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Survivor Identifies Suspected Serial Killer

The first witness in the Louisiana murder trial of Derrick Todd Lee tells the defendant she's never forgotten the face of her attacker.

August 06, 2004|From Associated Press

PORT ALLEN, La. — A woman who said she survived a nearly fatal attack by a man suspected of seven killings in south Louisiana pointed to the defendant in court Thursday, telling him, "While my eyes were closed, I did not forget your face."

Diane Alexander was the first witness in the first trial for Derrick Todd Lee, who was arrested last year. Authorities say DNA evidence links him to the deaths.

Lee, 35, is being tried on second-degree murder charges in the death of Geralyn DeSoto, 21, who was found in her West Baton Rouge Parish home with her neck slashed in January 2002. A conviction would bring a life sentence.

Prosecutors were not confident they could prove the circumstances required for a first-degree conviction.

Lee also faces at least three other trials -- two death penalty cases in other slayings and an attempted rape-murder case in the attack on Alexander.

"I feel good he's caught, because had he not been caught, he'd probably still be on a killing spree," Alexander testified.

Lee's attorney, Tommy Thompson, asked for a mistrial after that comment, saying that Alexander had referred to crimes that are not supposed to be mentioned in the trial. Prosecutors in DeSoto's slaying are allowed to use evidence from Alexander's case and only one of the other slayings.

State District Judge Robin Free rejected the motion, saying Alexander did not refer to a specific crime.

Alexander testified that in July 2002, Lee forced his way into her mobile home after claiming to be lost and beat her nearly unconscious. He fled after her college-age son arrived at the trailer, she said. The jury was shown pictures of Alexander taken after she was assaulted -- with eyes swollen shut, head cuts and a puncture wound in one arm.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Tony Clayton detailed the bloody DeSoto crime scene, saying the victim had been stabbed in the back and the side and that her throat had been slashed. "He savagely, brutally sucked the life out of that child," Clayton said.

Clayton said experts would testify that DNA found under DeSoto's fingernails could only have come from males in Lee's family, because of "peculiar markings" in Lee's DNA.

Thompson asked jurors to listen to both sides of the case and to form their own opinions on whether DNA is the "magic bullet" prosecutors claim.

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