Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

IN LOVING MEMORY OF 13-YEAR-OLD KAYLENE ‘KATY’ HARRIS (SEPTEMBER 27, 1986 TO DECEMBER 31, 1999)



On this date, December 31, 1999, 13-year-old Kaylene Harris was brutally murdered by Serial Killer, Tommy Lynn Sells in Del Rio, Texas. Justice came 15 years later, when Sells was put to death by lethal injection in Texas on April 3, 2014.

We, the comrades of Unit 1012: The VFFDP, will make her one of The 82 murdered children of Unit 1012, where we will not forget her every year on December 31 and September 27. Let us remember how she lived and not how she died. We will always support her family members.


Kaylene “Katy” Harris



Summary: Terry and Crystal Harris lived with their son and two daughters in a trailer home west of San Antonio. They attended Grace Community Church, where they made the acquaintance of Tommy Sells, a used car salesman, and his wife. Sells visited the Harris home several times, asking Terry for counseling about his marital difficulties. Terry assisted Surles, a family friend, and traveled to Kansas to get their belongings for a move to Texas. Left at home were Terry's wife and children, and the Surles children. After closing time at a local bar, Sells made his way to the Harris home and entered through an open window. He went to a bedroom, where he saw Kaylene "Katy" Harris, 13, sleeping in the bottom bunk. 10 year old Krystal Surles was sleeping in the top bunk. Sells put his hand over Katy's mouth and brandished a 12-inch boning knife he had brought with him. He sliced off Katy's shorts and underwear and began fondling her. She wiggled free, stood up and screamed. Sells then turned on the light and moved to block the door. Katy saw herself bleeding and said, "You cut me!" Sells then moved behind her, put his hand over her mouth, and sliced her throat twice. Katy dropped to the floor and gurgled. Sells stabbed her 16 more times. "I'll be quiet, I promise. I won't say anything," Krystal said as Sells moved toward her. He reached over and sliced her throat. She fell to the ground, pretending to be dead as Sells walked out the front door. Assuming that everyone in the house had been killed, Krystal ran outside to a neighbor's house and police were called. Krystal survived the attack, identified Sells from a photopack, and testified at trial. Sells confessed to killing Katy Harris and attacking Krystal Surles. He went with police to the residence and gave a videotaped re-enactment of the crime, which aligned with Krystal's account.

This confession was only the beginning, however. Over the next few months, Sells confessed to a string of murders all over the United States, spanning three decades. He used the nickname "Coast to Coast" for himself to describe both his migratory lifestyle and his trail of killings. He traveled by hopping trains and stealing vehicles and made money by working, panhandling, or stealing. 


Kaylene “Katy” Harris

Jury convicts drifter of capital murder in death of teen
File 2000/The Associated Press
Confessed killer Tommy Lynn Sells leaves the Val Verde Justice Center in Del Rio, Texas, during his September 2000 trial for the murder of a 13-year-old girl. A judge on April 2, 2014, halted Sells' imminent execution while ordering the state to disclose its new lethal-injection drug supplier to Sells' attorneys. After his arrest in the Del Rio case, Sells confessed to killing at least 13 people during 20 year of drifting across the country.

DAVID MCLEMORE
Staff Writer
Published: 02 April 2014 01:03 PM
Updated: 02 April 2014 01:04 PM

Editor's note: This story was originally published Sept. 19, 2000, editions of The Dallas Morning News.


DEL RIO, Texas - After deliberating slightly more than an hour Monday, a Val Verde County jury convicted Tommy Lynn Sells of capital murder for the 1999 knife assault that left a 13-year-old girl dead and her 10-year-old friend with a slit throat.

Jurors will return to the courtroom Tuesday to hear testimony on whether Sells should receive the death penalty for the murder of Kaylene Harris, 13, who was slashed to death Dec. 31, 1999, in the bedroom of her family's mobile home west of Del Rio.

