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Suspect in Louisiana serial killings arrested

Tip from public helped lead to Lee, authorities say

Derrick Todd Lee is wanted in connection with five killings in Louisiana.
Derrick Todd Lee is wanted in connection with five killings in Louisiana.

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Police Chief Pat Englade of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, announces that the man wanted in connection with a string of serial killings is in police custody. (May 28)
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Late Tuesday, acting on a tip from the public, Atlanta police arrested Derrick Todd Lee, the suspect in five serial killings in Louisiana, authorities said.

Members of the Atlanta Police Department's Fugitive Squad apprehended Lee about 8:45 p.m. at a tire shop in southwest Atlanta. He did not resist and was carrying his Louisiana identification.

"He just said he was the person," Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington told CNN.

Pennington said Lee has been taken to Atlanta police headquarters and booked. He is expected to be taken to Fulton County Jail overnight.

Lee will be booked on first degree murder and aggravated rape charges, said Pat Englade, the police chief of Baton Rouge. Lee will appear in court in Atlanta on Wednesday morning for extradition proceedings, he said.

Lee "hasn't said much" to investigators since his arrest, Pennington said.

"I know now that we have taken a very dangerous person that's a serial murder suspect off the streets of Atlanta, and I'm sure the citizens of Louisiana are proud as well that we've taken this very dangerous person off our streets," he said.

Minutes before the arrest, Pennington said police had received a call from "an informant" who might have spotted Lee. Officers went to the location and found a man fitting his description at the rear of the tire shop.

"Sure enough, he was the person," Pennington said.

Mike Richards, a supervisory deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service, said, "He was actually sitting behind the tire store talking to a young lady when they arrested him."

Authorities praised the cooperation among law enforcement agencies -- a multi-agency Louisiana task force, Atlanta police, the Marshals and the FBI. They also applauded the cooperation of the public and news media.

"The bottom line on this, it was a cooperative effort by all," Richards said.

Serial killer task force investigators had driven from Louisiana overnight Monday, arriving in Atlanta on Tuesday morning and bringing the case file on Lee. The investigation then quickly intensified.

Lee, a father of two, disappeared from Louisiana shortly after he voluntarily submitted to DNA testing May 5. Officials have said they believe he went from Baton Rouge to Chicago, Illinois, and then to Atlanta.

Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Lee on Monday, saying his DNA matched samples found at the scenes of five killings in the Baton Rouge area.

The manhunt largely focused on Atlanta in recent days.

Lee, 34, checked out of the Lakewood Motor Lodge in southwest Atlanta on Monday, leaving shortly before authorities arrived, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

One official said authorities missed him by just an hour or two.

FBI spokesman Joe Paris said Lee had been at the motel about a week when he hurriedly left around midday Monday.

Witnesses there said he told them he was going to his mother's home in Louisiana.

Video from his motel room showed his clothes and boots were left behind.

Federal officials had announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

David McDavid, the chief of detectives in Zachary, Louisiana, said Lee is considered a suspect in the deaths of two women there --one in 1998, the other in 1992. He said police are trying to compare DNA from those crime scenes to Lee's.

"Unusual genetic markers"

Louisiana's serial killer task force said DNA evidence links Lee to the killings of Gina Wilson Green, Charlotte Murray Pace, Pam Kinamore, Trineisha Dene Colomb and Carrie Lynn Yoder.

A task force member told CNN that the DNA tests showed "highly unusual genetic markers."

Police said Lee is considered armed and dangerous. He is black, 6 feet 1, with short hair, a light-to-medium complexion and a muscular build. Anyone with information should call:
•Local law enforcement
•Special task force: (866) 389-3310
•FBI violent crime squad: (404) 679-9000

He said the chance that someone other than Lee could have those markers is "something like one in 4 billion."

Lee's most recent address was in St. Francisville, Louisiana, 40 miles from Baton Rouge, police said.

Police have searched his home, the home of his mother, and a nearby apartment they believe belongs to his girlfriend.

The killings began in Baton Rouge in September 2001, when Green, 41, was found strangled near the campus of Louisiana State University.

In May 2002, Pace, 22, was found stabbed to death in her home, also near the LSU campus; and in July, Kinamore, 44, was abducted and found with her throat slit. Kinamore's body was found 30 miles east of Baton Rouge.

The body of Colomb, 23, was found in a wooded area November 24, about 20 miles from where her abandoned car was discovered.

The body of Yoder, 26, an LSU graduate student, was found in March near the Whiskey Bay Bridge off Interstate 10 outside Baton Rouge, the spot where another victim was found. An autopsy found Yoder was strangled after being beaten and raped.

-- CNN correspondent Art Harris contributed to this report.

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