Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Tommy Lynn Sells

Murder's Aftermath

Polunsky County Death Row
Polunsky County Death Row

Sells joined more than 450 others on Death Row in Livingston, Texas, whose execution total of nearly 300 since 1982 leads the nation. No execution date for Sells has been set. The average stay on Texas Death Row is 10 ½ years, at a cost to taxpayers of $55 per day, state officials said.

When his time comes, Sells will be given a dose of three drugs (cost: $86)--a deadly dose of the sedative sodium thiopental, a form of bromide muscle relaxant to collapse his lungs, and potassium chloride to stop his heart beat.

Katy Harris' adoptive father says he looks forward to that day. Terry Harris says the family has saved a bottle of champagne they had intended to use to toast the new millennium. It will be uncorked the minute Tommy Lynn Sells is executed, Harris says.

In 2001, the Harris family sat for an interview with the Kansas City Star. They had moved back to Kansas, unable to live in the place where Katy was murdered.

"It took just 10 minutes for Sells to uproot our family," Harris told the paper. "He stole our daughter's accomplishments, every birthday, every holiday...For a whole year, everything snowballed downhill. He stole our lifestyle. We may have to file bankruptcy. I'm not allowed to work - I have too many anger issues. The drugs we're on for depression are really expensive. I don't feel like a man. Forget about sex. There's no way you can plan for something like this."

He continued, "It eats me up that I tried to help Tommy. I talked with him. He was a guy down on his luck that I tried to help. He repaid me by killing my daughter."

While the survivors of his murders try to cope, Sells grouses about his treatment in letters posted on the Internet. He complains about denial of "basic hygiene," a paucity of food and a lack of sleep.

Like a number of other condemned inmates, Sells has become a Death Row Picasso. His kindergarten-quality art shows up on the Internet, including manacled praying hands and a Texas flag with the message, "Gov. George Bush Killed 135, Still Going."

Sells wrote a letter to author Fanning that was included at the end of her book "Through the Window."

The content of the letter was self-pitying, self-serving and anti-Semitic. It showed precious little reflection and managed to blame everyone but himself for his predicament—including, inexplicably, Jews.

Sells' prison photo ID
Sells' prison photo ID

He waxed sanctimonious about the value of human life, particularly his own. Among other things, he expressed outrage that the prosecutor in the Katy Harris murder had had the temerity to show jurors an autopsy picture of the girl. His take on this issue perhaps best exemplifies his disconnection from the reality of what he has done.

Tommy Sells wrote, "That is what got me the guilty verdict, not evidence. I still do not get it to this day. That picture had nothing to do with what happened at the Harris home."

Sells had a falling out with the Texas rangers, and he stopped cooperating.

As he put it in a letter posted on the Internet, "I'm taking some time off from working so close with the Rangers. As a matter of fact, I've stopped, for one or two reasons. Too much too fast. They are getting on my nerves as I was getting on theirs. Them Rangers want to rip my guts out because I've wanted a break."

Investigators said Sells was using his cooperation shrewdly, parsing out details that might lead to additional field trips. He also knows that should he start talking again down the line, it might be reason enough to prompt delays of his execution.


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