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La. man arrested in deaths of 3 women

A Baton Rouge man arrested Thursday in Louisiana is suspected of killing three women since 1999 and is a suspect in the death of a fourth, police said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man was arrested Thursday in the killings of three women since 1999 and is a suspect in the death of a fourth, police said.

It was the second time in less than a year that a man in the city was accused of being a serial killer.

Sean Vincent Gillis, 41, was arrested in a SWAT team raid early Thursday morning at his home. He was booked on three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Katherine Hall, 29, Johnnie Mae Williams, 45, and Donna Bennett Johnston, 43.

A DNA swab from Gillis’ mouth matched DNA evidence collected from the women’s bodies, according to police, who refused to give further details about the DNA.

“The goal now is to convict this man and, hopefully, to execute him,” said Lt. Col. Greg Phares, with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. No court date was announced.

While police had said they suspected one man likely was responsible for the murders of all three women, they had shied away from using the term “serial killer” until Gillis’ arrest.

Hall was slain in January 1999 and Williams in October 2003. Johnston’s body was found Feb. 27. Each woman had an arrest record for prostitution, drugs or both, and law enforcement officials formed a task force to track the murderer.

The women were killed in a similar manner and their bodies were cut and mutilated, according to Gillis’ arrest warrant. Police said they traced Gillis through tire tracks left where Johnston’s body was discovered.

Gillis also was being investigated in the death of a jogger, Hardee Schmidt, 52, in 1999, Phares said at a news conference Thursday. She disappeared while on a morning run and her body was found two days later.

Unsolved cases checked
Police planned to review other unsolved murder cases to see if Gillis was involved.

“We will look at any murder in the Baton Rouge area that is similar to the murders he has been charged with,” Phares said.

Authorities said Gillis was unemployed and had previous arrests for trespassing and drunken driving but gave no other details.

In the other serial killings case, police arrested Derrick Todd Lee in May 2003, and said DNA linked him to the murders of seven south Louisiana women between April 1998 and March 2003, plus an attack on an eighth woman. Lee has been indicted in three of the killings.

He has pleaded innocent, and his first trial is scheduled to begin May 10. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.