A St. Francisville woman said she began tipping Baton Rouge Police about serial killer suspect Derrick Todd Lee three years before the task force arrested him.
But police dismissed Collette Dwyer's claims and told her they were not looking for a black man, she told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
"Every time one of those women was killed, I knew it was him," said the white, middle-aged woman. "It just took too many lives to get [him]."
Police arrested Lee in May in connection with the murders of Gina Green, Charlotte Murray Pace, Pam Kinamore, Trineisha Dene Colomb and Carrie Yoder.
Lee was later linked to the January 2002 murder of Geralyn DeSoto.
Lee and Dwyer's relationship began in the summer of 1999, when he began stalking her, she said.
Throughout the following months and years, she had a "gut feeling" he was the serial killer, she said.
Dwyer first encountered Lee outside of her apartment. She said they bumped into each other as she was walking out. Lee told her he was going to visit some friends and gave her their names, she said.
"But I checked, and those people didn't know who he was," she said.
On one occasion, Lee entered her apartment and began a conversation, Dwyer said.
Lee turned the lights off, and she turned them back on, she said.
"He told me, 'If I wanted to hurt you, I could,'" she said. "People ask me why I didn't [scream] I was scared that would attract him."
Other times, Dwyer saw Lee hiding behind bushes near her apartment, she said.
"I could have told you [where he was at any time]; wherever I was, he was there," she said.
According to courthouse records, Dwyer pressed charges in August 1999, and St. Francisville police arrested Lee on charges of stalking and peeping. He was sentenced to probation in December 1999.
Police arrested him again in April 2000 for charges of breaking his probation and sentenced him to nine months in jail.
Dwyer said she was not notified of his sentence or his release in January 2001.
She found out when he showed up at her apartment again and continued stalking her, she said.
Through the following months, Dwyer called the Baton Rouge Police, the Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force, the St. Martin's Sheriff's Office, the St. Francisville Sheriff's Office and the district attorney.
"No one would listen to me," she said.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Pat Englade told Karl Koch, Dwyer's attorney, that Dwyer's information was checked out but marginalized because the department was looking for a white man, Koch said.
A Baton Rouge Police news release, released Monday, explains the police department's course of action concerning Dwyer's tips.
It cites the tip that a "white male, driving a white truck" with a white, naked female slumped over in the front passenger seat was seen exiting the interstate at Whiskey Bay around the time of Kinamore's murder.
The tip was "considered to be very reliable," the release states.
But Dwyer was confident Lee, who is black, was the serial killer, she said.
She told Baton Rouge Police so when she first called them after the body of Pace, the third known serial killer victim, was found in May 2002.
"I knew it was [Lee]," she said.
She gave police the tip and left her phone number but not her name.
Police told her they would call her back, she said, but they never did.
She called again.
On Sept. 4, 2002, after police had discovered Kinamore's body, the fourth known serial killer victim, Dwyer again tipped police that she thought Lee was the serial killer.
According to the release, when Dwyer called the newly formed task force, she told investigators Lee drove a white truck, but police determined Lee's truck was not the one seen exiting Whiskey Bay.
"Based on the priorities of the task force and cumulative information to date, Derrick Todd Lee was not DNA tested," the release states.
Meanwhile, the murders continued.
And so did the stalking, Dwyer said.
Dwyer said Lee once told her, "You act like you're afraid of me," and hugged her.
He continued to follow her and show up at her apartment unannounced.
When Dwyer told police about the continued incidents and her suspicion that Lee was the serial killer, they ignored her, she said.
Dwyer said police told her if Lee hadn't told her he killed anyone, she had no business contacting them.
And at a time when task force officials were telling women to trust their instincts, they told Dwyer her suspicions were just "gut instinct" and not enough to follow through on, she said.
But after the technology of ancestral DNA became available to the task force, information was released in March indicating that the serial killer was 85 percent black, the release states.
Lee was tested in May. His DNA matched the DNA evidence collected at crime scenes of serial killer victims.
"I tried to tell people," Dwyer said. "I have guilt for every murder that happened. I owe the families an apology."
But Sterling Colomb, brother of Trineisha Dene Colomb, the fifth known serial killer victim, said Dwyer is not responsible for his sister's death, though he is frustrated with the task force.
Colomb said it was hard to believe the police didn't follow up on Dwyer's tip.
"Every tip is an important tip," he said.
Colomb said the task force "messed up a lot."
"Just knowing my sister could still be alive; she could be here right now," he said. "It's very frustrating."
Dwyer could be eligible to receive the $10,000 reward promised to tipsters for information leading to the capture of the serial killer.
"If she's entitled to the money, of course she should get it," Koch said. "But that is not our focus right now. That's not the point of her coming forward to speak."
Koch said he and Dwyer have not discussed the reward or the possibility of a lawsuit.
"We just wanted to get the story out there," he said.
Dwyer sought a lawyer primarily because she was seeking phone records in relation to Lee's calling her and had to have a lawyer to obtain them, she said.