As parents, there comes 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. Whether it be sending them off to school, to camp, or overnight at a friend’s house.
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 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 moving from Kansas to Texas and it was good for her daughters to make new friends. It was the least she could do in the wake of the move. At 6am she got a phone call from the emergency room. Her daughter 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. 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 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.
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. 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, or so they thought…
Katy and Krystal had stayed up late and slept in the same room. Krystal awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of someone screaming. 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.
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. His eyes were dark and mean and Krystal could see that her friend Katy was on the floor beneath him. Before she could move to do anything, the man took the knife 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. He walked to the door, was about to flip off the light 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. 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 cut her throat, effortlessly, as if it was an afterthought. It was lucky for her that his attack was little more than an afterthought however, because she lived…
Watching Her Go
Krystal Surles lay there for what felt like a long while. 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. 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. But she wasn’t about to join her…
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. The Harris’ parents weren’t home and she didn’t know if the man was still in the house, sh she made her way outside, into the dark morning.
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. 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….
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 and she asked 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, 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…
Glad to be Caught
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.
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, 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.
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…
Tommy Sells was interrogated for hours and during the course of the discussion, admitted to having committed a total of 22 murders. 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. Sells was subsequently put on trial and Krystal Surles testified against him.
Tommy Lynn Sells was sentenced to the death penalty and put to death on April 3, 2014 by lethal injection. Today, Krystal has healed from her wounds, both physical and psychological. “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.