Sean Vincent Gillis


Sean Vincent Gillis

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Mutilation
Number of victims: 8
Date of murders: 1994 - 2004
Date of arrest: April 29, 2004
Date of birth: 1963
Victims profile: Women aged between 30 and 82 years
Method of murder: Strangulation - Stabbing with knife
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on August 2007

Gillis confesses on tape to FBI agents

Aug 1, 2008

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - 9NEWS has obtained a copy of convicted killer Sean Vincent Gillis's video-taped interview with FBI agents just four months after Donna Bennett Johnston's body was found. Gillis explains how he plotted his murders and played games with police.

FBI agents interviewed Gillis in May of 2004. Gillis told the agents he was playing a game of chess with them as they investigated each and every crime scene. He says he used television news to predict his next move and to judge whether he was winning. "I was the chess master, then. You're not going to beat me. My basic interest would be, 'Okay, did they find it? Where did they fine it? What was the condition of the body?'" Gillis said in the interview.

Gillis shared with agents how he used a combination of charm and money to lure his victims into his vehicle. "The hookers loved me. I treated them like women, like ladies." He says there wasn't a plan or a timetable for when or where he would murder his next victim. Gillis says it all depended on when the opportunity would arise. However, Gillis says he did pay close attention to where and when he would dump the bodies. "You're not gonna dump a body if it's gonna leave tracks. It's preferable to dump before it rains. It washes evidence off victim... and the evidence around the crime scene."

However, like most killers, Gillis left something behind - DNA. He says he thought he was winning the game he had going with detectives until one day when he got a phone call from the FBI. "I didn't know the game had just begun. I thought it had just begun at that point. I didn't know I was already check and it was going to be a little while before mate."

"What he is is a narcissistic, self-centered, ego-maniac serial killer." Frustrated prosecutor Prem Burns says she still stands firm on the case she presented and that she would not change a thing, only that the jury would have seen Gillis for the actor she says he was in the tape. "I am like, 'Damn it. It's first degree. He stole from her... serial killers take souvenirs.'"

The state could not enter the tape into evidence because Gillis asked for an attorney during his interview with agents, making it inadmissible during the trial. Burns believes this element would have been the final nail in Gillis's coffin. "I believe had we been able to play the tape for the jury, I think they would have come to the conclusion that death was the only sentence for this calculating, cunning killer whom I analogize to a Ted Bundy." Burns says this case was the strongest the state had against Gillis, and that it's unlikely he will be tried on the others.

By the way, WAFB News has learned that Prem Burns wasn't even close in getting a death penalty judgment in the case. We've talked with jurors, including the jury foreman, who say when the first vote was taken, four jurors voted no on the death penalty. That includes two jurors who said they absolutely would not vote for death for any reason and two who had admitted they were "wavering," finally voted against death. Several of the jurors who favored death call the final vote immensely disappointing.

Baton Rouge Serial Killer Sean Vincent Gillis Finally Goes to Trial

July 22, 2008

It looks like Baton Rouge, Louisiana serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis, now 45-years-old, is finally going to trial. After six weeks of the process of jury selection which, at times, did not seem hopeful that a jury would even be seated in Baton Rouge, Gillis's trial is finally slated to begin on Monday, July 21, 2008, although there have been indications that a delay might occur. The prosecution has indicated that it will seek the death penalty against Gillis.

Gillis's method of operation seems as varied as his victims. While he nearly always mutilated his victims' bodies and frequently tool body parts as trophies, he sometimes chose to strangle his victims but more often chose to stab them to death. He defied typical FBI serial killer profiles by crossing defined boundaries regarding age and race, and his lengthy "cooling off" periods between kills, particularly at first, challenged what FBI profilers had become accustomed to seeing in such killers and may have significantly contributed to his remaining free for so long. His victims ranged in age from 29 to 82; some of his victims were white, others were black; most were from the poor side of town, but at least one lived in an affluent area. Linked to several of his victims by DNA evidence, Gillis has confessed to a total of eight murders. In addition to the damning DNA evidence, Gillis was also tied to one of his victims by unique tire tracks that were left at the site where one victim was found.

Gillis has a long criminal history dating back to 1980 when he was charged with criminal trespass, but his pre-murder rap sheet contains mostly minor legal infractions that stemmed from traffic citations, a DUI, a possession of marijuana charge, and contempt of court charges. Police believe that he did not commit his first murder until March 21, 1994, when he broke into the small retirement home apartment of 82-year-old Ann Bryan during the early morning hours. Although his intention had been simply to rape the elderly white woman, she began screaming and would not stop until he cut her throat with the foot-long hunting knife he carried with him. As she lay bleeding to death, Gillis allegedly stabbed her repeatedly and slashed her body with the knife. Ann Bryan's murder remained unsolved for 10 years.

