Even at a young age, Derrick Todd Lee engaged in unsettling behaviors. At age 11, he'd gained a reputation as the neighborhood Peeping Tom—a habit that would eventually get him arrested—and enjoyed torturing animals. His teenage years saw frightening escalations, as he graduated to burglary and even attempted murder. In 1993, Lee reached his highest criminal peak yet, having savagely attacked a young couple with a bush axe. But it was only the beginning.
Over the course of the next 11 years, Lee stalked, raped, and murdered at least seven Louisiana women—earning the nickname the Baton Rouge Serial Killer. The 2002 murder of 22-year-old Charlotte Murray Pace would ultimately seal Lee's fate as a future death row inmate.
The true crime book Blood Bath explores Lee's various crimes and how he—a quiet, mentally challenged black man—was able to evade police for so long. The following excerpt recounts the brutal slaying of Charlotte Murray Pace, and then offers a fascinating profile that explains why Lee wasn't like the serial killers who preceded him.
Read on for an excerpt of Blood Bath, and then download the book.
Charlotte Murray Pace
The morning of May 31 was sunny and hot, about 85 degrees, and Murray was in a good mood when she left home about nine to go to work in LSU’s Center for Engineering and Business Administration (CEBA) Building. She and Rebekah were settling into their new place and had gotten almost everything unpacked. She liked that the town house had so much room, two bedrooms downstairs and one upstairs, which they were using as a guest room. She liked the privacy as her bedroom was on the opposite end of the house from Rebekah’s.
When Rebekah called her at work about 10:30 A.M., Murray told her that she would be going home about noon. They had plans to go to their ex-roommate Grace’s wedding, which was scheduled for the next day in Alexandria. Rebekah was to be a bridesmaid, and she was planning to leave later that night. It was 11:40 A.M. when Murray left work, heading to Benny’s Car Wash to hose down her car. She liked to keep it clean, proud that at twenty-two she owned a BMW. It was 12:24 P.M. when she left the car wash.
Earlier that morning, Murray’s neighbor Chris Villemarette was leaving for work about the same time as Murray. As he was leaving, he observed a man walking on the street. Chris noticed that the man wasn’t very tall, about five feet eight, and had nappy hair and a mustache. He wasn’t sure if the man was Hispanic or some other ethnicity, but he noticed that he was wearing a green shirt and Dickies pants. He thought the man seemed out of place, mostly because he appeared to be dirty. Chris noticed that he kept looking back at Murray’s house. He thought it was strange, but he would forget about it until he came home later that day and saw the crime tape around her home, the police scurrying about collecting evidence. He struggled to remember every detail as they carried what remained of the beautiful, young Murray from the town house. Other neighbors would also come forward to report a thin black man hanging around that morning. Still, others would mention seeing a white man.
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Murray arrived home sometime shortly after 12:30 P.M., fixed herself a sandwich, and grabbed a bottle of Diet Dr Pepper. She sat on her couch to eat and had gotten most of the way through her sandwich when she heard a knock at the door. It is possible that the smiling black man who stood there asked to use her phone. He had done that before with Geralyn DeSoto. The phone from Murray’s residence would never be found. Murray had no reason to fear the man as he appeared friendly, and although she could see the bulging muscles of his arms, he looked harmless. His friendly brown eyes smiled at her as she opened the door wider.
What ensued was perhaps the fight of Todd’s life. He could not have expected this pretty young girl to fight so hard, to be so determined to live. He could not have known how she had fought hard all of her life to achieve her dreams. She was not going to let this man take those dreams away from her. But Todd was even more determined, and with each moment of resistance, his fury grew. Murray’s blood would tell the tale as the fight progressed through room after room of her new town house.
Todd had hit Geralyn DeSoto in the head with her phone as he entered her home. Blood spatters on the cradle of the phone in Murray’s home indicated that had possibly happened again. Or perhaps the enraged beast immediately began stabbing her, not with the knife he had used on other victims, but with a flathead screwdriver, a standard tool that would not ordinarily be considered a weapon.
