Tommy Lynn Sells is an American serial killer who claims to have killed more than 50 people, possibly more than 70. Like many serial killers, his claims and reality may be very different. Nevertheless, Tommy Lynn Sells is known to have been responsible for several murders, all of them heinous.
Sells was born on June 28, 1964. He was a twin. His twin was a girl named Jean. The twins had two older brothers. Three younger brothers would follow. Their mother was a careless woman named Nina. It is unclear who Tommy's father was. He was supposed to have been a man named William Sells. However, Tommy often told investigators his father's name was Joe Levins.
When Tommy and Jean Sells were about a year and a half old, they were living in St. Louis. At that time, they came down with meningitis. Jean did not survive. Six months later, Nina sent Tommy Lynn to live with her aunt Bonnie. Nina rarely, if ever, visited the child, so Bonnie sought to adopt the boy. Nina caught wind of this and took Tommy away from Bonnie after he had been living with her for roughly three years.
Tommy was a troublemaker as a boy and, as far as investigators and biographers can tell, Nina did not care. Therefore, when a man came into Tommy Lynn Sells' life when he was eight and began buying him things, Nina allowed her son to sleep at the man's house. That man allegedly raped and/or molested Tommy for some time. Most people agree that Nina was indifferent and did nothing to save her own son from the consequences of her neglect.
Tommy got into drugs and alcohol before he was 11 years old. As a young teenager, he tried to rape his mother and was given a psychiatric evaluation. It did him no good. By the time Tommy Lynn Sells was 14 years old, he had left home with his eighth grade education and a lust for drugs and crime. He became addicted to drugs in general. He would take anything he could get his hands on. He was arrested on several occasions and even jailed, but authorities had no idea what kind of person he really was. Authorities were only able to fill in the details of the transient Tommy Lynn Sells' life after his arrest for murder in 2000. Even then, they were not sure if what he said was true. The following is what is generally regarded as fact, or as close to it as you can get from the deranged mind of Tommy Lynn Sells.
In July of 1985, Tommy met a woman named Ena Cordt and her four-year-old son, Rory in Forsyth, Missouri. Sells was working at a carnival that Rory and Ena visited one night. By the next morning, both Rory and Ena were beaten to death with Rory's baseball bat. Tommy later told police that Ena invited him to her home and had consensual sex with him, after which, she tried to rob him. This angered him and he beat her and the boy to death. A more likely scenario is that he followed her home and raped her before killing her and Rory. This is probably not the first time that Tommy Lynn Sells committed murder, but it is hard to tell considering Tommy's propensity for taking drugs and lying.
Two years later, Tommy Lynn Sells managed to get into the Illinois home of Keith and Elaine Dardeen. Police found Keith's body in a field. He had been shot and his genitals mutilated. They found the bodies of Elaine, her three-year-old son and her premature infant daughter in Keith and Elaine's bed. Elaine and the two children had been beaten to death and Elaine had been raped. It is thought that Elaine went into labor prematurely during Tommy's assault. She then gave birth in the presence of a monster who beat her newborn infant to death. It is assumed by many that Tommy Lynn Sells managed to trick or force his way into the home. This is not what Tommy says happened, but we already know he's full of something worse than sh*t.
In 1992, Tommy Lynn Sells was arrested in Charlestown, West Virginia for raping and stabbing, then beating a woman near to death with a piano stool. Apparently, the women had taken the homeless serial killer into her home to feed him when he raped and stabbed her. She managed to get the knife from him and inflict 23 knife wounds on her attacker. However, Sells grabbed a piano stool and beat her into submission. He left her for dead. She was not. She managed to describe him to police and he was arrested. He spent a mere four years in prison for malicious wounding.
During Tommy Lynn Sells' time in prison, he married Nora Price. When he was released in May of 1997, he went to live with his new wife. However, he continued to work odd jobs that took him out of town. He abandoned Price in less than a year. The October 1997 strangling murder of 13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney in Springfield, Missouri is often attributed to Tommy Lynn Sells. He did not stay in the area long.
