As parents, there will always come a point in our children’s lives that we have to step back and learn to trust that they’ll be ok without us for a little bit. This is one of the most difficult things that all parents have to do. Whether it be sending them off to their first day of school, off to summer camp, or even just an overnight at a friend’s house for a sleepover.
Sometimes though, our fears about what might happen to our children when they’re out of our sight can shift horribly from paranoid fantasies to brutal reality. It is a parents worst nightmare to think that something may happen to their child and they are unable to protect them. It was 6am in the morning when Pam got a phone call about her two girls, both of whom had been sleeping at a friend’s house the night before…
It was a Friday, New Year’s Eve, and Pam’s two daughters had stayed at a friend’s house the night before. The family was in a transition stage as they were moving from Kansas to Texas. Pam felt that it was good for her daughters to make new friends.
The move was hard on her young kids so Pam was doing all that she could to try to make this transition for them easier. In the wake of the move it was the least she could do in the.
With her kids out and having a sleep over at a friends Pam was a bit nervous. They were in a new state with people they didn’t know very long and her daughters were staying at a house she was not all to familiar with. Pam was happy though about enjoying a night to herself.
At 6am Pam got a call that would change her life forever. The phone rang and at such an early time Pam immediately wondered who was calling and why. When she picked up she found out that her daughter Krystal was in the emergency room. They told her to get there right away as Krystal was fighting for her life…
Texas Ranger Johnny Allen first got the phone call about a half hour before Pam. He had been told that there was a violent attack at the Harris house. He knew right away this was a very serious situation as their was kids involved and immediately jumped in his car to head to the scene.
Upon arrival Johnny found out that one of the Harris children, 13-year-old Kaylene, had been brutally stabbed by a home invader. The crime scene was beyond bloody, even for such a horrific crime. But apparently Kaylene wasn’t the only victim of the attack…
Kaylene Harris, or Katy as she was called, was a very popular young girl. She was beautiful, outgoing, and had everything in the world going for her. She did all the things that most kids do growing up and had great plans for her future.
She had made friends with 10-year-old Krystal and her little sister Marque, who had moved into the area recently and the group were having a sleepover the night before the attack. They never could have imagined that they would not be safe in their own home…
Krystal and her little sister Marque, who was 7, were staying at the Harris home in Del Rio, Texas. In general, like many sisters of that age, they didn’t get along very well. Although the sisters would fight and make up quite often they were very protective of each other.
But in the Harris household, which consisted of a rather big family, their behavior was nothing new. The Harris family lived in the middle of a fairly deserted area, they didn’t get many visitors, so they felt safe, or so they thought…
Like many young girls sleepovers the night consisted of many fun activities. From playing dress up to watching a movie and eating popcorn the sleepover wasn’t anything out of the norm.
The girls enjoyed each others company and laughed and played all night long. What they didn’t know and nobody could have know at the time was that this sleepover was going become very tragic for two families…
Katy and Krystal had stayed up late and slept in the same room. Krystal awoke suddenly in the middle of the night to the sound of someone screaming. Their was bunk beds in the room that the kids were sleeping on.
She was on the top bunk and the sound had come from the floor below her. Instead of hopping out of bed, she leaned over and looked around. At the end of the bed was a man she’d never seen before in their room…
Saw It Happen
The man, basically a shadowy form in the darkened room, had long, dark, curly, scruffy-looking hair and a bushy beard that took over his whole face. As a young girl who just woke up to someone screaming you can imagine how frightening this must have been for her.
His eyes were dark and mean and Krystal could see that her friend Katy was on the floor beneath him. She could not tell exactly what was going on but it seemed as if Katy was struggling with the man.
At this point Krystal was beyond scared but did not want to make a noise and alert the man to her being in the room. At that point she thought the guy did not know that she was there and she didn’t know what to do.
Before she could even move to do anything, and seemingly out of nowhere, the man took a knife out. She was unsure where the knife came from. Then he held to Katy’s neck and slashed her across the throat…
At this point, the murderous stranger was so enthralled by what he was doing that he didn’t even notice the 10-year-old girl cowering on the top bunk. The man looked to be in a rage so Krystal hid under her covers after seeing him use the knife on her friend.
