Residents, agencies more alert with latest events in case

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Ever since headlines about a Baton Rouge serial killer began appearing, law enforcement officers and laypeople have been on the alert for suspicious activity.

But that’s even more true now that a warrant has been issued for Derrick Todd Lee, 34, of St. Francisville, La., in connection with the serial killings for five Louisiana women.

&uot;I already look in the back of my car and check my tires before I go anywhere, just to see if somebody’s in there,&uot; said Lequinda Harris, 24, who lives in Franklin County but works in Natchez.

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&uot;But I’ll take even more precautions now.&uot;

&uot;When I go out of a building at night, I make sure I’m on the phone with someone I know, or I’ll walk out with someone else,&uot; said Stacie Tarpley, 18.

&uot;And I’m always telling my little sister, ‘Make sure you’re cautious of who you talk to,’&uot; she said.

There’s no evidence that Lee is headed toward the Miss-Lou, but residents should always be alert and observant any time they’re out, said Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell.

Still, Ferrell said, &uot;sometimes (a suspect) hunkers down where he’s at, but I suspect that now that his identity is known, he’s trying to get as far as away as he can.&uot;

Ferrell noted, however, that Lee’s last known address was in St. Francisville, only an hour away from Natchez.

&uot;And (he lived) on Highway 61, which goes right through Adams County,&uot; he said.

A nationwide manhunt is ongoing for Lee in connection with the killings.

Meanwhile, both Ferrell and Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said all their officers been told to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.

&uot;They’ve all got his description,&uot; Maxwell said.

Ferrell noted that during Memorial Day weekend, law enforcement agencies already post roadblocks and conduct extra patrols.

Otherwise, he said, &uot;we’re just doing checks of hotels and motels and waiting for tips from citizens, and we’re making ourselves available on cell phones.&uot;

&uot;The (serial killer) task force is keeping us up to date,&uot; Ferrell said.

Such suspects usually flee in stolen vehicles and head for seldom-used properties in rural areas, Ferrell said.

He added that &uot;anyone who has any information or sees anything overtly suspicious should give us a call. It may be part of the puzzle the task force is looking for.&uot;

Ferrell said the nationwide publicity surrounding the case can only help catch the killer.

&uot;Now that his identity’s known, it won’t be long before he’s in custody,&uot; he said.