In 1998, Sells met 28-year-old Jessica Lavrie in Del Rio, Texas while he was working for a carnival. Despite having never divorced Nora, Tommy married Jessica and went to live with her and her four children. He continued to travel, use drugs and murder innocent people. His wife seemingly had no idea.
On April 4, 1999, Sells raped and stabbed a 32-year-old woman and stabbed her eight-year-old daughter in Tennessee. Both died as a result of the attack. On April 18, 1999, Tommy Lynn Sells kidnapped nine-year-old Mary Bea Perez from a music festival in San Antonio, Texas. He molested her, killed her and then dumped her body in a creek. Less than a month later, Tommy raped 13-year-old Haley Mchone in Lexington Park, Lexington, Kentucky. He then strangled her to death. Tommy was arrested later that night for public intoxication. Police had no idea that they had the man who was responsible for Haley's disappearance. They let him go the following morning. Roughly two months later, Tommy raped, shot and killed 14-year-old Bobby Lynn Wofford.
Later that year, Sells began attending services at the Grace Community Church in Del Rio, Texas. There he met the Terry and Crystal Harris. He was taken into their home on more than one occasion. Tommy had 'befriended' Terry. The Harris' had three children, one of them a beautiful preteen girl that Tommy targeted. The Harris' had no idea that they had a serial killer in their midst and that that serial killer was going to murder their daughter.
On December 31, 1999, Sells heard that Terry Harris was going to be out of town for a while. That night, Tommy broke into Terry's trailer in Del Rio, Texas through a window. The window led into the room of 14-year-old Justin Harris. Justin was awakened by the sound, but believed it to be his siblings and went back to sleep. Justin was blind, so he did not see that the intruder was Tommy Lynn Sells. Sells left Justin untouched and went to the next room. Here was a 7-year-old girl who was staying with the family. Tommy left her alone too and moved on. In the next room, Crystal and her 12-year-old daughter were asleep. He quietly moved on to the next room where he found his target.
There was a bunk bed in the room where Tommy Lynn Sells found 13-year-old Kaylene "Katy" Harris. She was asleep on the bottom bunk. Tommy lay on the bed beside her and woke her up. He then cut of her clothing and underwear and began molesting her. She jumped up and yelled, "Go get Mama!" At this point, Tommy cut her and then moved around behind her to slit her throat-twice. Tommy then stabbed her 16 more times. Meanwhile, 10-year-old Krystal Surles, a friend of the family, lay on the top bunk, paralyzed by fear. Tommy noticed her and reached across her slender neck and sliced it with his knife. He then left the house through the front door.
Krystal believed that everyone in the house was dead. She herself was very close to death. She somehow managed to get to the neighbors house, who called 911. The knife had gone through Krystal's windpipe, so she was unable to speak, but her need was obvious. Katy did not survive the attack. Krystal did. This young woman would become the reason that Tommy Lynn Sells is behind bars today.
Krystal Surles described Tommy Lynn Sells to police, and later picked him out of a group of photographs from her hospital bed. He was arrested on January 2, 2000. He began confessing everything and more to police. He went to trial in September of 2000. The trial lasted only three days. The jury deliberated for only an hour and came back with a verdict of guilty on charges of capital murder. Sells is currently on death row in Texas.
It is important to note here that Tommy Lynn Sells' extensive confessions led to the release of a mother who had been convicted of murdering her young son as he slept. The murder occurred on October 13, 1997 in Lawrenceville, Illinois. Sells confessed that it is very likely that he committed it. Julie Harper spent nine years in prison for murdering her son, Joel. Her latest trial has made it painfully obvious that it is highly unlikely she committed the crime. Of course, the prosecutor disagrees.
Update: Tommy Lynn Sells was executed by the state of Texas on April 3, 2014.
Rhodes, Dusty, The End, retrieved 6/3/10, illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-3319-the-end.html
Krajicek, David, Tommy Lynn Sells, retrieved 6/3/10, trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/predators/tommy_sells/index.htm