Then the man slowly walked to the door and looked as if he was about to flip off the light. Then he stopped and turned around one last time. His eyes met Krystal’s, and in those eyes she saw that she was about to meet the same fate as her friend…
The murderer had seen Krystal looking at him and now he was headed towards her. He couldn’t walk out now knowing that Krystal had seen his face. She tried to scoot to the right side of the bed, because he was on the left, but his reach was too great.
He reached over and just like he did to Katy, he cut her throat. He did so effortlessly, as if it was an afterthought. It was lucky for her that his attack was little more than an afterthought however, because she somehow survived and now was clinging to life…
Watching Her Go
Krystal Surles lay there for what felt like a long while. At this point the intruder now had slashed both Katy and Krystals throats. Katy was in much worse shape though then Krystal was. They both were slowly dying…
The light turned off and she heard the door shut. Though she could feel the wetness around her throat and a pain stinging her neck, the injured girl made her way to the floor and to her friend’s side. Katy was worse off, bleeding out and choking and making a gasping noise. She didn’t know what to do.
All Krystal could do was comfort her friend. Even though she was injured herself she was brave enough to try and help her friend survive. She tried to talk, but no words came out. She wanted to tell her that “Everything’s gonna be OK. Everything’s gonna be OK”, but she couldn’t.
Instead, she rubbed her back and cried, and comforted her until the sounds stopped and she knew that Katy had departed the world. Now Krystal as in for the fight of her live to survive and not succumb to the same fate as Katy…
With her friend now deceased and sitting in a blood soaked room Krystal knew that she needed to get help quickly. She was bleeding pretty bad and it was only a matter of time that she would also pass if she did not get help.
She thought to herself, “Get outta here. Get up. Come on, go. Don’t lay here. Go.” She knew that she had to escape. She was in her pajamas, barefoot, but she knew that she needed to find help. Unfortunately there was a major issue for her to figure out…
No Parents Home
By now you are probably wondering where the parents are! How come the parents did not hear the screams and come in to help the girls. Well the reason was because the Harris’ parents weren’t home.
Krystal didn’t know if the man was still in the house and did not want to be attacked again. She slowly and quitely made her way outside, into the dark morning as if in a scene straight out of a horror movie.
She saw a light in the distance and headed towards it. It was cold in that early morning and though she was still bleeding out, she trudged towards the road, towards that light. She knew if she could only get to that light she could find help.
As she crept closer and realized it was a house, she knew it was the salvation she needed. She walked up to the door and banged on it. A voice inside asked who was there, but she couldn’t answer. Finally, she banged again and he opened it….
Help is Here
When the person opened the door they could not believe what they saw. Here standing at their front door was a girl who had her throat slashed. It was unbelievable. To make matters worse it was difficult for her to speak and tell them what happened.
They immediately called 911 to get her help and brought her inside for her safety. They were unsure if whoever did this to her was still lurking in the shadows looking to attack once again.
Is Katy Ok?
Hours later, Krystal awoke in the hospital. She was hooked up to tubes and machines, but she was alive. Her mother Pam stood over her, calming her and telling her, “Mommy’s here.”
The doctors told her that the blade had nicked her vocal chords and that was why she couldn’t talk. Eventually, her voice came back. The first thing she said once she was able to speak was asking if Katy was ok. The news of her friend’s death was a crushing blow.
Point Him Out
As sad as she was over her friend’s murder, Krystal knew the only chance of catching the bearded man was if she could gather her strength and tell police what she knew. When she was well enough, she gave them a full description and they did a sketch.
Then the police went to work with their resources and put together all the criminals that they knew of who may have done this. When police had assembled a photo lineup, she picked him out of the bunch. The photograph she pointed to was that of Tommy Lynn Sells…
Who Was Tommy Lynn Sells?
Tommy Lynn Sells was raised by his aunt in Holcomb, Missouri before eventually returning back to the care of his mom once she found out the aunt wanted to adopt him. He had a twin sister who had died when they were 18 month old form meningitis.
Sells would later tel people that when he was 8 years told he began spending time with a person name Willis Clark. Willis he claims molested him with the consent of his own mother. He said the abuse affected him greatly and the reason why he committed evil acts.
A Bad Man
Tommy Lynn Sells was a very bad man with a long criminal history. From 1978 to 1999 he hitchhiked and train-hopped across the United States leaving a trail of crimes behind him. Tommy drank heavily and abused drugs.
