Tommy Lynn Sells

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tommy Lynn Sells
Tommy Lynn Sells.jpg
Born (1964-06-28)June 28, 1964
Oakland, California, U.S.
Died April 3, 2014(2014-04-03) (aged 49)
Huntsville, Texas, U.S.
Cause of death Lethal injection
Other names "Coast to Coast," The Cross Country Killer
Criminal penalty Death (September 20, 2000)
Conviction(s) Felony theft, Grand Theft Auto, malicious wounding, murder, public intoxication, theft (September 18, 2000)
Victims 1 conviction, suspected of 22+
Span of crimes
1980–December 31, 1999
Country United States
State(s) Missouri, New York, Illinois, Texas, Kentucky,[1] (possibly others)
Date apprehended
January 2, 2000

Tommy Lynn Sells (June 28, 1964 – April 3, 2014) was an American serial killer. He was convicted of one murder, for which he was executed. Authorities believe he committed at least another 21 murders.

Early life[edit]

Sells and his twin sister, Tammy Jean, contracted meningitis when they were 18 months old; Tammy died from the illness.[2][3] Shortly thereafter, Sells was sent to live with his aunt, Bonnie Woodall, in Holcomb, Missouri, where he lived until he was five years old. When Sells was eight, he began spending time with a man named Willis Clark, who began to molest him with the consent of his mother. Sells stated that this abuse affected him greatly, and he would relive his experiences while committing his crimes.[4]

The homeless Sells hitchhiked and train-hopped across the United States from 1978 to 1999, committing various crimes along the way. He held several very short-term manual labor and barber jobs. He drank heavily, abused drugs and was imprisoned several times.[5]

Previous crimes, sentences, and mental disorders[edit]

In 1990, Sells stole a truck in Wyoming and was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment. He was diagnosed with a personality disorder consisting of antisocial, borderline, and schizoid features, substance use disorder (severe opioid, cannabis, amphetamines, and alcohol dependence), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and psychosis.[6][7]

In May 1992, Sells raped, knifed, and beat a woman with a piano stool in Charleston, West Virginia.[6] In June 1993, he was sentenced to two to ten years imprisonment for malicious wounding; the rape charge was dropped. While serving this sentence, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and married Nora Price. He was released in 1997 and moved to Tennessee with his wife. He left her and resumed his cross-country travels.[6]


Sells is believed by police to have murdered at least 22 people. Retired Texas Ranger John Allen said, "We did confirm 22... I know there's more. I know there's a lot more. Obviously, we won't ever know."[8] Sells said he committed his first murder at age 16, while breaking into a house. While in the house, Sells claimed to have discovered a man performing fellatio on a boy and to have killed the man in a fit of rage.[7]

In July 1985, 21-year-old Sells worked at a Forsyth, Missouri carnival, where he met 28-year-old Ena Cordt (November 15, 1956 – July 27, 1985) and her 4-year-old son Rory (August 3, 1980 – July 27, 1985).[9] Cordt invited Sells to her home that evening. According to Sells, he had sex with her, fell asleep, and awoke to find her stealing from his backpack. He proceeded to beat Cordt to death with her son's baseball bat. He then murdered her son because the child was a potential witness. The bludgeoned bodies were found three days later, by which time Sells had left town. [9]

Sells is suspected of the following crimes:

  • the May 1987 murder of Suzanne Korcz (February 2, 1960 - disappeared & presumed dead May 1987) in New York[9]
  • the November 1987 murders of four members of the Dardeen family in Illinois[10]
  • the September 1988 murder of Melissa Tremblay (March 1, 1977 - September 11, 1988) in Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • the 1997 murder of Stephanie Mahaney (June 20, 1984 - November 18, 1997) near Springfield, Missouri[11]
  • the 1989 murder of a co-worker in Texas
  • the 1999 sexual assault and murder of Haley McHone (August 14, 1985 - May 23, 1999) in Lexington, Kentucky[12]
  • The 1999 murder of Kaylene Jo "Katy" Harris (September 27, 1986 - December 31, 1999).[13]
  • the October 13, 1997 murder of 10-year-old Joel Kirkpatrick in Illinois.[14]
  • the April 1999 murder of nine-year-old Mary Perez (April 7, 1990 - April 18, 1999) in San Antonio, Texas, a crime that Sells was ultimately convicted of[15][16]

After watching an episode of Crime Watch Daily in November 2015, the daughter of JoAnne Tate contacted authorities stating that she now believed Sells murdered her mother in 1982, recanting her testimony identifying Rodney Lincoln as the killer.[17]

Arrests and confessions[edit]

