Cross-Country Killer/ Open Lines

Hosted byDave Schrader

Cross-Country Killer/ Open Lines

About the show

In the first half of the program, host Dave Schrader (email) welcomed author and crime researcher, Diane Fanning, who discussed the terrifying case of Tommy Lynn Sells, a serial killer who made his way across the country for two decades. Fanning traced the evil which surrounded Sells back to his childhood, when his mother abandoned him for years then tore him from his surrogate guardians only to leave him once again, but this time in the custody of a pedophile. If not for this turn of events, she speculated that Sells, at worst, would have become a petty criminal, however "that experience destroyed any humanity left in him." As such, Sells went on to travel throughout America murdering men, women, and children over the span of twenty years. According to Fanning, law enforcement officials can confirm twenty victims of Sells' spree, but the actual number may be well over fifty unfortunate souls.

Sells reign of terror came to an end in 1999 on New Year's Eve after he ventured to Texas and murdered a 13-year-old girl, Kaylene Harris, and attempted to kill her best friend, Krystal Surles. Miraculously and unbeknownst to Sells, Surles survived the brutal attack and actually walked to a nearby home in search of help. Unable to speak due to her gruesome injuries, Surles managed to work with a police sketch artist to help create a composite picture of Sells. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and subsequently convicted of multiple offenses related to the Texas attack which resulted in Sells being sentenced to death. While on death row, Sells would go on to confess to numerous other murders and claim to have committed countless others. Compounding the cruel nature of Sells' crimes is that Texas officials refused to let him be extradited to other states for additional murder trials.

This proved particularly troublesome to Fanning when she discovered the case of a woman named Julie Rae, who had been imprisoned for killing her 10-year-old son, but family and friends had insisted that she was innocent and solid evidence linking her to the crime was scant at best. Since aspects of the case sounded similar to the methods used by Sells, Fanning wrote to him in prison and alluded to it without giving any specific details about when or where it took place. In response, Sells asked if that murder happened two days after one of his confirmed killings which, in fact, it did. Thanks to this new information as well as the work of the Innocence Project, Julie Rae was ultimately set free. Unfortunately, Sells' possible role in similar instances of wrongful convictions will remain a mystery as he was executed in 2014.

The latter half of the program featured Open Lines and included a number of callers who shared their stories of narrowly escaping possible murderers and kidnappers. Additionally, Dave shared the troubling story of Nick Hillary, a man in upstate New York who is facing murder charges under very suspicious circumstances.


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