At the scene, McDavid learned that Randi Mebruer had been snatched from her home while her 3-year-old son, Michael, slept in his bed just a few feet down the hall.
Inside the house, police found the hallway streaked with blood.� Someone had attacked Randi in her bedroom, then dragged her down the hall and into the kitchen.
Drops of blood were splattered from the kitchen to the carport.� "It was like she was picked up," Day says.�
Beyond the carport, all traces of 28-year-old Randi Mebruer ended.
Randi Mebruer's house was in the Zachary subdivision of Oak Shadows.� The house sat within spitting distance of the one where Connie Warner used to live.
In 1992, six years before Randi disappeared, 41-year-old Connie Warner vanished from her home.� Eleven days later, a truck driver discovered Warner's body lying in a ditch near the state capitol building.
After examining the Mebruer crime scene, Detective McDavid was pretty sure that the murder of Connie Warner and the disappearance of Randi Mebruer were connected.� He was also pretty sure of something else.�
McDavid looked at one of the other Zachary officers and said, "You know it's going to be Derrick Todd Lee."
A History of Violence
Three months after Warner's death, Zachary cops arrested Lee near Oak Shadows subdivision after a local man came home and caught Lee inside his house.� The man had two daughters, neither of whom happened to be home when Lee broke into their house.
Then, on a rainy night in April 1993, Zachary police officer Troy Eubanks spotted a car parked in the cemetery next to Oak Shadows.� He saw a couple of kids making out.� He pulled his patrol car in behind them.
Eubanks shone his flashlight into the car.� It was a couple of kids, all right, but they weren't making out.� They were covered in blood, but still alive.� A three-foot-long cane knife lay on the ground beside the car.� The attacker had fled at the sight of Eubanks' police cruiser.
Lee spent a year in prison for burglary.� Then, in September 1995, cops in Lake Charles, La., picked him up for peeping into windows.� He was fined $200 and placed on two years unsupervised probation.
The PeeperIn July 1997, the Zachary Police Department started receiving a lot of complaints from women about a peeping tom around the Oak Shadows subdivision.� Outside one woman's bedroom window, police found footprints in the mud.
Detective McDavid got called in to help find the peeper.
One night on surveillance, McDavid spotted Lee running across the highway that fronted Oak Shadows subdivision.� McDavid and the other cops chased after him.� Lee cut across the cemetery and gave them the slip.�
McDavid checked the parking lot of the bar on the other side of the cemetery.� Lee's pickup truck was there.� The officers backed off and watched the car with a pair of night vision goggles. � Before long, they saw Lee stick his head out from behind a nearby shed.� When the cops tried to grab him, Lee disappeared into the woods.
The police went into the woods with man-tracking dogs they borrowed from the Department of Corrections.� The dogs found Lee.� The Zachary cops grabbed him.� They loaded him up with trespassing and peeping tom chargesall misdemeanors.� He was fined $400 and placed on city court probation for two years.
Derrick Todd Lee wasn't going to let a little thing like probation stop him.
In August 1999, just a year after Randi Mebruer disappeared, Lee got picked up on stalking and peeping charges in nearby West Feliciana Parish.� He got a $300 fine and two more years of probation.
The Mebruer case went cold.
The Zachary police asked the state Attorney General's Office for help.� The Attorney General's office sent a couple of investigators, including Dannie Mixon.� At 60 years old, Mixon was a dinosaur, a throwback to the days when cops operated mainly on gut instinct.� Mixon had been a cop for 40 years and had solved a lot of high-profile cases.
In April 2000, a judge in West Feliciana Parish sent Lee to prison for nine months for beating his girlfriend in a bar and attempting to run over a deputy while trying to avoid arrest.
Lee got out of prison in January 2001.
In September, the bodies started piling up 15 miles away in Baton Rouge.
The Serial Killer Strikes
Just across the Mississippi River from downtown Baton Rouge, 21-year-old Geralyn DeSoto lived in a mobile home off of La. Highway 1.� She was just a couple of months away from starting school to become an occupational therapist.�
Just before noon, someone broke into Geralyn's mobile home.� The intruder smacked her in the head with a telephone and stabbed her three times.� But Geralyn was tough.� She ran for her bedroom and got her hands on a shotgun.� When she tried to turn the gun on her attacker, though, he managed to jerk it out of her hands.� Then he cut her throat from ear to ear and stomped on her body.
The Task Force
Zachary Detective Lieutenant David McDavid attended the meeting.� He presented three cases to the group: the murder of Connie Warner, the abduction of Randi Mebruer, and the attack on the couple smooching in the cemetery.
McDavid told the group of law enforcement professionals that he and Attorney General Investigator Dannie Mixon were looking hard at a local pervert named Derrick Todd Lee.�
Barking Up The Wrong TreeThe big agencies formed a task force to hunt down the Baton Rouge serial killer.� They didn't invite the tiny Zachary Police Department to participate.
