Texas Investigators Probe Serial Killing Claims Drifter Says He Left Victims in Several States; Now Lawmen Seek Confirmation

By Aynesworth, Hugh | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 10, 2000 | Go to article overview

Texas Investigators Probe Serial Killing Claims Drifter Says He Left Victims in Several States; Now Lawmen Seek Confirmation


Aynesworth, Hugh, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


DEL RIO, Texas - Texas authorities are investigating a suspected serial killer's claims that he has murdered people in several states.

But investigators say they are sorting through the 35-year-old drifter's confessions "a little piece at a time" in an attempt to avoid the embarrassment stemming from a similar case in the early 1980s.

For almost two years beginning in 1983, a task force of the vaunted Texas Rangers listened as Florida drifter Henry Lee Lucas confessed to so many murders they couldn't accurately count them.

By 1985 a total of 214 murders had been attributed to Lucas on his word alone - with no corroborative evidence. When reporters proved that Lucas could not have physically committed more than 100 of those murders, the Texas Rangers task force folded in embarrassment and disarray. The confessions stopped.

Val Verde County Sheriff's Lt. Larry Pope told The Washington Times last week they won't make the same mistakes with the current confessor, Tommy Lynn Sells.

"That's the first thing that popped into our minds, and everybody warned us to be very, very careful," said Lt. Pope. "And I cautioned the Rangers, `We don't want to get in to a Henry Lee Lucas situation here.' "

Sells has been in jail here since Jan. 2, when he was arrested and charged with slashing to death a 13-year-old girl as she slept in her parents' remote home overlooking Amistad Reservoir.

Lt. Pope and other county officials declined to discuss Sells' motives, though it is said he went into great detail in his confessions to Lt. Pope three months ago.

Val Verde detectives have been working closely with two Texas Rangers to develop a timeline and to pinpoint where Sells was at various times during the past two decades.

Instead of allowing investigators to visit and show Sells crime scene photographs, maps and forensic reports, investigators here carefully scrutinize what the suspect is shown. …

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