ATLANTA – Derrick Todd Lee's (search) neighbors say the 34-year-old is a handsome, charming, smooth-talking ladies' man who dated several women while in Atlanta recently.
Police, on the other hand, say Lee is the sole suspect in a serial killing spree in Louisiana (search).
Lee was taken into custody about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday by Atlanta police working with a joint FBI-metropolitan Atlanta (search) task force.
Before the arrest, Lee was last seen living for at least a week in a dingy Atlanta motel, where he charmed residents, grilled ribs and chicken at a party and set up a Bible study.
Motel residents say he wooed women with a promise of cognac if they would visit him in his motel room.
"This guy, he was handsome," said Bubukutty Idicalla, manager of the Lakewood Motor Lodge, where Lee paid $135 cash for a week in a one-room efficiency. "He would go to the ladies and say, 'You married? You married?'"
Lee abruptly left his room in southwest Atlanta on Monday, the day the FBI filed a fugitive warrant for him. Lee told residents his mother was sick and he had to go home to Louisiana.
Over the last few weeks, Lee traveled by bus from Louisiana to Chicago and then to Atlanta, said U.S. Marshal Richard Mecum. Lee had been in Atlanta at least a week, and may have been working construction or concrete contracting jobs that paid cash, authorities said.
Lee was charged Monday with murder and aggravated rape in the killing of Carrie Yoder, 26, a Louisiana State University student who became the serial killer's fifth suspected victim in March. Lee is also suspected of a murder that took place 11 years ago, and police say Lee may be connected to other unsolved killings as well.
The FBI released Lee's photo Monday, asking the public to help locate him. The naming of a suspect came nearly a year after police linked the murders of three Baton Rouge women to a single DNA profile. The warrant accuses Lee only of Yoder's murder, though it says DNA evidence removed from Yoder's body matched that taken from the other four victims.
Police in Zachary, La., a suburb of Baton Rouge, obtained a DNA sample from Lee -- which linked him to the five slayings -- earlier this month because they were investigating him for an unconnected disappearance in their town.
Motel residents say Lee cleared out Monday, shortly after borrowing the manager's cell phone to call two numbers in the Baton Rouge area. According to Idicalla, police traced the number, called Idicalla's cell phone and asked if he knew Lee.
When Idicalla told police Lee was there, authorities headed to the run-down motel. But by the time marshals got there, Lee was gone, taken to a train station by a resident who thought he was headed home to see his sick mother.
Lee made friends with many of the 50 or so motel residents and was known as a lady's man. Resident Brenda Jones, 48, said he was "very nice."
"He wasn't violent-acting. He didn't talk about violence. He talked about the Bible a lot. Let me tell you, he knew the Bible."
Motel residents said Lee didn't have a car and got rides to a pawn shop, where he sold gold jewelry. His behavior didn't stand out around the motel.
"I prayed with this man. I gave him rides," said Valerie Thwaites, a maid and receptionist at the motel. "He was very gorgeous and very kind to me."
Lee entertained several women in his room, neighbors said. He would often compliment their hair and offer them drinks.
"He was nice, and he had a pretty woman stay the night," Idicalla said. "I could not believe it when the police came and said he was wanted for killing women. None of us could believe it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.