In one instant, that screwdriver became the sole focus of Murray’s existence. She had to stop it from coming at her. She had to stop it from gouging holes in her, from hurting her. So she fought. With every bit of her strength, she fought.
As the fight led from the living room to the hallway, Murray’s blood began running freely down the walls, soaking into the carpet, and still she fought.
Into the bedroom—Rebekah’s. Kicking and screaming. But the screwdriver kept coming.
Into her eyes, her chest, her arms, as she tried to defend herself. Into her back as she tried to run.
Eighty-three times the screwdriver met its mark, taking another piece of her with each entry and exit.
Historically, serial killers have always been difficult to catch. Some are caught by a fluke, as in the case of the cannibalistic Jeffrey Dahmer, who was caught when Tracy Edwards escaped his clutches and ran to local police, handcuffs still attached to one wrist.
Ted Bundy was pulled over for erratic driving and charged with suspicion of burglary before police realized they had the man in custody who may have been responsible for as many as one hundred deaths. Bundy later escaped and killed three more women and attacked two others.
Some serial killers simply tire of their game and turn themselves in. Edmund Kemper, who had made friends with officers in the Santa Cruz area, called police to confess, but they wouldn’t believe him. After several attempts to convince them that he was indeed the man they were looking for, Kemper was finally arrested.
Although the United States consists of less than 5 percent of the world’s population, approximately 84 percent of all known serial killers since 1980 have roamed about from sea to shining sea killing for their own perverted pleasure.
Interestingly, serial killing is not a recent phenomenon. In the 1500s, Erzsebet Bathory hired peasants to work in her castle, then tortured, sexually assaulted, and killed them for the pure pleasure of it. She was a member of the royal family, and because of her status, royals simply looked the other way until peasants became scarce and she turned to the daughters of lesser nobility for her sadistic pleasure. She was thought to have bathed in their blood in an effort to retain her youthful beauty. It is thought that she may have killed as many as 650 women, making Bathory one of the most prolific serial killers in history.
With Derrick Todd Lee, the task force in Baton Rouge had its work cut out for it from the start. Todd did not fit much of the profile the FBI had created, nor did his characteristics, history, or patterns resemble the majority of other serial killers. Only about 16 percent of all known serial killers are black. Wayne Williams, of the Atlanta Child Murders, stands out as the most notorious. The son of schoolteachers, Williams terrorized Atlanta during the late 1970s and early 1980s and is thought to have killed at least twenty-three children.
Former Baton Rougean John Allen Muhammad and his seventeen-year-old comrade, John Lee Malvo, began their killing spree in Alabama and Louisiana, and gained notoriety as the D.C. Snipers through the shooting of innocent motorists around the Washington, D.C., area. The public was shocked to discover that the men were black.
Coral Eugene Watts was another black killer who confessed to thirteen murders that had occurred throughout the 1970s. But typically, black men do not go on killing rampages. Aware of this fact, the task force focused only on white men.
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The FBI categorizes serial killers as either organized or disorganized. Todd had characteristics of both, which falls into the “mixed” category, a category that was later added when the FBI discovered that serial killers could not be classified so precisely. Todd resembled the organized killer in that he stalked his victims, planned his attacks, and kept trophies of his conquests. Todd lived with a wife and, at times, with a girlfriend. He could perform sex in a normal manner. He was mobile and followed the investigation in the newspaper. But most organized serial killers are considered to have average or above average intelligence; they do not leave DNA evidence and are usually the oldest or an only child. Todd’s IQ was not far above the standard measure of retardation. He did not understand that police could obtain his DNA from his victims. He was the second child. He did not clean up his crime scenes—although he did take items that he had touched. And at times he did act on opportunity, such as in the Buhler Plains Cemetery when he attacked the teenagers.
