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Serial Killings Suspect in La. Found Guilty

August 11, 2004|From Associated Press

PORT ALLEN, La. — A jury took less than two hours Tuesday to find a suspected serial killer guilty of second-degree murder in the 2002 beating and stabbing death of a 21-year-old woman.

Derrick Todd Lee, 35, faces a mandatory life sentence in Geralyn DeSoto's death, and still faces two first-degree murder charges carrying possible death sentences in other cases.

DeSoto was found stabbed and beaten to death and her neck slashed in her home in the town of Addis the day she registered for graduate school at Louisiana State University in January 2002.

When the verdict was read, Lee was on his feet, leaning on a table. He did not react. His family stared straight ahead as the jury of six women and six men was polled, while DeSoto's mother and father broke down and cried.

The defense said there would be an immediate appeal.

The jury took an hour and 40 minutes to reach the verdict, with 11 jurors voting for conviction and one choosing not guilty. Ten guilty votes were required for conviction of second-degree murder.

"All I wanted was 10. The fact that we got 11, I'm happy," prosecutor Tony Clayton said.

Outside court, DeSoto's family refused to comment. Relatives of other alleged victims said they were pleased with the verdict, although several expressed concern about the lack of a unanimous verdict.

"I was terrified by it, to be perfectly blunt, because in capital cases ... it has to be 12 of 12 jurors for conviction, and 12 of 12 jurors for the death sentence," said Ann Pace, the mother of another of Lee's alleged victims.

DeSoto's death was linked to Lee after he was arrested in May 2003 in connection with a string of five slayings that terrorized people from Baton Rouge to Lafayette for more than a year.

Police eventually determined that DNA evidence linked Lee to the murders of seven women between April 1998 and March 2003.

The defense rested Tuesday after three hours, never refuting the DNA evidence but seeking to shift the focus to another suspect.

Lee's lawyer, Tommy Thompson, presented five witnesses who portrayed DeSoto's husband as an abusive spouse.

Sentencing is set for Monday.

Lee's next trial, for the killing of Charlotte Murray Pace, is scheduled to begin Sept. 13.

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