Drifter Convicted in Child Slay

A drifter who has allegedly confessed to a dozen slayings across the country was convicted today of killing a 13-year-old girl last New Year’s Eve.

Tommy Lynn Sells, 36, was convicted of capital murder and faces life in prison of lethal injection when he is sentenced.

“It’s going to put closure to a lot of things. He took my baby,” said Terry Harris, the father of Kaylene Harris. “It’s hard to explain the rage.”

Chilling Confession, Account During three days of testimony, jurors heard written confessions from Sells, watched a videotaped confession and listened to gripping testimony from a girl who also was attacked by Sells as she slept in the same room with Kaylene but survived.

The girl, Krystal Surles, said she tried to remain still and silent on the top of a bunk bed as she watched Sells slit the throat of Kaylene, a family friend she had been visiting. She said Sells then cut her throat, and she waited for him to leave before seeking help.

“I think that’s what he deserved,” Krystal, now 11, said of the verdict.

“I think I can sleep and not have nightmares, and maybe do better in my own bed,” said the girl, who has a jagged pink scar across her neck. “I had to sleep with my mom because they were bad.”

Sells pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the attack on Krystal but had pleaded innocent to capital murder in Kaylene’s death. Jurors found that he killed Kaylene after breaking into her home to sexually assault her — a component that elevated the crime to one punishable by death.

Defense attorney Victor Garcia said the verdict was not a surprise.

“In this case, we have a victim who testified and it’s hard for the jury to get past that,” he said.

Since his arrest Jan. 2, Sells has confessed to at least a dozen slayings in seven states. He has only been charged in one other case, the May 1999 slaying of a 13-year-old Lexington, Ky., girl.

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