- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

CARLYLE, Ill. (AP) - A serial killer nearing execution in Texas for fatally stabbing a girl in 1999 has been linked to 22 killings while claiming dozens more in various states. But Tommy Lynn Sells‘ taking credit for a killing in Illinois may have helped spared that victim’s mother from prison.

In southern Illinois’ Lawrence County, prosecutors accused Julie Rea-Harper in the October 1997 stabbing death of her only child, 10-year-old Joel Kirkpatrick.

During her 2006 trial in Clinton County on a venue change, Rea-Harper’s attorneys pointed the finger at Sells after he confessed to killing Joel two days before slaying a 13-year-old girl in Springfield, Mo. Sells was charged in that Missouri killing but was never tried.

After Rea-Harper was acquitted, Lawrence County prosecutors painted Sells as an attention-seeker.

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