Allan B. Polunsky Unit, where Sells was located

On December 31, 1999, in the Guajia Bay subdivision, west of Del Rio, Texas, Sells slit the throats of 13-year-old Kaylene 'Katy' Harris and 10-year-old Krystal Surles. Surles survived and received help from the neighbors. Sells was apprehended after being identified from a sketch made from the victim's description. In an interview on Discovery Channel's Most Evil with Columbia University forensic psychiatrist and personality expert Dr. Michael H. Stone,[citation needed] Sells claimed to have killed more than 70 people. Police over time came to suspect him of "working the system", by confessing to murders he had not committed.[18]

The state's attorney in Jefferson County, Illinois, declined to charge Sells with the Dardeen family homicides in 1987 because his confession to the quadruple killing, while generally consistent with the facts of the case as reported in the media, was inaccurate regarding some details that had not been made public. He also changed his account three times regarding how he had met the family.[19] Investigators wanted to bring Sells to Southern Illinois in order to resolve their doubts, but Texas refused, due to its law forbidding death row prisoners from leaving the state.[20]

Sells was housed on death row in the Allan B. Polunsky Unit near Livingston, Texas. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice received him on November 8, 2000.[21]

In 2004, Sells confessed that he had broken into a home, taken a knife from a butcher block in the kitchen, stabbed a little boy to death, and scuffled with a woman. Those details agreed with the account of Julie Rea Harper, who was initially convicted for the murder of her son, and then acquitted in 2006.[22][23]


On January 3, 2014, a Del Rio judge set Sells' execution date for April 3, 2014.[24][25] Sells' death sentence was carried out at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. When asked if he would like to make a final statement, Sells replied "No." As a lethal dose of pentobarbital was administered, he took a few deep breaths, closed his eyes and began to snore. Less than a minute later, he stopped moving. Thirteen minutes later, at 6:27 p.m. (CDT), he was pronounced dead.[26]

In media[edit]

Eight years before his execution, Sells was one of the featured interviewees on Episode 2 ("Cold-Blooded Killers") of Season 2 on the Investigation Discovery documentary series, Most Evil. The interview was done by a forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Stone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Stone, Michael H. (2009). "The Anatomy of Evil". Prometheus Books. p. 229. Retrieved 4 June 2017. 
  3. ^ Maccormack, John (28 September 2000). "Killer Smile". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 4 June 2017. 
  4. ^ "YouTube". Retrieved 2016-08-02. 
  5. ^ Krajicek, David. "A life of crime". Crime Library. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Krajicek, David. "Murder Interrupted". Crime Library. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Aamodt, Mike. "Sells, Tommy Lynn" (PDF). Department of Psychology. Radford, Virginia: Radford University. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "Supreme Court to decide Tommy Lynn Sells execution drug case". San Antonio, Texas. Associated Press. April 3, 2014. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Newton, Michael (2006). "Sells, Tommy Lynn". The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (2 ed.). New York City: Infobase Publishing. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-8160-6987-3. 
  10. ^ Fasol, Tara (January 12, 2008). "Brutal Jefferson County murder still goes unsolved". Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Sheriff Arnott to talk about killer with Ozarks ties". Springfield News-Leader. Springfield, Missouri: Gannett Company. April 2, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Transcript: '20/20' interview with Tommy Lynn Sells". 20/20. ABC News. 2004. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  13. ^ Joseph, Drew (April 4, 2014). "Killer who complained about execution drug is put to death". Houston Chronicle. Houston, Texas: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved August 2, 2016. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-08-02. 
  16. ^ "Death row inmate claims to know where missing Oklahoma girls are buried". The Morning Sun. Pittsburg, Kansas: Gatehouse Media. May 15, 2002. 
  17. ^ "Man jailed for murder forgives woman whose testimony sent him to jail". Mail Online. London, England: Daily Mail General Trust. Retrieved 14 December 2015. 
  18. ^ "Killer Smile". 2000. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  19. ^ Suhr, Jim (April 12, 2014). "Unsolved 1987 slaying of Illinois family haunting". Associated Press. Retrieved November 6, 2017 – via Northwest Herald. 
  20. ^ Gauen, Pat (April 10, 2014). "Gruesome Illinois mystery appears to end with Texas execution". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved November 8, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Tommy Sells profile, Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
  22. ^ "Julie Rea, Center on Wrongful Convictions: Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School of Law". Retrieved 2015-12-14. 
  23. ^ "The end". Retrieved 2015-12-14. 
  24. ^ "Execution Date Set For Texas Inmate Linked To A Dozen Slayings" Archived 2014-01-04 at the Wayback Machine., KWTX.COM; accessed April 5, 2014.
  25. ^ Execution date set for Tommy Sells,; accessed April 5, 2014. Archived April 7, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ Serial killer executed with Texas' new drug supply Archived April 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]