Disorganized serial killers are impulsive. They kill on a whim. These killers usually possess low to average intelligence and are sometimes mentally retarded. They do not handle themselves well in social situations. These killers usually live alone and do not function well sexually. Victims are rarely tied up or tortured, and the disorganized killer does not try to hide the bodies. They cannot keep employment and go through job after job. Stress does not play a role in their attacks.
Todd displayed characteristics of the disorganized killer in that his intelligence level was low; he did not tie up his victims, nor did he take an inordinate amount of time to enjoy the kill, like the organized killer would do. He tried to hide Pam Kinamore and Connie Warner’s bodies, and had successfully hidden Randi Mebruer’s body to this day. Other possible victims, like Eugenie Boisfontaine, Christine Moore, and Melissa Montz, were found weeks or months later. But Geralyn DeSoto, Gina Wilson Green, and Charlotte Murray Pace were left to be discovered in their homes. The organized killer is cold and calculating, which Todd was, but he was disorganized in his overkill tactics. When he followed through on his fantasy, he sometimes lost control. Like the disorganized killer, Todd moved from job to job regularly.
Todd did not have distinctive patterns, like many serial killers either, although he was territorial, returning over and over to familiar neighborhoods to stalk and kill his victims. His territory, however, spread over more than a hundred miles. He also used a variety of methods to murder the women he chose—sometimes by strangulation, sometimes by stabbing, sometimes using blunt force. He raped some, but not others. His weapons of choice were knives, screwdrivers, phone cords, or his bare hands. His patterns were too undefined to provide police with valuable information about him that could have helped them connect some of the murders, like Geralyn DeSoto and Randi Mebruer, sooner.
Another interesting detail is that Todd crossed racial barriers, killing both white and black women, although each resembled the other by having dark hair, light skin, and high cheekbones. The women he chose were educated, what he considered to be “high society,” and each was motivated to make the most of themselves—the women who would not be attracted to him.
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The final and most intriguing way in which Todd is different from many serial killers lies in his background. Many psychologists argue the “nature vs. nurture” theory in which pathological killers must possess both a gene of mental illness and an abusive childhood in order to develop the lack of empathy necessary for repeated brutality against other human beings. It is possible that Todd carried the gene from his biological father, but his childhood was a relatively happy one. He did not experience sexual abuse, physical abuse, or the mental abuse that is suffered by most serial killers, like Charles Manson, who was dressed in girl’s clothing and sent off to school by a religious aunt and her boyfriend. Todd was raised in the manner of all the children in Lee’s Quarters, yet he began his Peeping Tom activities at a very young age.
Todd established long relationships with those he cared about, albeit he occasionally became violent toward them. He enjoyed a normal social life, barbecuing with friends and hanging out in bars with them. He took care of his children, although he did disappear on them occasionally. Because of the confusing traits he possessed and patterns he exhibited, Todd made it very difficult for police to pigeonhole him.
The recent capture of Dennis Rader, otherwise known as BTK, stunned the nation, but Rader displayed similarly confusing traits as Todd, perhaps a reason why it took seventeen years to catch him. Rader also lived a normal life, even more normal than Todd’s in that he was president of his church council for a time and a Boy Scout leader. He was a husband and father. Like Todd, Rader was a sexual predator, but unlike Todd, he enjoyed torturing his victims before killing them. Todd always killed and raped in a hurry.
However, both displayed a decided lack of empathy for their victims.
It would take good old-fashioned police work to capture Todd, along with meticulous attention to detail. Investigators would have to think outside of the serial killer profile box. Serial killers are difficult to apprehend because they are so varied in their motivations and patterns, so there can never be a definite approach to hunting for these types of killers. Each comes equipped with his or her own peculiarities, which is why profiling almost never results in their capture. Whether they are women or men, homosexual or heterosexual, black or white, serial killers pose a unique challenge for police.
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Featured photo of Derrick Todd Lee: Alchetron