The Politics of Murder: Will Baton Rouge Clean House?
During his campaign for office, Baton Rouge Mayor Bobby Simpson told an interviewer, "The less you see me in the paper, the better I am doing my job."
Simpson has been "in the paper" a lot lately.
At a May 28 press conference with Louisiana Governor Mike Foster and Baton Rouge Police Chief Pat Englade, Simpson had nothing but praise for the serial killer task force that worked ten months to catch a killer. "This task force has been recognized as the best in the business," Simpson said, "one of the most competent task forces that has ever been put together."
It is a good thing Simpson likes task forces. He has hitched his political fortune to this one (he calls the group "cutting edge"), and if the intensity of public criticism leveled at the task force’s administrative echelon is any indication, Simpson and his pals should start looking for work.
Suspected in at least five homicides, Derrick Todd Lee was arrested without incident in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 27. He waived extradition and arrived back in Baton Rouge the following afternoon. Authorities in New Orleans, Chicago, and Atlanta are reviewing their cold cases for possible connections to the Baton Rouge murders. Baton Rouge authorities are now looking at cases they previously excluded from consideration because they were not linked by DNA.
When the politicos were patting themselves on the back, there was one man noticeably absent from the celebration, and no kudos were sent his way. Danny Mixon is a veteran cop, an investigator with the state attorney general’s office. Mixon had been working on the 1992 murder of Connie Warner, and the 1998 disappearance of Randi Mebruer in Zachary, Louisiana. He was not a member of the elite investigative unit. Derrick Lee’s record included offenses -- burglary, battery, voyeurism, stalking -- often found in the backgrounds of the usual suspects in cases like these. But Mixon had nothing to link Lee to the Zachary cases. The AG’s office did, however, pass the information along to task force officials.
St. Martin Parish did the same with a case of theirs, a woman who had survived an assault in her home. Authorities had a sketch of their perp, a black male. St. Martin officials say they informed the task force of the home-intrusion case ten months ago. Pat Englade insists the task force knew nothing about the case until April of this year. The question is an important one. The Baton Rouge killer claimed at least two victims after August 2002.
In early May 2003, Danny Mixon plugged along with his investigation. He had put together enough background to Support a subpoena for non-testimonial evidence from Derrick Lee. On May 5, Mixon dropped in on Lee, obtained a swab of his saliva, and submitted it for DNA testing. Suddenly, on Sunday, May 25, Derrick Lee appeared on task force radar.
The name of the game is accountability. With Mike Foster not running for another term as governor, and Pat Englade muttering about possible retirement, only Mayor Bobby Simpson remains to be stung by the cutting edge of voters’ anger.
On May 29, investigators in Jackson, Louisiana, began excavating the driveway of a residence once occupied by Derrick Lee's girlfriend. Lee had paved the driveway in 1998, shortly after Randi Mebruer's disappearance. Aided by cadaver dogs, they worked through the fading light of late afternoon.
If you see Danny Mixon tomorrow, shake his hand. We all owe him.