Murder defense request denied

The judge presiding over condemned serial killer Derrick Todd Lee’s latest appeal rejected a defense request Thursday to have the evidence presented at Lee’s 2004 capital murder trial sent to a private lab in Texas for physical and microscopic examination.

State District Judge Richard Anderson denied the defense motion after prosecutor Dana Cummings vigorously objected to the evidence submitted in the 2002 slaying of Charlotte Murray Pace being handled in that way. Cummings said the integrity of the chain of custody of the evidence must be maintained in the event the evidence is needed in a future court proceeding.

Cummings argued that if Lee’s current attorneys want their own independent experts to examine the evidence, they should do so at the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office, where the evidence is housed.

Anderson agreed and gave Lee’s attorneys until Feb. 7 to do so.

An irritated Cummings noted after the hearing that the DNA evidence linking Lee to Pace’s killing was “insurmountable” and she accused the defense of “papering us up” with motions.

“I don’t understand why they want the evidence,” the prosecutor said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.

Marie Scavetta, one of Lee’s attorneys, said during the hearing that the defense is not requesting DNA testing of the evidence. That evidence includes a cut telephone cord, she said.

Scavetta declined comment after the hearing, but Pace’s mother and the father of another woman allegedly killed by Lee had plenty to say outside the courthouse.

“This post-conviction process is a gift to the serial killer,” Ann Pace said. “It traumatizes us (the victims’ families) repeatedly.”

Charlotte Murray Pace, a 22-year-old former LSU graduate student, was killed in May 2002 in her Sharlo Avenue home.

Ann Pace said she thought the case had reached a “conclusion” when Lee, of St. Francisville, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2004 in the slaying of her daughter, but that was “only the beginning.”

“I could not have imagined this process going in,” she said.

Pace said it was “very difficult” to hear in court Thursday that Lee’s attorneys want her daughter’s shirt, bra, shorts and other items examined further.

“A lot of waste of time. These (defense) attorneys are making all kinds of money off these appeals,” added Sterling Colomb, the father of murder victim Trineisha Dene’ Colomb, of Lafayette.

At the penalty phase of Lee’s Baton Rouge trial in the killing of Pace, prosecutors introduced evidence of four other murders, including that of Colomb, and an attempted murder that he allegedly committed.

Colomb disappeared Nov. 21, 2002. Her body was found by a hunter three days later near Scott.

“Ten years is a long time,” Sterling Colomb said. “I’m just tired of it.”

Cummings said she feels for the families of Lee’s victims.

“My heart breaks for them,” she said. “It feels to them like there is no justice. We in Louisiana need to pay more attention to the victims.”

Lee, 44, also was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in the 2002 killing of Geralyn Barr DeSoto, 21, of Addis.

Lee is suspected of killing seven south Louisiana women between 1998 and 2003.

His current attorneys claim, among other things, that his first-degree murder conviction and death sentence should be thrown out and he should be retried because his court-appointed trial lawyers were underfunded and ineffective.