"It bothered us," McDavid admits.
The newly formed task force began taking DNA samples from hundredseventually thousandsof white males.
The serial killer struck again, this time outside Baton Rouge.�
Three days later, a hunter found her body dumped in the woods 20 miles from the cemetery.� She had been beaten to death.� DNA the killer left at the scene positively linked Trineisha's murder to those of Gina Wilson Green, Charlotte Murray Pace, and Pam Kinamore.
Guns, pepper spray, alarm systemstheir sales soared in Baton Rouge.� Women took self-defense classes.� Cops saturated south Baton Rouge.� Detectives combed through sex offender records, re-interviewed witnesses, watched neighborhoods around LSU, and kept swabbing white males.
Tips poured into a special hotline the task force set up.� Someone said they saw a white male driving a pickup truck along I-10 between Baton Rouge and Lafayette.� The caller said the woman in the passenger seat looked dead.� The truck had a Jesus fish on the tailgate.�
The task force focused on white males in pickups.
Murders ContinueMeanwhile up in Zachary, Dannie Mixon, David McDavid, and Ray Daywho'd been promoted to detectivekept looking at Derrick Todd Lee.
Mixon wasn't part of the task force.� He had to keep up with the serial killer case through news reports.
Even with the highly publicized task force on his trail, the serial killer didn't stop.
Ten days later, a crawfish farmer discovered Carrie's body floating in Whiskey Bay just a mile and a half from where Pam Kinamore had been found.� Yoder had been beaten and strangled.� The blows to her body fractured her ribs and lacerated her liver.� Like the other women, she had also been raped.� The killer's DNA linked Carrie Lynn Yoder to the other known serial killer victims.
Building The CaseIn April 2003, the Zachary cops began to receive complaints from a woman in Oak Shadows subdivision.� Someone was stalking her on her early morning jogs.
The police started looking around.� They found boot prints outside a window.� Their peeping tom was back.�
Dannie Mixon began to dig into Derrick Todd Lee's criminal history.� He worked up a timeline for Lee, documenting the dates when Lee was in jail.� Then Mixon compared the timeline to the dates of the murder of Connie Warner and the disappearance of Randi Mebruer.� He also compared it to the dates of the murders linked to the Baton Rouge serial killer.
Lee was out of jail during every single attack.
"When I worked this all up, I though Derrick Todd Lee was the most viable suspect on the streets," Mixon later said.
The Attorney General's investigator wanted a DNA sample from Lee.�
Lee's DNAOn May 5, 2003, Dannie Mixon and the Zachary detectives set up surveillance on Lee's girlfriend's apartment in Jackson, La. and on the house he shared with his wife just south of St. Francisville.
They spotted him at the St. Francisville house.
As the investigators approached him, Lee seemed calm.� When� Mixon explained why they were there, the suspected killer demanded to see the court order.�
The cops gave it to him.
Whether Lee read the order or understood its significance is anyone's guess.
"He held it like he was reading it," Detective Day says.
Lee glared at the Zachary detectives.� They had been hounding him for more than a decade.� "I don't want nothing to do with Zachary," he said.
A subpoena for physical evidence is not the same as an arrest warrant.� It requires a certain amount of finesse to get a saliva swab from the mouth of a murderer.
Day and McDavid didn't care who took the swab, just so long as someone got it.� They backed off.
Mixon patted Lee on the shoulder.� "Rather than do this in front of God and everybody, let's do it inside."
While the Zachary cops waited outside, Mixon and a couple of Attorney General men walked Lee into the house and got the sample. Mixon sent Lee's saliva to the state police crime lab.
Stunning ConfirmationThe Zachary detectives and Attorney General investigators waited.� The crime lab was backed up.� The serial killer task force had priority.
Meanwhile, cops in St. Martin Parish released a sketch of a black man they said had broken into a woman's house and tried to rape her.� The attacker ran off when the woman's son came home and surprised him.
Detective David McDavid saw the sketch in the newspaper.� He thought it looked a lot like Derrick Todd Lee.
The Zachary cops asked the crime lab to hurry up.
On Sunday May 25, the results came back.� Derrick Todd Lee was the Baton Rouge serial killer.�
The scientific confirmation of what they'd long suspected still stunned the investigators in Zachary.�
Detective Ray Day was at a Harley Davidson rally in Mississippi when he got the news.� "It was overwhelming," he says.
David McDavid was cutting his grass when he got the call.� He jumped in his car and raced to the task force office in Baton Rouge.� Now that the task force investigators knew Lee was the serial killer, they had to find him and arrest him.� McDavid wanted to help.
There were already 50 people at the task force office when McDavid walked in.� Ten months earlier, they had told him to go home.� Now they were shaking his hand and thanking the Zachary cops and Attorney General investigators for cracking the case.� One of the agency heads McDavid can't remember which one said to him, "We just want to congratulate you on solving the serial killer case."