''She Had Beautiful Legs, I wanted To Keep Those Legs.'' | The Terrifying Story Of Serial Killer, Sean Vincent Gillis | (Graphic Content)

Sean Vincent Gillis. Picture credit: The Mirror

 The city of Baton Rouge in Louisiana, USA, is no stranger to tragedy, heartbreak and horror. It is a beautiful city known for some of the friendliest people you could meet as well as the buzzing night life and delightful scenery. But like all cities, Baton Rouge has a dark past and still has a sinister side just lurking in the shadows. A beautiful city but one which once had 5 active Serial killers in the space of a 10 year period. The city will be familiar with those of you who are avid readers of true crime or are perhaps living in the US. 

The Serial Killer I am going to be talking about in this post was active at the same time as a killer by the name of Derrick Todd Lee which I'm sure most of you are familiar with, he is known as The Baton Rouge Serial Killer. The killer I'll be talking about in this post is Sean Vincent Gillis and the only name that they could come up with for him was 'The Other Baton Rouge Serial Killer'. Derrick Todd Lee's crimes have gotten more publicity over the years and is often the first name that pops up first in people's minds when they think of the Serial killers who've stalked the streets of Baton Rouge.  

Derrick Todd Lee. Picture credit: abc7chicago

I've not long finished my Serial Killer Series on this blog but as you know I have always said that I would continue to write about Serial Killers and I know that you find my posts on these individuals to be interesting. I stumbled across Sean Vincent Gillis when looking through my notebook, it was his disturbing quote about his victims legs that sent a chill down the spine, I had written it down at random in my book for future reference when listing cases to cover. I saw that horrible quote and knew that I had to make my latest post about this sick man and his appalling crimes. 

Like so many cases that I have covered over the years, I go into my research thinking I've seen and heard the worst but as I delve more into the cases, It becomes even more disturbing. This case was beyond the beyonds, so please take that into consideration before reading any further, I will be sharing some very horrible details to do with murder, rape, mutilation and necrophilia. 

As a side note, if you are interested in me covering the Derrick Todd Lee case, let me know in the comment below, but let's get into this week's case. 

So Sean Vincent Gillis came into the world on the 24th of June 1962 (he just turned 60 this year - 2022). He was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to parents Yvonne and Norman. He was an only child and although his mother adored him and showered love and affection on him, his father was the total opposite and wreaked havoc in the household. Norman was a heavy drinker and violent man who would often use acts of violence against his wife and son. He had many psychological issues that were not dealt with and things soon came to a head when Yvonne came home one day to find Norman standing with Sean holding a gun to his head threatening to shoot him and her. 

Yvonne managed to get Sean to safety somehow and the authorities were called. Norman was taken away from the family and placed in a psychiatric hospital and never seen his wife and son again. Despite the turmoil at home, Sean was reportedly a good student at school, quite quiet and not the sociable type but got his head down and got on with his work. Teachers did note that his parents didn't take a very active role in their son's education. When events would take place at the school, Sean's parents never attended. Some of the teachers felt sorry for him. He did take a particular macabre interest in death and funeral parlours from a young age, he would sometimes play with his cousin, sneaking into a local funeral home and climbing into the coffins. 

The neighbours though, have a different story about Sean, they claim that in his younger years he would bully the younger kids of the neighbourhood. We all have different experiences with people and see different sides to them that maybe other people don't get to see and this could be the case with Sean. He certainly proved to be the Jekyll and Hyde character he was often described as, in years to come (Sean later said in an interview with police that when he was aged 12 or 13, that he wanted to kill his cousin so that he could ''feel her breasts'') 

Sean was bright but wouldn't let go of his mother. Yvonne did her best especially after Norman was taken away. She worked as hard a she could as a single parent to be able to put food on the table and in many ways, Sean took advantage of that. As he got older, he had no desire to move out of the house and stand on his own two feet. He hated working, there were spells here and there where he would have a job but it never lasted. He would commit petty crimes and was often in trouble with the police but not for anything violent, just silly thefts here and there and traffic offences. 

