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Murder suspect, Deandra Marquis Lee, now in custody

U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement agencies secure the room at Merrimac Apartments where murder suspect Deandra Marquis Lee was captured Saturday. -- Tim Reeves

The horrific murders of three people — two of which were children — may not have taken place in Selma, but the city served as ground zero for the search of wanted murder suspect Deandra Marquis Lee.

That search came to a thankful calm end Saturday as an Alabama State Trooper tactical team stormed Merrimac Apartment’s 410 and discovered Lee, and an unidentified woman, inside. Both were taken into custody without incident.

According to Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley, as tactical team members led Lee to a waiting car, apartment complex residents began cheering and thanking law enforcement for finally capturing the wanted 22-year-old Lee.

“It was a great day,” Riley said. “I know it was raining, but none of us got hurt, the suspect wasn’t hurt, no civilians were hurt. I think we can all [breath a sigh of relief].”

Riley said he received a tip that Lee, wanted in the killing of 9-year-old twins, Jordan and Taylor Dejerinett and their 73-year-old caretaker, Jack Mac Girdner, was in an apartment at Merrimac Apartments, located on Medical Center Parkway. The tip, Riley said, came in at 10:30 a.m.

After interviewing the individual who gave the tip, Riley then coordinated information with the U.S. Marshals and members of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. The three organizations immediately rushed to capture Lee.

According to a release from the Alabama Department of Public Safety, officers converged on the scene and evacuated residents in the neighboring rooms. Authorities then attempted to communicate with Lee and the woman without success.

It was then they entered the room and took the two into custody. Lee was immediately transported to ABI headquarters in Montgomery and charged with three counts of murder.

From the time the tip was received to the time Lee was in custody and headed to Montgomery was less than 45 minutes.

Riley said he was unsure why Lee, who had once lived in Selma but most recently lived in Mobile, didn’t flee Selma, but acknowledged he could have been preparing to mobilize when law enforcement officials captured him Saturday.

“Well it’s hard to tell,” Riley said. “You don’t know what’s going through these people’s minds. You’ve got to ask the question too, ‘Why would someone harm a child?’ He could have been trying to prepare to leave or get his resources together to leave; we just don’t know.”

Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson, whose office worked to have previous bonds on Lee revoked Friday in front of District Court Judge Bob Armstrong, said the effort by the multiple state and local agencies paid off.

“Law enforcement officers and the public did a great job in combining forces to capture this coward,” Jackson said. “[Lee’s] troubles are just now beginning.”

While packing up their equipment, Riley said he was most relieved that Lee was taken into custody without incident or injury.

In the department release, ABI Chief Neil Tew credited the capture of this fugitive to a cooperative effort of numerous law enforcement agencies. Tew went on to acknowledge significant assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, Lowndes County District Attorney’s Office, Selma Police Department, Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and Montgomery Police Department.

Col. Hugh B. McCall, the director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said this arrest sends a clear and strong message.

“Alabama — both law enforcement agencies and the public — will not tolerate such heinous crimes in our society,” McCall said. “We will pursue tirelessly until capture.”

— Times-Journal staff writer Ashley Johnson and editor Tim Reeves contributed to this report.