Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Derrick Todd Lee, Baton Rouge Serial Killer

The Profile Evaluated - Part Two

As with any behavioral profile, there are some points that the FBI analysts got things wrong yet many that they got right.  Whether the accuracies actually helped the investigators is for only them to determine, but we can look at some key details.

            The profile suggested:

  • The killer was a white male between 25 and 35.  The suspect is a black male, age 34.
  • The killer would act out in anger and be controlling.  As of now, we know that the suspect exhibits a great deal of charm, but we have not yet heard from those who have known him well, aside from a police report that he beat one girlfriend and was arrested for simple battery on his wife in 2001.  These incidents do suggest a controlling personality.
  • The killer is physically strong (based on carrying a body over rough terrain) and would be expected to work in a physical type of job.   Lee worked on several construction jobs and neighbors recall that he lifted weights.
  • The killer would not have mobility in his job and would have a job that does not involve much interaction with the public.   Sometimes he had mobility and sometimes he didn't.  He was a dump truck driver at the time of several murders, a job that did not get him involved with the public.
  • He wants to be seen as someone attractive and appealing to women, but would be awkward around them.  His sophistication in interacting with women is low.   From what people at the motel said where he last lived in Atlanta, Lee was gregarious and easy-going, a real charmer with the women.  However, he appeared to talk about the Bible quite a bit, so it could be that his interaction was restricted to subjects he knew well or that he thought would impress women. From some reports, he offered cognac to females if they would go to his room.  Some women might view that as awkward or inappropriate, or lacking in social skills.  We know little about his behavior around women with high socio-economic status.
  • His socio-economic status is likely average or below for the area...his finances would be tight.  Lee had declared bankruptcy in November, his house was foreclosed, and he was nearly $85,000 in debt.  He worked in several jobs on and off but had nothing steady.
  • He developed information about the victims.  We don't yet know, but Lee was once arrested for stalking, and stalkers usually engage in collecting information about their targets.
  • This offender spends a significant amount of time watching women.  We don't know with certainty, but Lee's reported smoothness with the women at the motel—people at his own socioeconomic level—indicates that he's been around women enough to be comfortable and even charming.
  • This offender does not just follow women from a distance and it is possible he will attempt to interact with them.  He has a low-key style and seems non-threatening and harmless.  Again, this is consistent with what people at the motel in Atlanta described about Lee.  They were surprised that this "very nice" man was a suspect in several murders.
  • He does not handle rejection well and will retaliate.  We have no information on this trait about Lee.
  • He gets a thrill from taking a risk, entering women's homes at times when he can be seen.  This will come out as correct or otherwise as the investigation collects more information.
  • His impulsivity has likely brought him to the attention of law enforcement for minor offenses in the past, such as peeping, home intrusions, breaking and entering, and trespassing.  He's spontaneous, but he can also plan.   Lee has been arrested for minor offenses like stalking, voyeurism, aggravated battery, attempted first-degree murder, damage to property, and family neglect.  At times, he was discovered in people's homes.
  • The offender is determined and mission oriented.  He is cool under pressure.  Lee was arrested quietly and was cooperative with being taken back to Louisiana.
  • He has followed the news about the investigation.   Lee appeared to know enough to realize that once they had his DNA, he needed to leave, and did.  That same day, May 5, he took his children out of school and told the school superintendent that he was leaving for Los Angeles.
  • He would talk about the deceased and comment on aspects of the investigation.  One of the reasons Lee was a suspect from whom DNA was taken was that investigators had heard that he had talked about a missing woman, not yet found but suspected to be dead.  He was also suspected in another death in 1992, and he had a history of petty crimes.  We don't yet know if Lee spoke about any of the five cases under investigation, but the change in MO from killing inside the home to killing outside could have been the result of learning about the investigation of the first two murders.
  • He wavers between anxiety over getting caught and confidence that he won't be.  The fact that Lee killed two more women in the area after three cases were linked indicates confidence, and his flight to Georgia might suggest real fear that he could be caught.
  • He might live with others.  Lee was married and had children.
  • He has no empathy for others.  This is difficult to perceive in a person who comes across as charming, although it is a marked trait of a psychopath, who is charming, manipulative, non-empathic, narcissistic, and without remorse.  It remains to be seen how Lee will be assessed.

In short, if Lee turns out to be the killer, certain aspects of the profile were inaccurate, but many were on target.  Nevertheless, it is the "misses" rather than the "hits" that people remember.