He continued to live with his mother up until the age of 29, Yvonne had been offered a new job opportunity out of town and she took it, Sean was furious and begged her not to go, he didn't want to be left alone, especially as he would have to cook and clean for himself. The close bond between the pair became strained and when Yvonne left, Sean felt a severe resentment towards his mother as well as a strong feeling of being abandoned. 

The neighbours, who already thought that Sean was a strange child growing up were suddenly subjected to all sorts of noises in the middle of the night. Sean would be outside playing with the trash cans, banging about, shouting obscenities. He could often be seen lying on the front lawn howling. This behaviour only started when his mother left and it was like he was throwing one big tantrum after another at 29 years of age. 

Two years after his mother left he managed to meet a nice woman by the name of Terri, she was very sweet natured with a naivety about her. She worked late shifts at a convenient store and a friend had introduced them. At first, she found Sean to be quite a geeky kind of guy but something about him made her warm to him and the pair began dating. They were both lonely people and when they met it was if they just seemed to click. Things were moving too fast though for it wasn't long before Terri had moved him into her house. 

Sean with Terri. Picture credit: psycho-criminologie

She fell under his spell and was thinking about marrying him but had to test him first by staging a fake argument to test his temper. When she saw that his response was mellow and he simply said ''Boys are not supposed to hit girls and girls are not supposed to hit boys'', this, in her eyes was proof that he was a good man and that she was 100% safe with him. 

At first the relationship seemed to be going well although Sean was basically living off of Terri, he would drive her to work and cook dinner, take care of the house and run some errands. She worked night shifts and would often return home to find that he had not done things in the house. He would often leave for long periods of time and not tell her where he was going or where he had been. It got to the point where they were just like two ships passing in the night, they both lived under the same roof but hardly saw each other and Terri was beginning to get fed up of it and suspected that he was having an affair which he always denied. 

More strain was put on the relationship with Sean's obsession with the Internet, he enjoyed surfing the web for pictures of gruesome crime scenes, autopsies, dismembered body parts and mutilated bodies of women. He would shout over at Terri all excited asking her to come and take a look at the pictures but she refused and was horrified. It didn't help matters either that he was addicted to pornography and would spend hours upon hours on the computer. 

Sean Vincent Gillis. Picture credit: imdb

Whilst Terri was at work Sean would go out driving at night looking for sex workers and would sit and watch women. He had fantasies for years about sex with corpses and mutilation. These horrific fantasies were soon to be put into action when he wandered over to the retirement home for the elderly which wasn't too far from where Terri worked. It was late at night and he managed to get into the building and into the private room of an elderly woman by the name of Ann Bryan. Ann was 81 years old and a very sweet and much loved person by her family and fellow residents. Ann's room door was left open because she was waiting on her nurse coming by to give her a regular check-up. 

What poor Ann was put through and subjected to is one of the hardest things I have ever had to write. This fragile and frightened elderly lady had her throat cut and her body stabbed over and over again. He even stabbed her breasts and vaginal area. His original plan was to rape Ann but she screamed when he tried to molest her so he attacked her savagely with a knife and then fled the scene. 

Ann and Sean had never met each other, he just wanted to carry out this evil and sick act for his own perverted needs. This was reportedly his first murder but I'm always sceptical when people say that, how can we ever know for sure?

Ann's murder took place on the 21st of March 1994 and his next reported killing was on the 14th of January 1999, that's a big gap between murders. Again, I am sceptical, as I always say, there are murders that we know about or that the killer has confessed to but they are often responsible for more murders than they are charged for. Sean Vincent Gillis himself said in a police interrogation that he never kept count of how many women he killed. There could a a number of unsolved cold cases out there that he is responsible for but may never be solved unless he confesses (If he even remembers the full details and locations).

So the next reported victim after Ann was a lady called Katherine Ann Hall and she was just 29 years old. Katherine was a working girl who had fallen on difficult times when Sean picked her up in his car under the pretence of making some cash for oral sex. He attempted to strangle her with a zip tie (which he called 'The Objectifier') but when that failed to work he stabbed her to death. He undressed her body and molested her corpse before mutilating her remains. In a further act of utter disgusting and horrific disrespect, he dumped Ann's body underneath a sign which said 'Dead End'. 

