore, Alabama, on March 24, 2003. Although she lived 250 miles from Baton Rouge, evidence found at her home suggested she was abducted by the same man.
Advocate staff writer Josh Noel stated in his article that McGhee called her husband and mother from her job at a nursing home before 8:30 a.m. on the morning of her disappearance. It was the last they ever heard from her. Sometime after she arrived home from work, it was believed she was abducted.
The local police said that there was evidence of a struggle in the McGhee home, but no clues suggesting that there was a homicide. Moreover, there was not enough evidence available in which DNA samples could be drawn. Police said there were similarities between McGhee's disappearance and those of Kinamore and Yoder. McGhee has not been heard from since her disappearance and no body has yet been found.
Robinson and McGhee were not the only other potential victims of the Baton Rouge serial killer. In May 2002, 23-year-old LSU student Christine Moore left home in her car to go jogging at a park and never returned. Like in the Colomb case, Moore's car was found abandoned near River Road in Baton Rouge. Her body was found the following month on a dirt road in Iberville Parish, Louisiana. Medical examiners claimed she died from blunt force trauma to the head. Although her murder was never officially recognized by the task force as connected to the Baton Rouge serial killer, there remain similarities between her case and those of some of his other victims.
FOXNews.com reported on Friday, May 23 that police are "checking three incidents last year in which a disarmingly attractive young black man either attacked or tried to attack women in St. Martin Parish. None of the three victims were killed.
"A new computer sketch was released, showing a light-skinned black man. He was described as clean cut, personable and distinctly handsome. "
The man tried to charm his victims, said his name was Anthony and behaved initially in a non-threatening manner.
Previously the Baton Rouge serial killer was thought to be white.