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November 12th, 2008

Louisiana’s Next Serial Killer

The shadowy figure that had authorities stumped and local women emptying stores shelves of mace in 2003 is the man we all now know as serial killer Derrick Todd Lee.  To live in southern Louisiana at the time and be a woman was to live in fear.  People across the nation watched as Louisiana attempted, and repeatedly bungled, its attempts to find the killer. The unnamed terror eventually came to have a face after Lee's arrest in May 2003.  With it brought the more startling revelation that we'd had reason to fear for far longer; Lee had been on a murderous rampage for years - his first (officially recognized) victim was Randi Mebruer, who was murdered in 1998.  It would not be until 2002, with the deaths of Gina Green, Geralyn DeSoto, and Murray Pace before the rash of brutal deaths were linked to one person and the authorities began a manhunt for a serial killer.

Not long after Lee's arrest, and with much less fanfare, Sean Vincent Gillis, was arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for multiple murders.  Evidence and his own confession linked him to at least eight slayings; the first being 82 year-old Ann Bryan in 1994.

Between 1994 and 2003 there were two serial killers on the loose in southern Louisiana.  More frightening than this actuality is the fact that the fifteen murders attributed to these two men account for only a small percentage of the unsolved murders of women in the area.

Crime profiler John Philpin, in his piece Red Stick by the Numbers: The Baton Rouge Serial Murders, states:

In the decade of the nineties, the Baton Rouge area recorded thirty-plus unsolved cases of missing and/or murdered women. In the first two-and-one-half years of this decade, there have already been thirty-plus.

If the numbers are reduced by those cases which demonstrate no similarities to the official five [Author's Note - "official five" meaning the cases initially linked to Lee by DNA evidence], instead of sixty-plus victims, the total for the thirteen-and-one-half years is between thirty and forty.

Putting the monsters known as Derrick Todd Lee and Sean Vincent Gillis behinds bars has not - unfortunately - stemmed the tide of women being killed in southern Louisiana; nor the capture of their killers.  In the late 90's and early 00's there were apparently two men going about the business of being serial killers; all to the ignorance of the general public.  We had no reason to fear or be on extra alert - as we were during the "hunt" for the Baton Rouge Serial Killer.  The probability of being watched, stalked, and especially taken was not - to our knowledge - any more than it ever was.  We were ignorant to the sinister evil that lived around and among us, and that ignorance cost many women their lives.

Simply because Lee and Gillis are off the streets does not mean we should ever let our guard down.  There are still unsolved murders not attributed to either of them, and there is much evidence that they were not - are not - the only murderers living in the surrounding areas.  Just as one example:  It is common, local knowledge that the murder of numerous black prostitutes in Baton Rouge's rundown "Mall City" area has been going on for years now.  No one has been arrested for the slayings.

Sadly, such an ugly truth is being brought to light again.

The story of a young girl who has been missing since November 2 from Jennings, Louisiana reveals much more than just her disappearance.  It is believed that 17 year-old Brittany Ann Gary may have become the latest victim of Louisiana's next realized serial killer.

Over the past three years, it has been revealed, the bodies of six women have been recovered in and around the area.  Brittany knew most of them, was friends with one, and the cousin of another; a fact that authorities believe may have made her a viable target.

It began on May 20, 2005 when the body of 28 year-old Loretta Lynn Chaisson was found in a canal.  Ernestine Marie Daniel Patterson, 29, was found 6 miles away in another canal just seventeen days later.  The cases remained cold until the bodies of Kristen Gary Lopez, 21, and Whitnei Charlene Dubois, 26, were found in March and May, respectively, in 2007.  In May of this year, Laconia Shontel Brown, 23, was found on a rural road in Jennings and the decomposed body of Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, 23, was found on September 11 in Jefferson Davis Parish.

While I hope and pray for Brittany and her family that she will be found alive and well, it is hard not to assume the worst.

It would appear that Louisiana has ferreted out another serial killer from its apparently endless supply.  Let us hope the efforts to catch this bastard can come to a positive resolution before any other women have to die needlessly.

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