With no remorse or horror at what he had done to these two innocent women, he carried on with his sickening murder spree, his next victim was 52 year old Hardee Schmidt. He targeted Hardee just a few months after the murder of Katherine. He spotted Hardee out jogging one day and began to stalk her for about 3 weeks before he finally decided to strike. He drove his car into this poor lady sending her into a ditch where she was trapped, he then placed 'The Objectifier' (zip tie) around her neck but not enough to kill her, he threatened her that he would tighten it if she didn't do as he asked. He forced Hardee into his car and drove her to a secluded location where he raped and murdered her. Her body was in the back of the car for 2 days and when he picked up Terri from work, she later told police officers that she noticed a strong odour from the vehicle. Sean told her that he had accidentally hit an animal whilst driving and there was still some blood on the car. He promised to clean it up properly and she seemed to buy this story and said no more about it. 

The hell continued in November of 1999 when 26 year old Joyce Williams was murdered and mutilated, This time he wanted to try something different and in a further act of pure evil and depravity, he cut off her nipples and ate them before dumping her remains. The police would finally find the remains of Joyce in 2000. 

The sickening murders continued with more innocent women being targeted, raped, murdered and mutilated. All the while that this was going on, Sean was living with Terri and pretending to be the perfect partner and she just suspected that he was having an affair. 

His reported final victim was 43 year old mother, Donna Bennett Johnston She was said to have been his eighth victim and Donna, like the others, met a gruesome fate at his evil hands. She was raped, strangled and mutilated but he seemed to go even more brutal with this killing, He slashed ferociously at her body, cut off her nipple and ate it, removed her left arm (underneath the elbow), then proceeded to cut out and remove a tattoo that she had on her right thigh. He then took over 40 photographs of her body. This horrendous murder took place on the 26th of February 2004. Just a few days later Sean Vincent Gillis was arrested after tyre tracks and DNA at the scene was traced back to him. 

The cops had spotted the unique tyre marks at the crime scene of Donna's murder and had a record of everyone who had owned a vehicle with those distinctive tyres. Sean's name came up on the list and they went straight to Terri's house to question him. Sean went to the police station and did an interview where he also provided a DNA sample, he pleaded ignorant and claimed he was innocent. The police let him return home whilst they ran the DNA tests, That night at Terrl's, Sean was acting way too nice, making dinner and wanting to cuddle up and watch movies with Terri. He was very quiet about what had happened at the police station so she finally asked him ''So who did you kill?'' (sounds in poor taste but she meant it in joking manner as it had never crossed her mind, she says, that he could ever be capable of such things). He remained tight lipped and simply said that the cops just questioned him and that was it, he just wanted to spend some quality time with her. Sean knew the net was closing in, one wonders if this was some sort of goodbye to Terri on his part. 

I think it also shows the deep level of naivety on Terri's part when it came to this man, for all of the red flags were there. I'm sure a lot of us would be sitting asking 20 questions if our partner or loved one was suddenly pulled into the police station to be questioned over a murder case, especially with his strange disappearances, obsession with dead and mutilated bodies and questionable behaviour. 

Just 3 of Sean Vincent Gillis known victims: Donna Bennett Johnston, Johnnie Mae Williams and Ann Bryan. Picture credit: The Mirror

Forensics and investigators were working hard through the night and they finally got their answer, the DNA came back, Sean was the Serial Killer they had been looking for. His DNA matched the crime scene and the others. Without missing a beat, the police headed over to Terri's house where they kicked the door down and arrested Sean. Terri stood there in shock and asked what was happening (she didn't seem to have put 2 and 2 together) so a cop told her ''Don't you know, you've been living with a Serial Killer?.''

Terri's response to that? ''You've got the wrong house.''

