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Police Searching Unsolved Cases for Connections to Suspected Serial

JACKSON, La. (AP) -- Investigators who dug up a driveway looking for a woman's body at a house once occupied by the suspected south Louisiana serial killer came up empty-handed, but began looking at more sites Friday.

West Feliciana Parish Sheriff Austin Daniel said the sites were connected to serial killings suspect Derrick Todd Lee, but declined to elaborate. Lee once worked for a concrete company.

East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Talmadge Bunch said Thursday authorities were looking for the body of Randi Mebruer, 28, of Zachary, who disappeared in 1998.

He said investigators got a tip after Lee, 34, was named as the suspected serial killer responsible for five murders in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Lee was arrested in Atlanta on Tuesday.

A one-time neighbor of Lee's told investigators that the concrete slab that was dug up Thursday had been poured in the middle of the night about the time Mebruer disappeared, authorities said.

At that time, Lee worked for a concrete company and stayed at the house with a girlfriend. The slab is in the middle of a gravel driveway, and investigators brought in a backhoe to rip it up.

Investigators uncovered a 4-inch bone fragment, but it turned out to be an animal bone, authorities said. The dig was called off Thursday night and the hole was refilled.

On Friday, search dogs were sent to a slab located near a barn near Jackson, but no digging was performed. Investigators then went a short distance down a street to examine a driveway in front of a rundown house.

Lee faces charges of murder and rape in the deaths of five women in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the attempted murder and attempted rape of a sixth woman in St. Martin Parish, and kidnapping and burglary.

Zachary Police Chief Joey Watson has said he long suspected Lee was the culprit responsible for the disappearance of Mebruer, as well as the 1992 slaying of Connie Warner, 41, and the 1993 machete attack of two teenagers in a cemetery who were not killed.

``We know more about him now as an individual and would suspect him much stronger now than we did two weeks ago. He seems like the kind of guy that would have done the things we're looking at,'' Watson said earlier Thursday, in a telephone interview.

``We're hoping for a match in some of the evidence we submitted to the crime lab, a DNA match,'' Watson said. ``We were also hoping to talk to him.''

And police are digging into other cases. In at least a half dozen parishes, investigators are reviewing a timeline of Lee's crimes and travels or sending evidence to the State Police Crime Lab.

Daniel said he's interested in talking to Lee about the December 2002 disappearance of Glenn Tankersley, 67. Baton Rouge police are investigating a possible link to the murder of Christine Moore, 23, whose family has said they believe Moore was a victim of the serial killer.

Attorney General Richard Ieyoub told WBRZ-TV that his office got warrants to search Lee's home outside of St. Francisville in connection with the disappearance of Mari Ann Fowler, 65, and the murder of Geralyn DeSoto, 21.

Fowler, the wife of imprisoned former state Elections Commissioner Jerry Fowler, was abducted on Christmas Eve from a Port Allen sandwich shop.

DeSoto, of Addis, was beaten and stabbed to death. Her neck was slashed and her body found in January 2002.

Police in St. Martin Parish were also reviewing all cases that could fit Lee's profile, Capt. Audrey Thibodaux said.

Last year, the Iberville Parish sheriff gave evidence from the 1997 murder of Eugenie Boisfontaine, 34, to the State Police Crime Lab to be compared to the DNA gathered in the serial killer investigation.

At one time, Boisfontaine lived on the same Baton Rouge street as known serial killer victims Gina Wilson Green and Charlotte Murray Pace. Boisfontaine's relatives have met with family and friends of the serial killer victims to swap scraps of information that might link Boisfontaine's murder.

New Orleans police asked for serial killer DNA to compare with that found in at least three murder victims, Capt. Marlon Defillo said.

He said investigators do not think they are related, because the women were street-type drug users _ very different from the businesswomen and college students targeted by the serial killer _ but they want to check as a precaution.

Lee was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Wednesday night and is being held without bond, after a judge advised him Thursday that state law does not allow bond in a death penalty case. The brief hearing was over closed-circuit TV with Lee remaining in the prison; it was not open to the public.

The public defender's office was appointed to defend Lee. Mike Mitchell, head of the public defender's office, said he met with Lee Thursday morning but was unsure if he would take the case or pass it on to one of his colleagues.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Doug Moreau said prosecutors would seek the death penalty. He said he expected evidence would be presented to a grand jury within a few weeks.

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