In 1990 Sells was sentenced to 16 months in prison for stealing a truck in Wyoming. At that time he he was diagnosed with a personality disorder and doctors felt that he was bi-polar and very depressed.
His First Attack
In May of 1992 a 19 year old girl from Charleston, West Virginia was driving when she came across Sells who was panhandling under an overpass while holding a sign that read “Will work for food”.
This girl felt sorry for Tommy so she picked him up and took him to her home while asking him to wait outside while she got food for him. By the time she came back he was now standing inside her house. He trapped her in a bedroom and then raped her.
Tommy was arrested for this vicious crime. He stabbed the woman 18 times and raped her which led to him being indicted on five counts of rape and felony assault in the fall of 1992.
Tommy ended up taking a plea deal and was sentenced to just 2-10 years in prison. The rape charges were dropped. in prison he married Nora Price and when released in 1997 he moved to Tennessee to live with his wife.
Police on His Trail
After Krystal picked Tommy out of a lineup the police now had their suspect and knew who they were looking for. The police tracked down Tommy Lynn Sells and got to his home in the early hours of the morning, around the same time he had attacked the girls.
He opened the doorway without any sort of resistance and told them, unabashedly, “I’m glad I finally got caught…I was tired of doing this.” They arrested him for murder and told him that this time he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Meanwhile, Krystal, Marque and their mother sat in her hospital room, keeping her company as she recovered from her near-death experience. The phone rang. It was the police calling to tell them that she had been right.
The killer was indeed Tommy Lynn Sells and the police now had him in custody. It was a weight off their shoulders knowing this man who did this was not free to attack again, but Krystal felt somewhat unfulfilled…
Krystal felt as though the news of Sells’ capture was bittersweet. Her friend was dead, she’d nearly died, and now the killer was brought to justice and would be punished. He couldn’t hurt anyone anymore.
Everyone kept telling her how brave she was, even as she testified against him. But all Krystal could think was that she wasn’t brave, just lucky. She continued to feel guilt that she survived and her friend did not.
Further investigation led police to believe that the attack on the girls was due to the killer having noticed Katy’s burgeoning beauty. The window to her bedroom was open, he saw her as he passed, and he wanted her.
He even cut her bra off before having slashed her throat. On his way to jail, they learned it was not an isolated incident. “I guess you wanna know about the other murders.” he said. He now had the police’s attention….
Tommy Sells was interrogated for hours and during the course of the discussion, admitted to having committed a total of 22 murders. The police were totally astonished by all of his admissions and had no idea they had a serial killer in their interview room.
He was a cold-blooded serial killer of the worst kind. “My daddy told me a long time ago, ‘Dead men tell no tales…’, explained the unabashed killer while smirking. Sells was subsequently put on trial and Krystal Surles testified against him.
Dardeen Family Murders
Sells began to tell many tales to authorities of his life of crime. One was the Dardeen family murders in Illinois, that he claims to have committed. The States attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case of the quadruple killing.
The states position was that they felt he had been making it up. There were facts of the killings made public and other facts that were not. Since Sell’s only spoke to the public facts the state felt that he was lying and did not in fact commit that crime.
In 2004 while at this point in jail Sell’s decided to reach out to authorities and confess to another crime that he claimed to have committed. This crime happened in 1997 in which he claimed to break into the home of a little boy.
He further went on to say that after breaking into the home he took a knife from a butcher block in the kitchen and stabbed the little boy to death and fought with a women. Those details were corroborated by Julie Harper who was initially convicted of the murder of her own son. Sell’s admission allowed her to go free.
Sentence To Death
Sells who was convicted for killing Katy and many other crimes he admitted to was ultimately given the death sentence. In January of 2014 the Judge set his execution date to April of that year.
Sells death sentence was carried out by the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. When asked if he would like to make any final statements Sells replied “No”. A minute after the lethal dose was administered Sell’s closed his eyes and took his last breath.
Krystal Lives On
Today, Krystal has healed from her wounds, both physical and psychological. For a young girl to go through a traumatic experience like that will have a very lasting effect on them mentally and physically.
Krystal in an interview said “I don’t ever think about Tommy Lynn Sells. I don’t ever give him the time of day. He’s dead to me.” And indeed, he’s dead to the world as well.