Prior to the trial last week, Sells pleaded guilty to attempted murder in the attack on Krystal Surles, 10, who was visiting Kaylene and her family.

The seven-man, five-woman jury began deliberating at 1:35 p.m., following three days of testimony. They returned a verdict just more than an hour later.

Sells, 36, a drifter who has claimed to have killed at least 13 people during two decades of traveling the country, showed no emotion as the jury's verdict was read. Friends of the victims, however, reacted with tears and gasps.

Ten-year-old Krystal, whose eyewitness account of seeing her friend Kaylene murdered brought jurors to tears, watched the entire trial.

"I wanted to be here to see him get what he deserved," she said. "Now, maybe I can sleep at night without nightmares. I've had to sleep with my mom. Now, I can go back to my own bed."

Asked whether she felt justice had been done, Krystal replied, "Yep. It feels good."

Her mother, Pam Surles, said the happiness was mixed with the awareness that her daughter's recovery is far from complete. "She's a strong little girl, and she's doing well," Mrs. Surles said. "But the recovery is far from over. As for me, I'll be happy when they give him the death penalty. That man is pure evil."

Krystal and her mother rushed across the courtroom to hug Terry and Crystal Harris, parents of the murdered girl. Mr. Harris, sobbing heavily, smothered Krystal in a bear hug, unable to speak.

Later, he said, "We still have our faith in God and the love of our family. If Kaylene's purpose on earth was to get a murderer like this off the street, that's God's will. But when you have a rabid dog, you put him down. That's what Tommy Sells is, a rabid dog. He needs to be put down."

District Attorney Tom Lee called the verdict a wonderful thing for the victim's family and the people of Val Verde County. "The jury's verdict was quick and sure," he said. "Our evidence of his guilt was compelling. Now, we're ready to go to the next phase."

Earlier Monday, during closing arguments, both the prosecutors and defense used the theme that actions speak louder than words. For the state, it was clear Sells entered the Harris home intending to rape and kill Kaylene. The defense argued that Sells showed no premeditation, that he acted on a whim.

Difficult task for defender 

It was a difficult case for Del Rio attorney Victor Garcia, appointed by the court to defend Sells. He said he found himself defending a man he hated, against crimes to which Sells already had confessed.

Yet, Garcia argued, the state's evidence failed to show that Sells had broken into the Harris family trailer with the specific intent to sexually assault Kaylene Harris, a key element of the state's capital murder charge.

"I can't justify Tommy Lynn Sells' actions," Garcia said. "I hate him too, more than you can imagine. But the state must prove every element of the offenses charged to get capital murder. And they did not do that. Tommy Lynn Sells is not guilty of capital murder." 

 Garcia said outside of the courtroom that he indeed hates Sells because of the age of the victim and viciousness of the assault.

"I told Tommy I didn't like him and was going to tell the jury that. He said he understands," Garcia said. "And he does. He feels terrible about what he's done."

'Horrible crime' 

Earlier, during the state's closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Fred Hernandez took jurors through the grisly details of the knife assault on Kaylene and Krystal. Jurors appeared shocked as Hernandez showed photographs of Kaylene's bloody body, with close-ups of the five-inch slash across her throat.

Some jurors turned away from the photos as Hernandez described how 16 knife wounds inflicted with a 12-inch boning knife had pierced Kaylene's body.

"This was a horrible crime, something you don't want to see again," Hernandez said. "But it's a reality of what the Harris family has to live with and what this community has to remember."

The assault on Krystal, who witnessed the murder from the top of a bunk bed, missed being murder by millimeters, Hernandez said. The knife slashed diagonally through her larynx and missed the carotid artery by one or two millimeters. Krystal survived - with a 5-inch pink scar - to deliver devastating testimony at the beginning of the trial.

In videotaped statements given to investigators, Sells initially said he went to the Harris trailer at about 4:30 a.m. to collect $5,000 on a cocaine debt that Kaylene's father owed. Investigators said Sells' statements about the alleged drug deal were contradictory. 

