Killer Smile

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Outside the courthouse, in a crush of reporters and television cameras, members of the Harris and Surles families embraced and expressed their relief. In a tiny, bruised voice, Crystal Harris said her daughter had not died in vain. "I believe with all my heart the reason why this man was apprehended is because it was time for God. God wanted it done," she said. "And I believe the reason whey he did not get everyone in my house killed that night is because every angel of the people he killed was put there to make sure this man was caught."

The trial quickly moved to the punishment phase, and the jury heard testimony from psychologists and others about Sells' personality and the threat he represented to society. In what sounded like hyperbole but was probably understatement, one doctor described his personality type as "antisocial at the highest level." The jury took three hours to send Sells to Death Row. Only the original Henry Lee Lucas dodged that fatal address.

Afterward, Sells declined to talk about the case with the television crew that has been covering his story all spring. A con to the end, he wanted to keep all options open. "He said I'm going to Jesus, I'm going to see my maker, and I'm thinking, you've got the directions mixed up," Pope says. "He told 48 Hours he wouldn't talk to them because he's got an appeal pending. It's like, I want to die, but I've got this appeal."

Pope says he has little doubt that several people are now living because Sells was caught, and that others will stay alive for as long as Sells is medicated behind bars. "The killings stopped. By now, at the rate he was going, he would have killed one or two more," the detective says. Even in prison, Pope says, Sells is a threat. "If this guy gets off his medication, he kills people. It's like, it's either a frontal lobotomy or the death sentence."

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John Maccormack