Nearly five years would pass before Gillis killed again. He told a reporter after his arrest that he waited so long before killing his next victim because he was "happy." During that lengthy period, he worked at a convenience store located across the street from Ann Bryan's home, and lived in a small, ranch-style house on Burgin Avenue in a quiet, middle class neighborhood about a mile from the scene of his first murder. The house belonged to Gillis's mother, where the two of them lived from the time that Gillis was a teenager. His mother, however, eventually moved to Atlanta and left the house with her son who, by the time of Ann Bryan's murder, shared it with his girlfriend.

His neighbors did not like him. In fact, many of his neighbors were afraid of him, particularly girls and women. Some considered him strange, and one neighbor said that Gillis gave him "the willies." He was once caught peeping into the bedroom window of a neighbor's house, and he has been seen on a number of occasions lying out on his front lawn barking at the moon in between yelling curses at his mother. Most people, naturally, avoided him whenever possible.

Gillis's next victim was 30-year-old Katherine Hall, a black drug addict who resided in a housing project on North Street, long known for its drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes. When Katherine climbed into Gillis's car on a chilly night in early January 1999, he overpowered her, placed a plastic cable tie around her neck, and choked her, after which he stabbed her in the throat and in her left eye. After committing the violent carnage against the young woman, Gillis raped her and then further mutilated her body. A squirrel hunter (squirrel has long been a food source in those parts of the country) found her nude body lying face down on a road in a rural area of East Baton Rouge Parish, in front of a Dead End road sign. Investigators later theorized that Gillis's choice of dumping the woman's body in front of the sign might have been symbolic in nature.

Some four months later, toward the early part of May 1999, Gillis, while trolling for a new victim, saw Hardee Schmidt, 52-year-old mother of three, out for an early morning jog in a well-heeled neighborhood of South Baton Rouge. Schmidt was an ardent runner who had previously taken part in the Boston Marathon, and Gillis sized her up that morning as an easy target. He returned to her neighborhood frequently for the next three weeks, hoping to encounter her again. It was not until Sunday, May 30, at approximately 6:30 a.m. that Gillis was able to seize his opportunity.

He ran her down with his car and knocked the stunned, if not seriously injured, woman into a ditch. While she was dazed and confused, he got out of his car, placed a heavy-duty cable around Schmidt's neck, and began choking her. With Schmidt completely under his control, he shoved her into his car and took her to a nearby park where he raped and murdered her. After mutilating her body with a knife, he loaded her into the trunk of his car-where her nude body remained overnight-and drove home. The following day he drove her to St. James Parish, about 35 miles from Baton Rouge and on one of the routes to New Orleans, where he dumped her body into a bayou next to the highway. A bicyclist found the body the next day.

Additional Gillis victims:

• Joyce Williams, 36, killed on November 12, 1999. Gillis severed one of her legs.

• Lillian Robinson, 52, killed in January 2000. An angler found her naked body a month later.

• Marilyn Nevils, 38, killed in late October 2000. Gillis dumped her body three miles from his house, next to the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. Someone discovered her decomposing body on Halloween.

After Gillis had murdered his sixth victim, he took a significant break from killing, for more than a year, but additional raped, strangled, and stabbed female victims began turning up in Baton Rouge. Trouble was, these were not Gillis's victims, and he soon realized that he had a competitor in town. Someone other than Gillis had murdered Gina Wilson Green in September 2001, and the following May, Charlotte Murray Pace was stabbed to death inside her home located near Louisiana State University. Two months later, Pam Kinamore was kidnapped from her home, and her body was found four days later floating in Whiskey Bay.

By August 2002, the Baton Rouge Police Department acknowledged that they had a serious problem on their hands and that they needed to do something about it. As a result, they formed a task force, but the focus of their efforts appeared to be greater with regard to solving the murders of the second serial killer at work, not on solving Gillis's crimes. The police would later learn that Gillis then began spending the greater part of his days on the Internet, keeping track of the work of his competitor. Although he did not know it yet, his challenger was a black man, 34-year-old ex-convict Derrick Todd Lee. Before he was identified and apprehended, Lee would also take the lives of Trineisha Dene Colomb and Carrie Lynn Yoder. DNA left at the scene of Colomb's murder positively linked her slaying with the murders of Green, Pace, and Kinamore. Like Gillis, Lee also crossed the predefined profiling boundaries regarding race, defying theories that serial killers rarely kill victims who are not of their own race. Police began to wonder about the odds-how likely would it be for something like this to occur twice in the same locale and in the same period.

