|“||She [Donna Johnston] 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". I still puzzle over the post-mortem dismemberment and cutting. There must be something deep in my subconscious that really needs that kind of macabre action.||”|
Sean Vincent Gillis, a.k.a. "The Other Baton Rouge Killer", is an American necrophilic and cannibalistic serial killer, serial rapist, and one-time stalker whose murders coincided with that of Derrick Todd Lee, another serial killer active in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the same time.
Gillis was born on June 24, 1962, to Norman and Yvonne Gillis. Norman was a struggling alcoholic who also suffered from mental illness, which complicated his relationship with his wife and son; in one incident, he held a gun to Gillis's head. Out of the safety for his family, Norman later left them and went in and out of many different mental institutions, leaving Yvonne to juggle between raising Gillis alone and attending to her job at a local TV station. Despite this, Gillis lived a relatively normal life and maintained a rather good relationship with his mother (who doted over him) and paternal grandparents, who aided Yvonne in raising him. When he was ten years old, he and Yvonne moved to another local neighborhood, where he was described by neighbors as being a bit of a bully. During his childhood, Gillis attended a Catholic elementary school under Yvonne's request, then went to Redemptorist High School in the seventh grade. When he reached his adolescent years, Gillis and two good friends became interested in Satanic worship, watching locals engaging in it and enjoying the thrill of being scared by their rituals. They also tended to smoke marijuana in secret and get themselves in minor trouble. When Gillis was seventeen years old, he reunited with his father, with whom he developed a close bond with, but this newfound relationship became turbulent the following year when Gillis found out that Norman had become homosexual after seeing his collection of photos of naked men in various sexual positions, a revelation that horrified him.
After graduating from Redemptorist High School, Gillis got a job with Southland Corporation and began working as an employee in their chain of 7-11 convenience stores. However, he didn't find any enjoyment in having a job, having moved from one store to another, instead preferring to sit in front of a new computer he purchased, primarily viewing pornographic websites, specifically those pertaining to the rape, death, and dismemberment of women. This obsession with viewing pornography online affected his job and other responsibilities, all of which he neglected in favor of using his computer. He eventually gained an affinity for using computers, which soon motivated him to get a certification for them when he enrolled in a community college. In 1992, Yvonne took a new job in Atlanta, Georgia, and tried taking Gillis with her, but he refused and she decided to leave him behind to live on his own, all the while still paying the mortgage for him. Sometime after his mother left, he began acting out in frustration, yelling at the sky and cursing Yvonne for leaving. He was later caught peeping into a female neighbor's house, during which he claimed he was looking for his cat; he was arrested for traffic violations but released soon after. His activities disturbed the other residents of the neighborhood, to the point where they wished he would move away. Two years later, Gillis met a woman named Terri Lemoine through a mutual friend and began dating her; after their first date, they got into an argument during which she slapped him out of frustration, which caused him to start crying, prompting Terri to apologetically promise that violence will no longer be a part of their relationship.
Killings, Capture, and Incarceration
On March 21, 1994, Gillis murdered his first victim, 81-year-old Ann Bryan, whose residence (an exclusive retirement home) he entered when she left the door unlocked for her nurse. He tried to rape her, but when she started screaming after he touched her, he quickly slashed her throat and then stabbed her repeatedly, nearly decapitating and disemboweling her in the process. The following year, he and Terri moved in together, and she eventually realized his addiction to pornography but decided to ignore the issue, although she didn't realize what kinds of pornography Gillis specifically took a liking to. She continued to ignore the issue when he showed her pictures of dead women, which she was disgusted at, but otherwise, the two maintained a good relationship. On January 4, 1999, almost five years after the murder of his first victim, Gillis, allegedly bored from the inactivity, struck again, killing Katherine Hall, a prostitute he lured into the car with the promise of oral sex; he tried to kill her by strangling her with a zip-tie, but when she tried to escape, he instead stabbed her to death before undressing her and mutilating her body. Four months later, he began stalking Hardee Schmidt, whom he spotted jogging in the southern area of Baton Rouge; after three weeks, he found her jogging again and hit her with his car, knocking her into a ditch. Gillis then tied a zip-tie tightly around her neck and took her to an isolated area, where he raped and killed her before placing her body in a truck, where it remained for two days until he dumped it in a bayou located off of Highway 61 at St. James Parish, where it was discovered soon afterward. On November 12, he killed Joyce Williams and took her body to his home, where he mutilated it and engaged in cannibalism. He then dumped her body, where it wouldn't be discovered until January 2000.
