Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Tommy Lynn Sells

Into Del Rio

Beyond the polygamy, their union was a mismatch in many ways. Levrie was a born-again Christian, and Sells was indifferent to religion. The woman was sincere, and Sells was a con man. Sells posed as an abiding husband, but he secretly caroused at night, maintaining his well-worn habit of drug and alcohol abuse.

As always, Sells would disappear periodically. His road trips came frequently in 1999. He would lie to Levrie that he had business out of town or that he had to see a relative. In fact, Tommy Sells made Del Rio his home base for a furious endgame series of murders in 1999.

On April 4, he apparently broke into the trailer home of a 32-year-old woman in Gibson County, Tenn., 75 miles northeast of Memphis. He raped and stabbed the woman to death, then stabbed to death her 8-year-old daughter.

He hightailed back to Texas, landing in San Antonio two weeks later with another carnival troupe for the city's huge Fiesta. At 10 p.m. on April 18, Mary Bea Perez, 9, disappeared from her family's table at the El Mercado music fest downtown. Ten days later, the girl's body turned up in a San Antonio creek. She had been molested and slain. 

Mary Bea Perez, victim
Mary Bea Perez, victim

The case was unsolved until Sells was arrested and accepted responsibility.

Sells hurried out of San Antonio and headed back east to Lexington, Ky., where he bedded down at a homeless shelter and worked as a day laborer.

On May 13, he saw Haley McHone, 13, enjoying a solitary springtime ride on a swing in a Lexington Park. He accosted her and forced her to a wooded section, where he stripped, raped and choked the girl to death. He rode off on the girl's bicycle and sold it for $20 in a housing project, then used the proceeds to get falling-down drunk.

He was arrested late that night for public intoxication. He was released from jail the next morning, then scooted west back to Del Rio—gone long before the girl's body turned up.

There may have been other murder excursions before the turn of the millennium. Sells told investigators he traveled to Kingfisher, Okla., in July, where he raped and shot Bobby Lynn Wofford, 14.

In Del Rio Sells and Levrie began attending Grace Community Church at the invitation of Sells' boss at Amigo Auto Sales.

At the church Sells met Terry and Crystal Harris and their children, including Katy, a girl of the proper age for the sexual predator.

Sells insinuated himself into their lives. He visited their double-wide several times, pretending to seek Terry Harris' counseling about his marital difficulties. In fact, he was ogling Katy, her 12-year-old sister, Lori, and their slender mother, Crystal.

The opportunity for the crime opened up when Sells happened to cross paths with Terry Harris on December 31 as he gassed up his truck for his trip to Kansas.

Harris was a rugged man—a former cop and nightclub bouncer. Sells' MO was to attack women and children, with only a few exceptions. He likely would not have gone to the Harris home that night had he not known that Terry Harris would be away.

 

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