Following Lee's arrest in May 2003, the police and the press began referring to him as the Baton Rouge serial killer, and this, of course, immediately grabbed Gillis's attention. He created a file on his computer's hard drive and named it DTL, Lee's initials, and began collecting news articles and photos about Lee's case so that he could more carefully follow that investigation. It would later be pointed out that he was not about to be outdone by Lee.

It was not until October 2003, however, when Gillis would begin killing again. His path crossed that of 45-year-old Johnnie Mae Williams, a divorced mother of three children, drug addict, and prostitute. With Williams' murder, Gillis again defied FBI profiles of serial killer traits, one being that a serial killer rarely kills anyone that he knows. In this case, Gillis and Williams had been friends, and had known each other for at least 10 years. Nonetheless, Gillis drove her to a secluded area where he beat, raped and strangled her, and then mutilated her body with a knife. This time around, however, he also posed his victim in various positions and photographed her.

Gillis murdered his eighth and final victim in February 2004 after he picked up 43-year-old Donna Bennett Johnston, also a prostitute. She was drunk when he picked her up, so it was not difficult to get her into his car. After driving her to a location near his home, Gillis looped a cable around her neck and strangled her. According to his later account of the murder, it was a quick death-it took about one and a half minutes for her to fall into unconsciousness, and a little longer for her to stop breathing.

He took off all of Johnston's clothes and placed her body on the ground where he slashed both of her breasts and cut off her left nipple. He also cut a tattoo from her right thigh, and removed her left arm at the elbow. He reportedly took the arm with him and later used the hand attached to it to masturbate. Johnston's murder was without doubt the most gruesome and sordid of Gillis's kills.

"Your friend died quickly," he wrote to Johnston's friend, Tammie Purpera, after his arrest. "She was so far gone that night that I really do not think she even knew what was happening to her. She was so drunk it only took about a minute and a half to succumb to unconsciousness and then death. Honestly, her last words were, 'I can't breathe.'"

Purpera died of complications from AIDS in August 2005, but not before she turned over Gillis's letters to the authorities.

Less than two months later, in April 2004, investigators matched a unique tire track, found at the location where Gillis had dumped Johnston's body, to Gillis's white Chevrolet Cavalier. After the police arrested him at his home with the aid of a SWAT team, detectives promptly matched a DNA profile from a swab taken from Gillis to evidence recovered from several of his victims. Upon executing a search warrant at his house, detectives seized seven saws, a hacksaw, several knives, a machete, plastic zip ties, external hard drives, 4 computers, a computer scanner, photographs of Johnnie Mae Williams' dead body, a 14-inch Bayonet, a wooden club, six Playboy pocket playmate books, and newspaper clippings about Derrick Lee's final victim, Carrie Lynn Yoder. One of his computers also contained files named Best of Snuff, Beheadings and Hangings, and Manson Murders. The subject of another file was about Russian necrophilia. Several books, both fiction and nonfiction, about serial killers were also seized from his home.

Gillis, in his earlier letters to Purpera, said that he did not really understand why he sexually mutilated his victims, and said that he really didn't "know what the hell is wrong with me....I was in a real bad place. I was pure evil that night (the night that he killed Johnston). No love, no compassion, no faith, no mercy, no hope." He blamed his actions on his lack of faith and the fact that he had "hated God for a long time."

Sean Vincent Gillis has confessed to killing and mutilating eight women, seven of whom he has been officially charged with murdering. The murder of Lillian Robinson is still being investigated even though it appears that Gillis killed her. Gillis's trial, after four years of delays, is finally set to begin despite another impassioned plea from defense attorneys for another five-month delay for additional psychological testing, some of which has been completed.

Gillis’ WBR guilty plea stands

Prosecutors wanted condition removed

March 29, 2008

An appellate court this week ruled that the guilty plea given in West Baton Rouge Parish by serial killer suspect Sean Vincent Gillis should stand.

Prosecutors in West Baton Rouge wanted the appellate court judges to either amend the plea to take away an objectionable condition attached to the plea deal or return the case to a Port Allen court for trial.

Gillis pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Prosecutors could not be reached on Friday to comment on whether they will ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to review the Wednesday ruing by the 1st Circuit.

Gillis, 45, pleaded guilty to killing Joyce Williams. Authorities claim Gillis confessed to picking up Williams in Scotlandville, driving her across the Mississippi River and strangling her in a sugarcane field near Port Allen.

Gillis then dismembered Williams’ body and discarded it in Iberville Parish where it was found in January 2000, authorities have said.

“I strangled Joyce Williams and she died,” Gillis told state District Judge Robin Free during his August sentencing hearing.

