Tommy Lynn Sells
Tommy Lynn Sells alias “Coast ...
Tommy Lynn Sells
Tommy Lynn Sells alias “Coast to Coast”
was a notorious serial killer in the United States. Sells orchestrated the
crimes for twenty years in which he’s reported to have killed over twenty
individuals in the USA. Although Sells claimed responsibility for numerous
crimes, he was only convicted of one murder; that of Kaylene Harris, a
13-year-old, for which he was executed by use of a lethal injection in 2014.
The murder, which took place on 31st December 1999 was Lynn’s last. He also
attempted to murder 10-year-old Krystal Surles at the crime scene by slitting
her throat, but she survived the ordeal and lived to be the witness (Sherwood
& Effron, 2014).
Sells managed to escape being caught as
he managed to rape and murder victims of all ages throughout the country. For
this, he was also dabbed “the cross-country killer.” He’s believed to have
committed numerous murders across the country thus the name “Coast to Coast."
In his confessions, he admitted to having murdered a victim in California and
committed a similar crime the following month while in Texas. According to his
confessions throughout the time he was being tried, Sells is claimed to have
conducted the following list of crimes;
1988 – Murdered the Dardeens
Stole a car and got
Raped and murdered
11-year-old Melissa Trembly in Lawrence, Massachusetts
1988 – killed a lady and her three-year-old son in Salt Lake City, Utah
1988 – Murdered Ken Lauten in a drug deal gone sour in Tucson, Arizona.
1989 – Murdered a prostitute in Truckee, California.
1989 – Murdered an unnamed girl in her twenties in Roseburg, Oregon
1989 – Murdered a female hitchhiker in Roseburg, Oregon
1989 – Stole from his employer and got arrested.
1989 – Arrested for stealing in North Little Rock, Arkansas
1989 – Apprehended for public intoxication in Oakland, California
1989 – Arrested in Carson City, Nevada for public intoxication
1990 – Caught in Rawlings, Wyoming and charged with auto theft. Imprisoned and set
free in January 1991
1991 – Clobbered to death a five-year-old girl and her mother Teresa Hall.
1992 – Held twice for public drunkenness in Charleston, South Carolina
1992 – Sent to prison for bludgeoning, raping, and trying to kill by stabbing a
teenager who survived the ordeal. He was to serve two prison terms of 10 years
each but was released in May 1997.
1997 – Stabbed to death Joel Kirkpatrick, a 10-year-old and attacked Julie Rea
Strangled to death a
13-year-old Stephanie Mahaney in Springfield, Missouri after kidnapping and
1999 – Raped then murdered eight-year-old Ambria Harris and 28-year-old Debbie
1999 - Raped and strangled Mary Perez a nine-year-old in San Antonio, Texas
1999 – Raped then killed Haley McHone (13years)
1999 – Arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Madison, Wisconsin
1999 – Shot to death Bobbie Lynn Wofford (14 years)
1999 – Murdered Kaylene Harris (13 years) and attempted to murder Krystal
Surles (10 years)
Tommy Lynn Sells was born in Oakland, California
in 1964 together with his twin sister Tammy Jean. At the time the two were
born, their mother, Nina Sells had three other children and was a single
mother. They later moved to St. Louis, Missouri as a family. The twins
contracted spinal meningitis when they were only 18 months, and the illness
turned out to be deadly to Tammy Jean (Montaldo, 2017).
Sells lived with his aunt in Holcomb,
Missouri soon after healing. It was not until he was five years old that his
mother came back for him suspecting that the aunt wanted to live with his son
permanently. His early childhood years were uneventful, and in most occasions,
he was left alone to fend for himself. Sells was already drinking alcohol by
the time he was seven since he seldom attended school. It was not so long
before Sells would start hanging out with a stranger from a town nearby. The
man would show him special attention including taking him on outings and giving
him presents. Sells would go on to spend nights at this stranger’s home. Later
on, it was revealed that the guy was a molester, but this did not shock Sells
since he had been a victim since he was eight years old.
It was apparent that Sells had a peculiar
knack for getting into extraordinary trouble from ages 10 to 13. At only age
10, he had seemingly quit school and began smoking marijuana. He even got into
his grandmother’s bed while naked at one point which made matters worse. His
mother and siblings moved after a few days’ time and left him behind, by
himself. Sells was filled with rage after being abandoned by his mother and
therefore used a pistol to attack his first victim and thrash her until she
lost consciousness. He began roaming from one town to another stealing what he
needed and doing odd jobs since he had no home or family. He revealed that he
murdered his first victim in 1979 when he was only 16 years old (Montaldo,
Theories of Criminal Behavior
Theoretical models of behavior include;
biological, psychological, and sociological. It’s quite challenging to separate
them completely since all of them have been regarded as critical in the
interpretation of behavior. Although psychological principles can be applied to
all models, they each have distinctive features that can be utilized in various
crime control policies. Multiple psychological models exist; these includes a
broad range of theories such as cognitive and social psychological models and Freudian
notions. Basic assumptions of the psychological model include that an
individual can commit a crime due to abnormal mental processes among other
scenarios. The sociological model refers to the sociological point of view and
has theories suggesting that criminal behavior is motivated by a combination of
the social surrounding, economic, and social factors. Biological theories, on
the other hand, suggest that some ‘loopholes’ in a person’s biological makeup
is responsible for their criminal behavior. Such flaws include brain
abnormalities and heredity ("Three Theories of Criminal Behavior",
Theoretical Applications to the Subject’s Life History
The criminal behavior of Tommy Lynn Sells
can be said to be psychological. Sells suffered meningitis when he was a baby.
Meningitis is known to be a fatal disease, and those who recuperate from it may
have permanent disabilities such as brain damage. Also, Sells started drug
abuse at a young tender age. By age 7, he was already drinking alcohol, and by
10, he was smoking pot. Such behaviors could have worsened his brain
functioning which led to his killing spree. Psychologists have also established
over a long period that an individual’s previous behavior is the best predictor
of their future behavior. Therefore, if Sells had been identified as psychotic
and dangerous as early as when he was a teenager when he committed his first murder,
many lives would have been saved. It doesn’t help that he was arrested in
several occasions then set free only to go back to his old behaviors.