After killing three more victims from 2000 to 2003 (during which another serial killer, Derrick Todd Lee, who Gillis admired, was active), Gillis murdered his eighth and final victim, 43-year-old Donna Johnston, on February 26, 2004. After taking 45 pictures of her body, he took it to another location and dumped it, but took the time to pose it first. On March 3, a task force was established to look into the murders of Johnston, two other victims of Gillis's, and also other victims when certain cases couldn't be linked to Lee, who had been apprehended the previous year for his own killings, which sparked fears of one or two other serial killers being still at large. In April, tire tracks found at the dump-site of Donna Johnston were traced to a certain model. On April 28, investigators interviewed and got DNA swabs from a number of people who owned vehicles that had that specific tire model, including Gillis. When Gillis's DNA sample matched the DNA found on the hairs of two of his victims, police arrested him the next day in front of Terri, to whom he apologized during the arrest. Later that day, he confessed to his murders and his house was subsequently searched. Among the items recovered were newspaper clippings of Carrie Yoder, the final victim of Derrick Todd Lee, and a computer file titled "DTL" (Lee's initials), which stored news and information about Lee's crimes; Gillis would go on to allege that he feared being "outdone" by Lee. After evaluating his confessions and giving him various charges that changed multiple times, investigators finally charged him for the murders of Katherine Hall, Johnnie Williams, and Donna Johnston, which he stood trial for on July 21, 2008. On July 31, he was eventually found guilty of all charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole after the jury made a deadlock during the penalty phase. On August of the previous year, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was subsequently convicted in the murder of Joyce Williams. On February 17, 2009, Gillis pleaded guilty to the murder of Marilyn Nevils, which he received another life sentence for.
"It was like they [the victims] were already dead to me."
Unlike Lee, who targeted random women who were all successful and in the working class, Gillis targeted prostitutes who were aged in their late twenties to early fifties and involved in the underworld drug industry. Two exceptions to that victimology were 81-year-old Ann Bryan (who was a retired elderly woman) and 52-year-old Hardee Schmidt (who lived in an affluent area of Baton Rouge, and merely became a target because Gillis spotted her jogging). He initially stabbed his victims, but then strangled his later victims to death with a zip-tie. Some of his victims were found undressed and/or mutilated post-mortem with body parts cut off. In the case of Hardee Schmidt, she was also struck with a car before being attacked.
- March 21, 1994: Ann Bryan, 81 (intended to rape, but instead slashed her throat and stabbed her 47 times in the face, genitals, and breasts)
- January 4: Katherine Hall, 29 (attempted to strangle with a zip-tie, then fatally stabbed 16 times; engaged in necrophilia with her corpse and mutilated post-mortem)
- May 30: Hardee Mosley Schmidt, 52 (stalked for three weeks and hit with a car, raped, strangled, and mutilated post-mortem)
- November 12: Joyce Williams, 36 (strangled, then mutilated post-mortem and ate her severed nipples)
- January: Lillian Robinson, 52 (strangled and engaged in necrophilia with her body)
- October: Marilyn Nevils, 38 (strangled; wasn't known to be missing until Gillis's confession to her murder)
- October 2003: Johnnie Mae Williams, 45 (strangled and severed her hands post-mortem)
- February 26, 2004: Donna Bennett Johnston, 43 (raped, strangled, severely mutilated post-mortem, removed her left arm, and ate her severed nipple)
On Criminal Minds
- Season Two
- "The Last Word" - While Gills was never directly mentioned or referenced on the show, he appears to have been an inspiration for both the episode's unsubs, The Hollow Man and The Mill Creek Killer - All are serial killers who targeted women (prostitutes in Gillis and The Hollow Man's cases, though two of Gillis' victims weren't), were given nicknames for their crimes, both Gillis and The Mill Creek Killer engaged in necrophilia with their victims, and both were active in the same area at the same time as another independent serial killer who also targeted women, and with whom they developed a 'rivalry' with.