Gillis pleaded guilty to killing Williams on condition that he still be allowed to appeal a ruling by Free that would have allowed his confession to be played to jurors at trial.

Gillis has maintained that during his questioning, he twice asked to speak with a lawyer, but those requests were ignored and the questioning continued.

Gillis’ appeal has not yet been ruled on.

If Gillis were to win that appeal, he would be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and the case would be sent back to Free’s court for trial.

Prosecutors have argued that the questioning of Gillis only continued because Gillis continued to provide information to investigators.

In her appeal, West Baton Rouge Parish prosecutor Elizabeth Engolio claimed Gillis should not have been allowed to plead guilty with any condition.

Gillis’ defense attorney, Jelpi Picou, said Judge Free was within his authority when he allowed Gillis to plead guilty without giving up his right to appeal the ruling on the confession.

Picou said it was a matter of judicial efficiency for Free to rule the way he did.

The 1st Circuit agreed that Free has the authority to accept the plea with the condition.

Serving on the 1st Circuit panel that reviewed the case were Chief Judge Burrell Carter and judges John Pettigrew and Duke Welch.

Gillis is also scheduled to stand trial June 9 on a count of first-degree murder in another of the killings he has confessed to committing.

In that trial, Gillis is accused of killing 43-year-old Donna Bennett Johnston.

Johnston’s mutilated body was found on Feb. 27, 2004, near a creek a short distance from Ben Hur Road in Baton Rouge.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

In all, Gillis has confessed to killing eight women. He has been booked on murder counts in all but one, and that case remains under investigation.

Guilty Plea from Accused Serial Killer Sean Gillis

Aug 21, 2007

Sean Vincent Gillis, accused of killing eight Louisiana women, has pleaded guilty to one of those crimes -- the murder of Joyce Williams of Baton Rouge. The guilty plea to a charge of second-degree murder came Monday afternoon. Gillis will now face a mandatory life sentence in the Williams case.

As he left the courtroom Monday, WAFB 9NEWS Reporter Caroline Moses asked Gillis how he felt about his plea. Gillis replied to the question by simply saying "no comment".

Gillis was set to go on trial Tuesday for the killing of Williams. 337 residents of West Baton Rouge Parish were called as prospective jurors for the trial.

Gillis still faces future trials in East Baton Rouge and Lafayette parishes in connection with the killings of the seven other women. The West Baton Rouge Parish case was taken up first because of statements he gave to law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge in May 2004.

Williams was reported missing in November 1999. Her dismembered, skeletal remains were found in a wooded area near Saint Gabriel on January 22nd, 2000.

Gillis appears in court, hearing rescheduled

June 21, 2006

Accused serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis was back in court Wednesday in West Baton Rouge Parish as the prosecution and the defense continue to prepare for an October trial.

Gillis will be tried for the murder of Joyce Williams, but prosecutors want to use information from other murder cases as evidence during the trial.

A hearing to decide what evidence the prosecution could use was supposed to take place this morning, but the defense said it didn't have enough information to prepare.

"What the law requires and what the judge ordered was that he be specific as to, No. 1, what is his purpose and, No. 2, what specifically is the information from the other cases that you intend to use in this case," said defense attorney Kerry Cuccia.

Prosecutor Tony Clayton said the state is ready to go trial and that everything has been given to the defense.

Gillis’ trial in Lafayette delayed a second time

June 2, 2006

LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette trial of serial killer suspect Sean Vincent Gillis has been postponed a second time.

Gillis faces six murder charges in the Baton Rouge area and one in Lafayette. The second-degree murder trial was set to begin Tuesday in the 2000 killing of 38-year-old Marilyn J. Nevils.

Gillis is accused of abducting and killing Nevils in Lafayette and then carrying her body to Baton Rouge, where the slain woman was dumped on the Mississippi River levee.

A judge granted a request by Gillis’ defense attorney to delay the trial.

Prosecutors did not oppose the request and said they do not plan to move forward in the Lafayette case until Gillis’ charges in Baton Rouge are resolved.

Gillis confessions in, trial date set

June 2, 2006

The defense team for accused serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis got some bad news on Friday. Judge Robyn Free ruled the defendant's earlier confession to eight murders will be admissible in court.

Judge Free said Gillis did request a lawyer when he was first questioned by authorities, but added that Gillis initiated the conversation that led to the confessions. The defense team contended that not stopping the questioning altogether after the lawyer request was unconstitutional.

The West Baton Rouge Parish judge also set a trial date for Oct. 16 in the death of Joyce Williams. Prosecutors claim Gillis murdered Williams in West Baton Rouge and dumped her body in Iberville Parish. Defense attorneys feel the trial date will come too early.