They took Sean to the police station and the house was thoroughly searched, evidence was found including the gruesome pictures of the murders which he later confessed to using as his personal pornography as it enabled him to relive the horrible murders. For him it wasn't the act of killing it was what he did with the bodies afterwards which aroused him sexually. 

It was only until later on when Terri went to the police station and Sean had confessed that she finally faced him and asked him to tell her the truth. He admitted what he had done. Sean had confessed in great detail his horrible and sickening crimes with no shred of remorse. Like BTK (Dennis Raider) he talked about the murders like he was reading out loud a shopping list. 

Another frightening thing about this case, is this statement by Sean when asked by a detective, how many victims he was responsible for in total. His response?

''4....5....6....7. I don't honestly count, I don't count, don't count.'' - Sean Vincent Gillis 

When asked what his motive was for his crimes and he explained that there was a monster inside of him but he could have moments of seeing right from wrong just like everyone else but there would be times when that would become blurred:

''At one point I could control it. It's beyond my control at the moment. I am a homicidal maniac. I don't mean to be.'' - Sean Vincent Gillis. 

And on his murder weapon of choice (The Objectifier - zip tie) and attitude to his crimes he said: 

''It would turn them from a woman to the object that I would then deal with.'' - Sean Vincent Gillis. 

''I am God there...I am God.'' - Sean Vincent Gillis. 

Louisiana State Penitentiary. Picture credit: theadvocate

Gillis was charged with First Degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He is still alive and continuing to serve his time in Louisiana State Penitentiary. He is 60 years old. 

He has never shown remorse for his crimes but he did respond to letters sent to him by a close friend of Donna Bennett Johnston. He told the friend: 

''She was so drunk, it only took a minute and a half to succumb to unconsciousness and then death. Honestly, her last words were 'I can't breathe'. I still puzzle over the postmortem dismemberment and cutting. There must be something deep in my subconscious that really needs that kid of macabre action.'' - Sean Vincent Gillis. 

We could sit and talk all night about the theories as to why Sean Vincent Gillis carried out these evil murders and had such hatred towards women but I don't think we would ever come close to the real answer. He grew up as a boy who worshipped his mother and she worshipped him. She never abandoned him, she left to work and to be honest, deserved to live her own life after taking care of him for 29 years. He was old enough (and should have been able) to look after himself at that age. She left him secure with a place to live. His real problems were with his estranged father and some people believe that he inherited his father's traits? Who knows what the answer is but as I watched his interviews and focused on his mannerisms put together in what he was saying in his letters to Donna's friend, it's clear that he enjoyed talking and reliving his crimes. 

There's always a big divide over the death penalty but I believe that he should have gotten that in this case. 

I just want to take a moment to remember the victims that we know of and the possible many others that we don't know about:

Ann Bryan

Katherine Ann Hall

Hardee Schmidt

Joyce Williams

Lillian Robinson

Marilyn Nevils

Johnnie Mae Williams

Donna Bennett Johnston 

May they rest in peace. 

Further Reading & Sources: 

The World Encyclopedia Of Serial Killers | Book by Susan Hall

Sean Vincent Gillis | Newspaper Article: The Mirror

The Big Book Of Serial Killers: Volume 2 | Book by Jack Rosewood

Sean Vincent Gillis | Wikipedia

Baton Rouge | Wikipedia

Sean Vincent Gillis | Murderpedia

Louisiana State Penitentiary

Sean Vincent Gillis | Born To Kill

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  1. I am speechless after reading this!!!

    What an insane and incredibly sick twisted individual, but as always a brilliantly written True Crime Story!!!

    The mere fact that he couldn't even keep count of the number of women that he killed is bone chilling to say the least!!!

    I'd love to hear about Derrick Todd Lee by the way!!!

    1. Thank you so much as always!! I've added Derrick Todd Lee to the list x

  2. The part of the equation that I will never understand is the ability to commit these brutal crimes and feel completely numb to it. To disconnect and ravage a human body…and then clear it from your mind.. and move on. That’s what makes these explorations into darkness so hard to comprehend.
    Great research and writing Jo. Really good work.