Who is Paul Durousseau?
Paul Durousseau is an American serial killer convicted of killing seven women (including two who were pregnant) in the south-east United States between 1997 and 2003. He was initially sentenced to death which was later overturned. A native of Texas, Durousseau was raised by his mother on her own after his father deserted the family. He graduated from high school and later began working as a security guard. This was the time when he started committing offences as an adult. In November 1992, he decided to enlist in the US Army and was briefly stationed in Germany. He met his future wife there before he was dishonourably discharged for possession of stolen goods. He subsequently came back to the US and settled down with his wife in Florida. They had two children but their relationship was an abusive one. He was even jailed for 48 days for domestic battery in 2001. Despite having a criminal record, Durousseau managed to get jobs and maintained a persona that led people who knew him to refer to him as a “lewd womaniser”. The body of his first victim, Tracy Habersham, was found in September 1997. In the following six years, he killed six other women before getting arrested in June 2003. German authorities have stated that Durousseau might have murdered several local women while he was stationed there.
Childhood & Early Life
Paul Durousseau was born on August 11, 1970, in Beaumont, a city and the county seat of Jefferson County, Texas. His parents never married and not long after his birth, his father deserted the family. He then went to stay with his mother’s family in Los Angeles. He faced many problems and got into trouble with the law often. Besides this, very little information is available on his childhood and early life.
He graduated from high school and got a job as a security guard at the age of 19. As an adult, he committed his first offence on December 18, 1991, when he was apprehended for carrying a firearm in California. He was arrested again for the same offence about a month later, on January 21, 1992.
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Paul Durousseau joined the US Army in November 1992 was later sent to Germany. There, he started a relationship with Natoca Spann, a soldier who was also stationed in Germany at the time. They got married in 1995 in Las Vegas. A year later, he was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia.
He was arrested for kidnapping and raping a young woman in Georgia on March 13, 1997, but was later acquitted of those charges in a court-martial. However, he faced the military court again in January 1999, this time for possession of stolen goods. Durousseau was subsequently court-martialed, found guilty and dishonourably discharged from the army.
Return to the US & Domestic Violence
Paul Durousseau and his wife returned to the US and settled down in Jacksonville, Florida. They had two daughters. While he did find jobs quite frequently, he failed to keep any of them for a long period. He was employed as a school bus driver and an animal control worker in 2001 despite his history. In 2003, he found work as a taxi driver in Jacksonville.
It is generally agreed now that Durousseau met most of his victims while working as a taxi driver. Although the media reported that Gator City Taxi Company, which hired Durousseau, had failed to run a background check on him, this is not true. It was the city’s responsibility to do so and they are ones who issued him a taxi driver permit.
Durousseau and his wife frequently fought about the financial issues and the fights often turned violent. The authorities suggested that Natoca should seek a restraining order against her husband. During her testimony, Natoca told the court that Durousseau would get violently angry every time she mentioned divorce. Between September and October 2001, Durousseau was sent to jail for 48 days for domestic battery.
During the investigation and afterwards, his neighbours and friends characterized him as a “lewd womaniser”. He went about asking young women when they would “make flicks” with him. A witness even stated that he had seen Durousseau trying to flirt with a girl who looked to be just 13 or 14 years old.
The naked body of 26-year-old Tracy Habersham was discovered in Fort Benning a month after Durousseau was acquitted of rape charges, on September 7, 1997. According to reports, she had gone missing about 48 hours earlier after attending a party. Subsequent investigations revealed the signs of rape and that she had been strangled to death with a cord. Durousseau, however, was not one of the suspects in this investigation. It was only after a DNA testing that he was linked to the murder and after his arrest, he made a full confession.
His second victim was 24-year-old Tyresa Mack, whom he raped and killed in her own apartment in 1999. There were witnesses who placed him on the scene, leaving her apartment with a TV. He was apprehended by the police in 2001 for raping a woman in Jacksonville. Durousseau served 30 days in jail and two years’ probation.
On December 17, 2002, the police were informed that 18-year-old Nicole L. Williams had gone missing. Two days later, her body was discovered at the bottom of a ditch in Jacksonville, wrapped in a blue blanket.
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By late December 2002, the family of 19-year-old Nikia Kilpatrick was worried as they had not heard from her in several days. On January 1, 2003, they visited her place to find her dead in her bedroom. She had two sons, an eleven-month-old and a two-year-old. They were discovered in the apartment as well, malnourished but alive. At the time of her death, she was six months into her third pregnancy.
Durousseau‘s next victim was 20-year-old Shawanda Denise McCalister, a nurse assistant who was also pregnant. She was raped and murdered in her own apartment. There were other similarities with Kilpatrick’s murder, for instance, the scene of the crime was almost identical in the two places. He killed her on his first day at his new job as a taxi driver. Her body was discovered a day later, on 10 January.
On 5 February, the remains of 17-year-old Jovanna Jefferson and 19-year-old Surita Cohen were found in a ditch next to a construction site on New Kings Road, Jacksonville. The authorities estimated that Durousseau killed Jefferson around 20 January and Cohen about 10 days later. According to several witnesses, a taxi driver matching Durousseau’s features was seen with the victims before either of them was reported missing.
Arrest, Conviction & Sentencing
As the investigation into the killings progressed, the authorities discovered several connections between them and Durousseau. The DNA evidence, fibre analysis, and the cab and cell phone records all linked Durousseau to the victims and the murders.
The fibres from the blue blanket in which Williams’ body was wrapped matched the ones found in Durousseau’s home. The police found jewellery that once belonged to Surita and Jovanna in his car and the girls’ cell phone records revealed that they had rung him before they went missing.
Furthermore, there were several similarities that linked the murders. All the victims were African American women and in most of these cases, the killer’s modus operandi was very unique and similar, as the murders were committed with cords such as extension or coaxial cable cords. According to Sheriff Nat Glover, the killer had created a particular type of slipknot with cords which he was using to kill the women.
On June 17, 2003, Durousseau was arrested and charged with five counts of first degree murder. The victims who were named on the charge sheet were Nikia Kilpatrick, Shawanda McAlister, Nicole Williams, Surita Cohen and Jovanna Jefferson. Moreover, he was also charged with two counts of child abuse against Kilpatrick’s two sons.
Soon after his arrest, he was linked to Habersham’s murder because of DNA evidence. In August, he was found to have killed Tyresa Mack as well, for whose murder he eventually received the death sentence by lethal injection on December 13, 2007.
The German authorities believe that he had killed several women in the country while he was stationed there. The law enforcement in Georgia reasserted their claim that he had indeed committed the woman’s murder near Fort Benning in 1997 for which he had been earlier acquitted.
He was held at Florida’s death row at Union Correctional Institution. In January 2017, his death sentence was overturned by the US Supreme Court after the trial jury was unable to provide a unanimous verdict. The split on the death sentence was 10-2.