Through the Window: The Terrifying True Story of Cross-Country Killer Tommy Lynn Sells

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Overview

Ten-Year-Old Krystal Surles Watched In Horror
As Her Best Friend Was Murdered At The Hands Of An Intruder.

Then with cold-blooded precision he brought a twelve-inch boning knife to Krystal's throat. With a single, violent slash, he severed her windpipe and left her for dead. Miraculously, she survived and would lead authorities to the arrest of 35-year-old Tommy Lynn Sells, a...

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Through the Window: The Terrifying True Story of Cross-Country Killer Tommy Lynn Sells

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Overview

Ten-Year-Old Krystal Surles Watched In Horror
As Her Best Friend Was Murdered At The Hands Of An Intruder.

Then with cold-blooded precision he brought a twelve-inch boning knife to Krystal's throat. With a single, violent slash, he severed her windpipe and left her for dead. Miraculously, she survived and would lead authorities to the arrest of 35-year-old Tommy Lynn Sells, a former truck driver, carnival worker, and cross-country drifter...

He Aspired To Become "The Worst Serial Killer Of All Time."

With no apparent motive and no common pattern to his inconceivable bloodshed, the elusive Sells had carved his way across the country for two decades slaughtering women, men, transients, entire families, teenagers, and even infants with ghoulish abandon.

Through The Window is more than an investigation into a crime spree that stunned a nation. It's an utterly terrifying plunge into the unfathomable dark mind of a serial killer, and the heart-wrenching story of the brave child who finally brought him to justice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publisher
Ten-year-old Krystal Surles watched in horror as her best friend was murdered by an intruder. Then with cold-blooded precision, he brought a twelve-inch boning knife to Krystal's throat. With a single, violent slash, he severed her windpipe and left her for dead. Miraculously she survived and would lead authorities to the arrest of 35-year-old Tommy Lynn Sells, a former truck driver, carnival worker and cross-country drifter who aspired to become the worst serial killer of all time.

Through the Window is more than an investigation into a crime spree that stunned a nation. It's an utterly terrifying plunge into the unfathomable dark mind of a serial killer, and a heart-wrenching story of a brave child who finally brought him to justice.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312985257
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/2003
  • Series: St. Martin's True Crime Library Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 4.29 (w) x 6.71 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane Fanning

