Sylvia: Baton Rouge was a scary place during serial killer years
Dozens and dozens of women of all ages stood in a line so long it wrapped around the Baton Rouge Police Supply building on Florida Boulevard, for one of the hottest items for sale in the city, "Freeze Plus P". The pepper-spray and tear gas combination came in a canister small enough to fit in a purse....and women shelled out $10.95 for each one.... many bought more than one. Rumors were rampant...and fueled a lot of fear. A woman claimed she encountered what may have been the so-called "Baton Rouge serial killer", sprayed him with pepper-spray and was able to get away. Her story spread quickly and so did the mad dash...women trying to get their hands on a can of mace. My husband got one for me too. Store owner Shirley Hogan said she'd never seen anything like it. The entire community just wanted to feel safe.
Fear and panic had such a tight grip on this community because the victims including Gina Wilson Green, Charlotte Murray Pace, Pam Kinamore, Triniesha Colomb, Geralyn Desoto, and Carrie Lynn Yoder felt more like "the girl next door" just regular women going about their business when this horrific act of evil snuffed out their lives. So many people felt like, if it happened to these women, it could happen to them. For so many people this changed how they did routine things like going to the mall, running errands and it made folks check and recheck doors and windows at home and check on their friends.
Baton Rouge Police tried to help calm concerns....the department had officers run the lakes at LSU warning joggers and walkers not to be out alone, day or night. Two of the victims, Green and Pace lived in the LSU area. Pace was attacked inside her home and fought hard to the end. Police held safety seminars and self-defense classes around town...and women packed them out each time.
White pick up trucks were a red flag too because initially the suspect was believed to be a white man driving a white pick up truck. A man I talked to, who drove a white pick up, told me one morning police came calling at his front door. They asked him a few questions about where he worked, how long he lived in the area and they checked out his truck. The man believed someone called police because they had spotted his white pickup in the neighborhood.
And the Faith community prayed a lot. At my church we were encouraged to pray everyday for the victims, for our community and for the quick capture of Derrick Todd Lee.
Sylvia Weatherspoon anchors News 2 at 5, 6 and 10:00 weeknights. She wrote this blog after talking with co-workers about the emotional toll the serial killer scare took on people who lived in the Baton Rouge area at the time.