Harris angrily denied the claim after the trial Monday.

"There was no drug deal. I owed him $60 on a Weedeater, and that's all. I've never seen a bit of cocaine, much less the two ounces he said he sold me," Harris said. "It's just [expletive] he came up with to cover the fact he's a lying pervert, child-killing bastard." 

Harris said he and his family met Sells at the community church they both attended in nearby Comstock. "On Christmas Eve, the week before he murdered my daughter, Tommy's wife had kicked him out and we took him in," he said. "He better thank God every day that the Val Verde County deputies got him before I did."

Sells' confessions
 

Shortly after his arrest, Sells voluntarily began confessing to homicides during the periods he drifted across the country. He is linked to 13 killings, including the rape-slaying of a 13-year-old girl in Kentucky in May 1999 and the slayings of an Illinois family of four in 1987.

Sells settled in Del Rio about 1997, arriving as a carnival worker. He married and began working as an odd-jobs repairman and a car salesman.

Outside the courtroom, Lt. Larry Pope, a Val Verde County sheriff's office investigator, said the yearlong criminal investigation had been an emotional ordeal.

Lt. Pope and Texas Ranger John Allen spent days with Sells as he recounted the assault on the two girls in two videotaped and written confessions. They also listened as Sells admitted killing 12 other people during two decades of drifting across the nation.

"It's just a nasty case, and I've tried hard to come up with anything good that comes of it," he said. "For the killing to stop, we may have to kill Tommy. About the only positive thing is that no one else has died since this little girl died."


Kaylene “Katy” Harris
Let us hear from the loved ones of Kaylene Harris, after they witnessed the execution: 


"I wanted to see him die," added Shawn Harris, Kaylene's brother. "That's honest. I wanted to know that he could no longer hurt anybody."


040314 HUNTSVILLE EXECUTION
Published on Apr 4, 2014
Tommy Lynn Sells, 49 was put to death Thursday night after the U.S, Supreme Court rejected demands to release information on the lethal drugs used in the execution.. He was the first to be executed with the new supply of pentobarbital to replace TDCJ expired supply.

Refusing to make a last statement the drugs began to flow. Sells took a few breaths, his eyes closed and he began to snore. In less than a minute he stopped moving and was pronounced dead at 6:27 pm just 13 minutes after the drugs began to flow.

A jury convicted Sells of capital murder in 2000 for the death of Kaylene Harris and slashing of her 10-year-old friend, Krystal Surles, who survived and helped police find Sells. The girls were attacked on New Year's Eve 1999 as they slept in the home of Kaylene Harris' family in Del Rio. The Harris family had befriended Sells at a community church.

Court records show Sells claimed to have committed as many as 70 killings across the U.S.In 2003, Sells was indicted but never tried for the slaying of 13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney in Missouri. He also pleaded guilty to capital murder in the 1999 death of 9-year-old Mary Bea Perez, who was strangled during "Fiesta" in San Antonio. She was last seen alive at Market Street Square on April 18, 1999. Prosecutors waived the death penalty in exchange for the plea.Among his other confessions was the slaying of an Illinois family in 1987. Those victims included Ruby Dardeen, who was eight months pregnant. Her fatal beating forced her to prematurely give birth. The newborn was killed along with her 3-year-old sibling.

Terry Harris, whose 13-year-old daughter, Kaylene Harris, was fatally stabbed by sells in 1999 in South Texas said the injection was way more gentle than what Sells gave out.. "Basically, the dude just took a nap," he said,

The Supreme Court earlier in the day declined to halt the execution as Sells' attorneys tried to obtain more information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice about the supplier of the new drug stock. TDCJ officials argued that the pharmacy must be kept secret to protect it from threats of violence.



 

Kaylene “Katy” Harris grave.



Live to Tell Surviving Victim of Serial Killer Tommy Lynn Sells 48 Hrs

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