Diane Fanning is the author of the Edgar Award finalist Written in Blood: A True Story of Murder and a Deadly 16-Year-Old Secret That Tore a Family Apart. Her other works of true crime include the best-selling Mommy’s Little Girl, A Poisoned Passion, The Pastor’s Wife, and Gone Forever. She has been featured on 48 Hours, 20/20, Court TV and the Discovery Channel, and has been interviewed on dozens of radio stations coast to coast. Before becoming a nonfiction writer, Fanning worked in advertising, and she earned more than 70 Addy Awards. She lives in New Braunfels, Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
A chill teased the air across South Texas in the early morning hours of December 31, 1999. In less than twenty hours, thousands would light fireworks to herald the coming of a new century, the promise of a new beginning. Just west of Del Rio, on the Guajia Bay, nothing so remarkable heralded the departure of one young life and the end of innocence for another.
Down a dark, narrow road, the six inhabitants of a double-wide mobile home were fast asleep at 4:30 A.M. The man outside the residence first tried to trip the lock on the back door with his knife blade, but failed. The family dog started barking in the pen. He let the black rottweiler smell his hand and patted him on the head until the animal was quiet. He removed the screen from the window above the air conditioner and pushed up on the sash, but the latch lock was drawn, holding the pane in place.
He moved on panther feet to the front of the house. The window to 14-year-old Justin Harris’ room was raised to the welcome coolness of a mild December. Outside, the open window was an invitation to the man lurking in the shadows. He removed that screen and set it off to the side. Beneath his makeshift entryway, a large metal tub rested. He stepped up on its edge, unaware that in the dark water below his foot, two ill-tempered snapping turtles waited for him to slip. From his perch, he pushed the sash up a bit farther until he created an opening large enough for entry. Carefully, he threw one leg up over the windowsill and into the room. He paused, his ears tuned to catch the slightest noise. He hoisted the other leg into the room and eased himself down to the floor.
Justin, blind from birth, thought one of the girls was messing with him again, and said, “Will you all stop coming into my room?” then went back to sleep.
The intruder walked into the next bedroom and struck his lighter. There was a very small girl sleeping on the bed, 7-year-old Marque Surles. Her heart-shaped face looked even more innocent in repose than it did by day—nose smooshed in the pillow, delicate eyelashes feathered on its case. Her body curled up in a loose, comfortable ball. He stared at her in the flickering light. Then, he turned away.
He walked down the hall to the other end of the trailer. Spinning the ridged wheel on his lighter again, he saw a woman, Crystal Harris, and a young girl, 12-year-old Lori Harris, fast asleep. He touched the woman on the leg. She did not stir. He looked down at her long hair splayed across the pillow, at the curves of her body undulating beneath the covers. He shook his head and stepped away.
He went back down the hall to explore the one remaining bedroom. Stepping across the threshold, all he heard was the quiet flow of breath from the two occupants in the room. He inhaled a heady smell: part sweaty child, part air freshener, part blooming female adolescence.
He pulled the door closed behind him. In the top bunk, 10-year-old Krystal Surles stirred, and he froze in his tracks. No thread of light penetrated the room. He was unable to identify the source of the noise. His right hand squeezed the knife handle until it left a deep impression on his palm. In two steps, he was leaning over 13-year-old Kaylene “Katy” Harris on the lower level of the bed. “Wake up,” he hissed into her ear. He lay down next to her and held one hand to her trembling throat while his other hand wielded a hideous twelve-inch boning knife.
“What are you doing here?”
Without responding, he slit her shorts. He cut her panties. He sliced her bra in two. Then he returned the knife to the terrified child’s throat while his free hand danced across her small body. She jerked free, tumbling out of bed on the side that was closest to the wall.
She shouted, “Go get Mama!” as she surged toward the door. But he was already there blocking her escape. His knife stabbed, drawing first blood.
“Look, you cut me.”
He flipped on the light and looked at the fresh wound on her arm, and pulled her toward him. Above, Krystal awoke with a start, peering through the slats of the bunk. First she saw Katy; a hairy hand was clasped over her friend’s mouth. Then, her worst nightmare came true: she saw him—the monster under the bed lived! He stood behind Katy, holding a wicked-looking knife to her throat. As the 13-year-old struggled, Krystal looked in her eyes. She received an urgent message that was as loud and clear as if spoken: “Do not move.”
Without warning, the knife sliced. A helpless Krystal watched as a long red streak of blood raced across Katy’s neck. The knife pulled back and cut again, deepening the wound. The 13-year-old twisted away, clutched at a poster on the wall and pulled it down with her. She fell to the floor, gagging, choking, gasping for air as she drowned in a profusion of her own blood. He leaned over her, stabbing her stomach, her chest, her arms until he was certain he had completed what he had begun.
The intruder then turned to the top bunk where he saw Krystal for the first time.
“I’ll be quiet. I promise. I won’t say nothing. I’m not making a noise. It’s Katy, not me,” she begged.
In response, the silent stranger brought the menacing knife toward her throat. Her jerking hands flew up to that vulnerable part of her small eighty-pound frame in a valiant attempt to defend it from assault. “Please don’t hurt me,” she whimpered.
He answered her pathetic plea with a cold command: “Move your hands.” When she did not comply, he brushed them away and brought the boning knife across her throat with sufficient violence to slice her windpipe in two. Krystal uttered not a sound. She lay motionless, smelling the acrid scent of blood and the pungent odor of her own fear. She fought back the urge to flee, instinct warning her that any sign of life would ensure instant death. The bearded, long-haired nightmare turned off the bedroom lights and left the room.
Still, Krystal did not move. Her heart pounded with anxiety, dreading that the man would return. When she could bear it no longer, she got out of the bed on the side next to the wall. She pushed on the window there, but could not open it. Feeling her way with her hands, she moved to the end of the bed, identified her suitcase by touch and stumbled over the limp, bloody body of her best friend. Without thinking, Krystal lay down next to her. She patted the other girl’s leg with pitiful tenderness, hoping she could make the horrible noises stop. Katy showed no sign of receiving the comfort her desperate friend wanted to impart. Her body, ravaged by sixteen stab wounds and two severe lacerations, was unable to respond.
Krystal thought she heard a car start and drive away in the distance. She felt her way to the bedroom door, banging her toes hard into the ladder to the bunk bed that had fallen in her path. She moved it out of the way and exited the room. Help was just down the hall, but she did not know it. Her thoughts were consumed by brilliant images of red and the gut-wrenching sounds of a dying friend. Believing her attacker had killed everyone else in the house, she fled the horror, out into the naked night.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 64 )
Rating Distribution

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(32)

4 Star

(15)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 64 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2003

    Through the Window: A Look at a Serial Killer

    This book is incredibly well-written and researched. I'll never look at guys with signs on the side of the road saying 'Will Work for Food' the same way again. What I liked about this book was the writer's ability to put herself in everyone's point of view. If you want a book that you can't put down that's a true story, buy this book!

