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ABI issues warrant in murder case

Authorities found the 1998 Mercedes Benz owned by murder victim Jack Girdner Wednesday in the Minter community in south Dallas County. Girdner, and two 9-year-old twins, were found murdered on a dirt road near Alabama Highway 21 in Lowndes County. (Courtesy of the ABI)

By TIM REEVES

The Selma Times-Journal

A day after authorities reported the murder of two 9-year-old children and their 73-year-old babysitter, official murder warrants were issued for a suspect who had originally been declared a “person of interest.”

Officials with the Lowndes County District Attorney’s office confirmed they had issued arrest warrants on three counts of murder for 22-year-old Deandra Marquis Lee. And, late Thursday evening, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation said they had received information that places Lee “in the Selma area of Dallas County.”

“We have been working closely with the ABI and other agencies in the hunt for Mr. Lee,” Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley said Thursday afternoon. “We have received tips that claim he is in this area or that area and we are aggressively chasing those leads down.”

ABI also confirmed that all three victims had been shot to death Tuesday and left along a dirt road off of Alabama Highway 21, three miles south of U.S. Highway 80.

Lowndes County District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer confirmed the warrants had been issued and that an extensive search is ongoing.

“We’ve got several agencies actively looking for him and so far, have not been able to locate him,” Tesmer said.

Wednesday, shortly after Lee was declared a person of interest in the murders of 9-year-old twins, Jordan and Taylor Dejerinett, and Jack Mac Girdner, 73, Selma Police received a tip Lee was in the GWC Homes area of Selma.

With the assistance of helicopter support and an overwhelming show of force, Selma Police responded, locking down the development located on Martin Luther King Street.

Over the next hour or so, law enforcement officers searched each apartment, but were unable to locate Lee.

“We had a lot of police out here tonight and we did an extensive search for Mr. Lee,” Riley told the Times-Journal at the search scene Wednesday night. “We have a good idea he is in the area and this is where we took him into custody back in December.”

Also on Thursday, ABI confirmed they had recovered the missing 1998 white Mercedes, owned by Girdner. The car, which was missing all four of its doors, was discovered in the Minter community in south Dallas County.

In December, Lee was arrested in the GWC Homes area, in which he resisted arrest and had to be subdued by the Selma Police Department’s K-9 officer Drago.

Riley said officers responding to a man with gun call to GWC, found Lee with a gun in the front portion of his pants. As they approached Lee, he made a threatening move toward the officers, displaying a gun tucked into the front of his pants. As he continued toward the officers, they again told him to stop and get on the ground. Lee refused.

At that time, Drago was released and tackled Lee.

He was charged with resisting arrest, in possession of a firearm with an altered serial number and other charges. He was charged and booked at the Dallas County Jail with an $18,000 bond. He later posted bond and was released.

At the time of that arrest, it was discovered there was a warrant for his arrest from Lowndes County for robbery.

The Lowndes County Circuit Court confirmed Thursday, Lee was later booked by Lowndes County officials and was released on a $10,000 bond for robbery third degree charges on Feb. 9.

All of this comes just over a year after Lee was acquitted on murder charges tied to a Dec. 29, 2008 shooting that claimed the lives of 18-year-old Ramone Hale and 17-year-old Dalvin Tyre.

According to reports, the shooting took place in the 1700 block of Griffin Avenue, while Lee was in a car with both Hale and Trye. Ironically, Lee was captured two days later in Lowndes County.

In March 2011, a jury deliberated for three days on the murder charges, weighing testimony from another witness at the scene, who the defense had challenged was a credible witness.

After the three days of deliberation and “multiple notes” to Circuit Court Judge Jack Meigs, saying they were deadlocked, the jury finally settled on a decision, ruling Lee not guilty.

“I am not going to say anything challenging the jury,” Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson said. “Obviously we had hoped for a different outcome or at least a ruling of a mistrial and another trial.”

Today, Jackson calls the 2008 shooting deaths a gang-related shooting, saying Lee is affiliated with gangs “across the river,” meaning Selmont.

As for the current manhunt for Lee, ABI said multiple agencies are taking part in the search including the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force. Jackson said even though the murders Tuesday’s murders took place outside of his jurisdiction, his investigators are assisting as well.

Riley said his department, knowing Lee’s connections to Selma, is handling the situation and the search very carefully, saying Lee is no doubt “armed and dangerous.”

“Our officers have to be very careful, especially when you are dealing with someone, like Lee, who has an extensive violent criminal past,” Riley said. “Now you’re dealing with someone with these heinous charges; you have to truly be on guard.”

In their release Thursday evening, ABI did say they had information placing Lee in the Selma area.

Anyone with information on Lee’s whereabouts should contact ABI Special Agent Matt Bowman at 242-1142 or any local law enforcement agency. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the ABI’s Crime Tip Line at 800-392-8011.