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La. Woman Says Authorities Ignored Tip

November 12, 2003

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ A woman said she repeatedly gave investigators the name of serial killings suspect Derrick Todd Lee during the time that three women were murdered, but she was ignored.

Collette Dwyer, a firefighter, said authorities ignored her tip because Lee is black and police said they were looking for a white man.

``Every time one of these women was killed, I knew it was him,″ Dwyer said Tuesday. ``I called people and no one listened. I called a lot of people.″

Lee, 35, was arrested in May after a nearly yearlong search for a killer linked to the murders of six Louisiana women through DNA evidence. He remains in prison awaiting trial for two of the murders and has pleaded innocent.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Pat Englade confirmed that Dwyer gave investigators Lee’s name, but did not know if they told her they were looking for a white man. He said a state trooper and an FBI agent followed up on her tip.

Police formed a task force in August 2002, shortly after connecting a third woman’s death to a single killer. Thousands of tips poured into a hot line, and police launched a DNA dragnet, swabbing at least 1,200 men.

In March _ seven months after the task force was formed and after two more women were killed _ police broadened their suspect description, saying the man could be of any race.

Dwyer said she called several state and local agencies, but was directed to call the task force, where her calls went unheeded. Ultimately, it was an attorney general’s investigator who wasn’t connected to the task force who took Lee’s DNA and matched it to the murders.

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