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2006

    this book was an experience

    this book was great right out of the gate never stopped the suspense.this man was truely a monster. i completed this book in 2 days never put it down even took it to work.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2011

    Pure evil

    Loved this book. After reading hundreds of true crime books and researching as many serial killers i could possibly learn about, tommy lynn sells is by far the worst i have ever read about. Just the way he can committ murder without even thinking about it or remorse gives me the heebie jeebies. Definately a must read

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    A MUST READ

    This book is a must read! Will keep you on edge all the through!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008

    Horrific

    I literally had chills running down my spine as I read about the unspeakable brutality this beast inflicted upon his victims. It got the point where I couldn't read it night while my husband was gone because it was so disturbing. If you like to be scared to death you'll love this book and the stories of his unspeakable killings.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    Ok, this is the only book that ever spooked me

    This book is excellent, well written, and very difficult to put down. I love true crime books, as I love learning how the crimes are solved, not who committed them, or their reasons why. However, this book, unlike the many other books I read, really spooked me. The way Tommy Lyn Sells killed his victims, his reasons, the fact that he travelled coast to coast, and, the fact that he really had no particular profile in terma of his chosen victims. He just picked his victims at random, and if an adult female, he brutally raped sometimes before killing her. I work the overnight shift as a nurse, and the location is very rural, and safe. I do take one 15 min break, which I normally walk outside. After I read this book, which is superbly written, I was not able to walk for 3 weeks from being spooked. I also waited for another co-worker to walk inside with me. It takes a lot to spook me. This book is that good. You will not be disappointed.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2009

    A "must read"

    Diane Fanning is an excellent author and this is one of her best books. Well written, very descriptive, well-researched.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    Fantastic!!

    I love this book! Couldn't put it down. The author Diane Fanning really did her work here describing the events with great details.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2011

    Great book

    Wow,never knew evil like this could get aeay with such horror for so long. A scary and great read. I highly recommend,

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2011

    Its just a timeline

    I couldnt finish it. Its so monotonous.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2011

    Highly Recommended-a must on your wish list

    A must read for everyone who loves true crime. Sit back with your favorite beverage, lock your doors, no better yet your windows, and enjoy. Diane Fanning didnt miss a beat in this chiller. Somehow I missed hearing about the killer Tommy Lynn Sells. I ordered the book immediately when I saw it. I couldnt imagine the destruction brought on by this inhumane madman. To know there are people like this walking among us is freightening. If you only read one book this year make it Through the Window.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2011

    Great read

    The book is written very well. Made me so sad to think that a child had to experience something so horrible. Thank God there were decent people that helped him to get through the aftermath.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 12, 2011

    Wow!

    Couldn't put it down!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2008

    Very Gory

    In the book, it never mentioned that Tommy Lynn Sells allegedly murdered an entire family in Ina, Illinois in November of 1987 in a very brutal fashion. I would like to know as well as other people if he actually is the one who committed this brutal murder so that there will be some closure to the relatives of this family who was murdered.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2008

    Just try and put this book down

    I have read numorous books about serial killers and this book was the one that made me have to just stop reading for a second because how shocking & sick this mans crimes were. This book is very graphic and you can just picture what these men,women,& children went through at the hands of this truly savage man. If your looking for a shocker and into reading about serial killers or murder in general this is a must read for sure,this story is one you won't forget!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2003

    Chilling

    This tightly written book had me shaking in my shoes. It's riveting.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    Wow

    Very well researched..very disturbing. My heart goes to all the victims n families........

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2011

    recommended

    recommended

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2005

    Unlike Any Other

    I would suggest this book to any true crime fan. I have read numerous books on this subject and am familiar with the stories of many serial killers. But none I have read about (Gacy, Bundy, Dahmer, the Hillside Stranglers to name a few) have been as riveting as this case. This book goes into great detail about each murder to the point where you become paranoid at every sound you hear, every stranger you see. This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2003

    Unreal!

    I bought this book not realizing how good it would be. Lately, true crime is nothing more then a bunch of newspaper articles put into a book. Well written and keeps you on the edge of your seat, 'Through the Window' is unreal! What is even more amazing is how many times Sells himself was facing death but managed to survive....ugh! There was only one editing oversight: One of the victims was referred to as 'Eileen' at first, and then the name became 'Elaine'. Other then that, you will want to read 'Window'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 64 Customer Reviews

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