On the fifth day of serial killer Derrick Todd Lee’s medical treatment at an undisclosed location outside of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the father of one of Lee’s alleged victims, and that man’s wife, a legislator, are calling attention to what is likely hundreds of thousands of dollars the state has paid for the murderer’s medical care.
“I’m a taxpayer, and I have to help pay to keep him alive. I’m not too happy about it,” said Sterling Colomb Sr., whose 23-year-old daughter, Trineisha Dené Colomb, of Lafayette, was found beaten to death in a wooded area of Scott in 2002. She was one of at least seven women whose deaths were linked to Lee.
State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, Sterling Colomb’s wife, said she’s been aware Lee has had ongoing medical problems and said she’s interested in pulling data to know exactly how much public money has been spent on Lee’s health.
“He’s still here, and he can still go get health care when all the victims are dead by his hands. It hurts. All of the families hurt when that happens,” Dorsey-Colomb said.
Lee’s attorney, Gary Clements, director of the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana, declined to comment and said he cannot confirm information about Lee’s condition because of privacy laws including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Department of Public Safety and Corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said Wednesday there was no update to the information she’d provided earlier, that, since Saturday, Lee is being treated somewhere outside Angola, a maximum-security prison, for unspecified health problems. She previously declined to provide information about Lee’s health, citing HIPAA and a state law mandating that offender information is confidential outside of a few exceptions.
Dorsey-Colomb speculated that taxpayers have paid possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions, on Lee’s health care. Laborde did not respond to a request to confirm those figures.
“I think whenever public dollars are spent — they may not be able to say what’s wrong with him — but we certainly have the right to know what it costs the taxpayers,” said Dorsey-Colomb, who serves on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. She said she and her family members found out that Lee was transported for medical reasons from seeing it reported in the news.
Lee was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in Trineisha Dené Colomb’s killing, but he was never tried in the case. Evidence from her death and the deaths of other women was used to convict Lee of first-degree murder in the 2002 slaying of Charlotte Murray Pace, 22, for which he was sentenced to death during proceedings in an East Baton Rouge courtroom. Lee was also convicted in West Baton Rouge Parish of second-degree murder in the death of Geralyn Barr DeSoto, 21, of Addis. In total, Lee was linked to the deaths of seven women.
Satisfied with the death sentence in Pace’s case, Colomb’s family decided not to move forward with another trial in Lafayette Parish. John Sinquefield, then an East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney, said in 2005 in concert with the wishes of the other victims’ families, the only way he would try Lee for the other murders — in Baton Rouge — would be if Lee’s death sentence were overturned.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.