12 Common Traits of a Serial Killer #6 - Impulsiveness


Tommy Lynn Sells acted out of impulse. 
Chris Johnson/AP

Tommy Lynn Sells, who claimed responsibility for dozens of murders throughout the Midwest and South, saw a woman at a convenience store and followed her home, an impulse he was unable to control. He waited until the house went dark, then “I went into this house. I go to the first bedroom I see...I dont know whose room it is and, and, and, and I start stabbing.” The victim was the woman’s young son.

From 1978 to 1999, Sells crisscrossed the country by hopping freights, hitching rides or stealing cars. He spent time in half the states in the union, begging or working as a carny, barber, mechanic, and laborer.

A precise accounting of his felonies is impossible; Sells didn't keep a crime diary.

But a murder he committed in July 1985 serves as a prototype.

He was working with a carnival that had set up in Forsyth, Mo. , a town of 1,000 on Table Rock Lake near Branson, then a burgeoning country music center.

Among the visitors to the fair was Ena Cordt, 35, a petite divorcee who scraped by working at a car wash. She was treating her 4-year-old son, Rory, to a night out.

By Sells' account, he met Cordt at the fair, and she invited him back to her home late that night. The authorities found the bludgeoned bodies of the woman and her child three days later.

The way Sells tells the story, he had consensual sex with Cordt, then found her stealing from his backpack. He picked up her son's wooden baseball bat and beat her to death, then killed the child, a potential witness.

There is no telling what really happened. Perhaps he ogled her at the fair, stalked her home, raped and murdered her.

Dead men tell no tales, as Lovins said. Nor do women and innocent children.


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