By Dave Warren and Kathee Baird
In part two of our series looking into the murders of Ena and Rory Cordt, we take a look at the similarities between the Cordt's murders and the victims of Coast-To-Coast Killer Tommy Lynn Sells.
Press here for a link to the first story.
Tommy Lynn Sells (photo taken on death row in Texas)
The murder of Ena Cordt and her four-year-old son, Rory, is one of Missouri’s most disturbing cold cases. In July of 1985, the two were killed in their Forsyth home where their bodies lay for three days before they were discovered.
Initially, the investigation moved forward but came to an abrupt halt just a few weeks after the killings. It remains unsolved, despite the confession of Tommy Lynn Sells, a man incarcerated in Texas for the 2000 murder of a little girl in Texas.
The similarities between the Cordt homicides and the known killings committed by Sells is uncanny.
Sells is sitting on death row for the murder of Kaylene Harris in Del Rio, Texas. The killer entered the Harris family home on December 31, 1999, and sexually assaulted 13-year-old Kaylene, before he sliced her throat. He attempted to silence the only witness to Harris's murder, Krystal Surles, who was 10 at the time and sleeping on the top bunk at her friends house.
Tommy Lynn Sells weapon of choice appears to be a knife, which he used to cut the throat of his victims, and baseball bats he used to bludgeon them to death. Ena Cordt was killed with a knife, her son, beaten to death with a bat.
He attacked children who were in the home when he committed crimes. In 1987, Elaine Dardeen, who was seven months pregnant at the time, and her 3-year-old son, Peter, were found beaten to death in their Illinois home. The baby girl that Dardeen gave birth to during the attack was beaten to death with the same bat used to kill her mother and brother. Elaine's husband, Keith, was found dead in a nearby field, shot in the head.
According to Sells, Rory Cordt was at home and witnessed his mother's murder.
One popular story is that Cordt met Sells at the Taney County Fair and took him back to her home where the couple engaged in consensual sex. He says he discovered Ena Cordt rifling through his backpack where he had a stash of cocaine. Angered, he killed Ena and then beat Rory to death with the child’s baseball bat to eliminate any witness to his crime. Even the online encyclopedia Wikipedia states, “While working as a carny in Missouri during the summer of 1985 Sells met 29 year old, Ena Cordt. According to Sells, Cordt invited him to her home where they had consensual sex. The bodies of Cordt and her four-year-old son were found three days later.”
It’s an urban legend that people have taken as fact in the case – except for one thing; Sells says it didn't happen that way.
In a letter to Bob Schanz, a man who has spent years investigating Sells and who is recognized as an expert on the serial killer, the convicted killer says the murder, one of his first, was not what many people think. It was, he states, a murder-for-hire.
Sells, who had just been released from prison, says he was at the fair and did make some remark to Ena Cordt, but, he claims, she did not pick him up and take him home.
Sells claims he was approached by a law enforcement officer who told him that the woman Sells had made the flippant remark to was one who he (the deputy) could tell to cry rape and Sells would be charged. Faced with the prospect of returning to prison, Sells claims it was then that he was asked to kill Cordt.
Sells allegedly writes that the deputy next appeared at a “place where me and Ben (a friend of Sells. Ben is not his real name but one designated by Sells because I don’t want to get him in trouble) were drinking.” Sells says the deputy showed up with a Taney County elected official and says that both the deputy and the official allegedly admitted they were both “having their way with her (Cordt).” He alleges that the official stated that the woman was demanding money from him and was threatening to go public with their relationship and ruin him. --
Of note, Sells also claims in one of his letters "Ben" was a friend of the county official and that the two “get along real good with the white powder.”
Cocaine use has been linked to the investigation into the Cordt homicide from the beginning, yet Sells’ account of how it played a part is much different than that of law enforcement (who did not discover any backpack or cocaine in the Cordt home).
“He (the Taney County elected official) promised me the $2,500,” Sells writes.
“When I said I would hang for murder the official told me he owned the Prosecutor,” Sells stated. He (Taney County elected official) also noted the official stated that he had a relative in law enforcement. Sells claims, “To prove it they came back with the Sheriff.”
So what was Sells’ motive for writing the letter to Schanz in 2000? According to the killer, he was attempting to set the record straight.
“When I learned that Paul Smart had been blamed for 15 years for a crime he did not do and when I remembered that the sheriff and the deputy knew that Paul was innocent but accused him anyway, I wanted to set things straight for Paul Smart and for the family and friends of the woman and the boy,” he wrote. “I hope this helps the common people of the county. They need some help.”
Sells claims the murder for hire plot involves two other men who were with him at Cordt’s home that evening. He claims they all had sex with the woman before he killed her and that when he saw Rory watching, he killed him with the baseball bat “to put him in a better place.”
In his correspondence, Sells complains that he was never fully compensated for killing Cordt by the deputy or the elected official. "They told me that I had a $1,000 piece of ass before she died and that is all the money ($1,500) I was getting.”
Sells says that one of the other men who were with him that fateful night (whom he has refused to name) left Missouri after the killings until things “cooled off”.
Authorities in Missouri don't buy Sells confession. The Missouri Highway Patrol has repeatedly stated that Sells is not a person of interest in the case.
Sells believes they don't have any interest in solving the case because of the alleged ties to Taney County officials from the past and because the same deputy who approached him at the Taney County fair was the same one who was sent to interview him in a Texas prison following his capture.
Even one high ranking county official said that coincidence has bothered him for a long time. “Why would you send the same deputy implicated to do the interview? What questions did he ask? Did he lead Sells with his questions?,” he commented.
The Sentinel was told that the Highway Patrol had not actively investigated the case in almost a decade since their dismissal of Sells as as a suspect. However, since our investigation into the double homicide it was revealed by a source inside the patrol, "there is now some movement on the case.”
While DNA was in it's infancy in 1985, there was some recovered and preserved from the crime scene in Forsyth. It’s that evidence that law enforcement is now looking at. Whether it leads to Sells or one of the other two he claims were with him and had sex with the victim before her death, will remain to be seen.
Contrary to the claims of authorities in Missouri, the Texas Ranger Johnny Allen says Sells admission is plausible. In fact, Rangers have never wavered in connecting Sells to the murders of Ena and Rory Cordt. They place the double homicide in Forsyth as one of the earliest that Sells committed. Sells himself no longer talks with Rangers, because he says, he feels pressured by the bright lights and constant requests for information.
For some, the confession of Sells is disturbing and one they wish would go away. Sells himself said he is confessing to all of the crimes he can remember to clear his own mind. As a psychopath, he doesn’t have a conscience.
“Uh, I've hurt a lot of people, and sorry isn't going to cover that. But killing me ain't going to cover that either. But you know what, killing me is a whole lot easier to do than making me face it every day,” he said in a recent interview with 20/20.
Next week we’ll examine just who Sells says was involved, where they are now, and where the investigation is heading.
THE MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL IS ACTIVELY SEEKING INFORMATION ON THIS CASE AND IS REQUESTING THAT ANYONE WITH INFORMATION CONCERNING THE DEATH OF ENA AND RORY CORDT CONTACT THEM AT 866-362-6422.