Serial killer Derrick Todd Lee has died in the hospital. Lee was from my town. In fact, in the 1990s, when he was on his murder spree, he lived a couple of miles from where I now live. Before his arrest for murder, he had a record for being a peeping tom around here, in our part of West Feliciana Parish. Fortunately for the women of West Feliciana, he did his killing in parishes south of our own.

My late sister Ruthie knew him. He was in her class when they were kids. She once told me that he was a nice guy, and if he had shown up at her door in the daylight, she would have let him in.

He did show up at her door late one night, or so my family believes. This was in the early 1990s, not long after my sister married. She was at home alone, living in a wooded area, while her husband was at the paper mill doing overnight shift work. Suddenly, very late, there was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” she said, terrified. Nobody knocks on anybody else’s door around here that late.

The person kept knocking. She got out her pistol, and called my dad, who alerted the cops and jumped in his truck to head over.

She told the person on the other side of the door that she had a gun, and she knew how to use it. Which was true, and which, this being a rural area, Lee would have known may not have been an empty threat. He knocked one more time, but by the time my dad and the sheriff’s deputies got there, he — we assume it was a he — was gone. The deputies put the tracking dogs on his trail, but they never found him.

Years later, after Lee was arrested, it all came back to them. My family is convinced that Derrick Todd Lee, the serial killer and rapist believed to have killed at least seven women, was on the other side of the door that night. I believe they’re right. And I believe that if my sister had opened the door, or if Lee had kicked the door in and she had not had a gun, she would have been his first victim.