"The worst thing to have in a situation like this is to have a case go forward when not in trial posture and get a verdict that lacks liability and integrity," said defense attorney Kerry Cuccia.

Before the trial begins in October, Gillis will have to appear in court at least one more time for a motions hearing at the end of June.

Judge: Reporter must testify in Gillis murder trial

May 26, 2006

BATON ROUGE, La. A state judge says a former Baton Rouge newspaper reporter who conducted a prison interview with Sean Vincent Gillis will be required to testify during the suspected serial killer's first-degree murder trial.

Josh Noel, now a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, conducted the interview during which Gillis confessed to killing eight women, including Donna Bennett Johnston.

Prosecutor Prem Burns said after court the confessions made to Noel and letters Gillis reportedly wrote to a friend of one of the victims are now more important in light of possible problems with confessions Gillis made to authorities.

Burns also said having Noel testify would eliminate doubt that the testimony was coming from a witness who might be trying to sway jurors.

Sean Vincent Gillis has been linked by DNA evidence to the murders of Katherine Hall, Johnnie Mae Williams, and Donna Bennett Johnston. Gillis was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, April 29, 2004. He was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of ritualistic acts, for allegedly mutilating the victims bodies after death. The three victims to which Gillis has been linked by DNA, were all beaten, strangled, mutilated, and found in remote areas of the Parish.

Following Sean Gillis’ arrest, detectives say Gillis confessed to committing other unsolved local murders. He has since been charged with first degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and the stalking of 52-year-old Hardee Moseley Schmidt, and first degree murder of 81- year-old, Ann Bryan.

Authorities were able to track down Gillis by two key pieces of evidence- unique tire tracks left at the site Johnston’s body was found, and the DNA profile on the victim’s bodies. A SWAT team arrested Gillis about 1:20 a.m. in his home at 545 Burgin Avenue in Baton Rouge.

Gillis with long time girlfriend at his home on Burgin Avenue in Baton Rouge.

Sean Vincent Gillis (mugshot)

Accused serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis (left, foreground) is escorted by Louisiana State Prison Corrections
Lt. Kendal Varner, from the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse in this August 2007 file photo.

The victims

Ann Bryan
82-year-old Bryan, was found stabbed to death in her bedroom at St. James Place retirement home, March 21, 1994. Linked to Gillis by confession.

Katherine Hall
Hall's body was found in January 1999 lying face down in the Vignes Lake subdivision in the southeast corner of the parish, near Hoo Shoo Too Road. When Hall was killed, authorities said she lived on the streets and used crack cocaine. Her jacket was found after her death, miles away, hanging near the leeve by LSU. Linked to Gillis by DNA.

Hardee Mosley Schmidt
Hardeee, 52, dissapeared from her Pollard Estates subdivision while taking a jog in May 1999. Her body was found a few days later in a St. James Parish bayou. Linked to Gillis by confession.

Joyce Williams
Hunters in Iverville Parish stumbled upon Joyce Williams' severed leg bone in a patch of woody area on the east bank of the Mississippi River about three miles south of the Plaquemine ferry on January 22, 2000. About 700 feet away, deputies summoned to the site found the rest of the skeleton. Joyce, 36, was seen leaving a home in Oriole Street in Baton Rouge on November 12, 1999. Linked to Gillis by confession.

Lillian Robinson
A fisherman found 52-year-old Robinson's naked body in the Atchafalaya Basin along Interstate 10 between Whiskey Bay and Butte La Rose exits on February 10, 2000. Linked to Gillis by confession.

Marilyn Nevils
The badly decomposed body of Nevils, 38, was found in November 2000 on the Mississippi River
levee about a mile south of Ben-Hur Road. Linked to Gillia by confession.

Johnnie Mae Williams
Johnnie Mae, 45, who he said had been a friend for nearly 10 years. Gillis said that when he picked her up on the street in October 2003, she had become a steady user of crack cocaine. He couldn't restrain himself, he said. William's body was found October 11 by a group of people riding four-wheelers off Pride-Port Hudson Road near Green Franklin Road.
Linked to Gillis by DNA.

Donna Bennett Johnston
Donna, 43, was found February 27, 2004, strangled in a drainage canal just outside the Baton Rouge city limits, on Ben-Hur road. Johnston, like some of the others victims, let what police classify as a 'high-risk' lifestyle. Linked to Gillis by DNA.



Short Bussed
I read a book on this dude only a few months ago.
One of at least 3 seperate serial killer operating independently in Baton Rouge, Lous. at the same time. I think Derrick Todd Lee was the name of one of the only black 1 of the 3.