Thursday, May 22, 2008

Victoria's Secret


by Diane Fanning

“There are two people in there and one of them is kind. But once a person commits a crime, the world doesn’t want to give them a chance.”

That’s what
Victoria Zubcic, a bail bondswoman from Missouri, told an Associated Press reporter about the serial killers she has known.

Oh, please. Tell
Katy Harris’ family about the kind side of Tommy Lynn Sells (above left), the man who slit their 14-year-old daughter’s throat. Tell the parents of 10-year-old Jack Blake that they should give Arthur Shawcross (pictured right) another chance.

Victoria is promoting her self-published book, 13½, about serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells. She says that she and Sells are friends but she hides her true identity behind the pseudonym
Tori Rivers. But I know Victoria’s secret—the fact she neglects to mention during interviews.

On November 3, 2006, Victoria walked into the courthouse in Polk County, Texas and purchased a marriage license naming Tommy Lynn Sells, Death Row resident, as her future husband. (At left, the happy couple have their first barrier-free visit at the Val Verde County Jail in February 2006.)

Although Victoria wrote a couple of chapters in this short book, most of it is a prolonged rant from Tommy Lynn Sells. She corrected his grammar and spelling but she let his potty mouth run free across every page. She allowed him to rewrite history in a disgusting manner that is inconsistent with crime-scene reports, witness statements, and forensic analysis.

She enabled Sells to spout self-serving lies that vilify his victims and blame them for his crimes. He distorted facts and twisted the truth. He used the book as a forum for petty revenge. When not imprisoned, he killed to get even for perceived slights. Now that he can’t physically attack those who angered him, he fights with the only weapon he has—lies.

He related an incident where he lost his temper with an FBI agent. He changed the story, though, making the agent an ignorant jailer who made less money than “a kid flipping burgers.” In his version, Sells battered the man until he “screamed like a bitch.” In reality, Sells was brought up short before he could do much more than bluster.

He also insulted the woman who fought back when he attacked her. She put him in the hospital for two weeks before he went to jail for five years. He claimed that the rape was consensual sex. He made derogatory remarks about her personal hygiene. He insisted he was being a nice guy when she attacked him as he emerged sparkling clean from the shower. He then said he fought for his life, slamming her head into the wall before he ran away. He doesn’t bother to mention the bloodied piano stool he broke in two when he bashed her in the head or the stab wounds he inflicted on her body.

He often bragged about having sex with women, painting himself as quite the cocksman. He claimed that even when he was sexually assaulting victims, he was giving them pleasure. Experts, however, feel that Sells had problems with performance—that he was often sexually incompetent—explaining why he often brutally raped women with objects like baseball bats and tools.

But, according to him, most of his victims enjoyed his attentions and had no moral character at all. Since they are dead, they cannot contradict him. How convenient for Tommy.

He also used this opportunity to attack the justice system, claiming that although he did murder his last victim, he did not sexually assault her and, therefore, should not have gotten the death penalty. He argued, too, that he is mentally retarded and it is illegal to execute him. He repeated many of his silly, oft-told lies about people in law enforcement, the courts, the legal profession, writers, television producers—anyone he’d encountered who didn’t present his story the way he wanted it told.

Victoria said she changed the names of the victims to protect them from further pain. She did that in all but one case—the murder of Katy Harris. Oddly, it was the only homicide story she told that actually bore a resemblance to reality. And in that case, she used everyone’s real name. I don’t think she was trying to protect victims. I think she was trying to hide the lies. Did Sells manipulate her into believing his version of reality? Or was she a willing accomplice in perpetuating his falsehoods? We may never know.

We may also never know anything about the financial arrangements between Vicki and Tommy. But what are the odds that every book sold puts money into Sells’ prison bank account?

In fact, I hesitated to write this blog because I was concerned that the publicity might encourage some people to buy the book. But then I realized, there are more of you out there who would not make a purchase if you knew of this special relationship between the brutal killer and the author.

And just for the record, I did not buy a new copy of this book. I bought a used copy and made sure it was not being shipped from Missouri. I wanted to make sure that not one penny of the price I paid went to Tommy Lynn Sells.

43 comments:

Leah said...

I wouldn't read this book if it were free. But thank you for reading it and sharing. Hopefully there won't be much in the way of proceeds for either Sells or his bride.

Diane Fanning said...

It was a pretty disgusting experience, Leah. On more than one occassion, I dropped the book on my night stand and couldn't bring myself to pick it up again for days on end.

Kathryn Casey said...

Don't blame you, Diane. Thanks for warning all our true crime readers about this. We need to tell others not to buy this piece of garbage. It's disgusting that Sells would get a dime. (By the way, Diane's book on Sells is a great read.)

This Zubcic woman appears delusional or evil. Why else would she help him tell lies and attack his victims yet again? Obviously she has no moral code, but then what would we expect from a woman who marries a serial killer?

By the way, when's Sell's execution? Isn't it coming up? I'm not usually all that in favor of the death penalty, but this time it's hard to argue against it.

Diane Fanning said...

Sells execution date is not yet set, Kathryn. He is in the final stages of appealing his conviction and sentence on grounds of mental retardation. I would think that the book, by its very existence, would lay that silly notion to rest.
In case anyone is interested, the title of the book Kathryn mentioned is THROUGH THE WINDOW.

cherry6905 said...

Statistics show it's ridiculous to presume that when an average defendant is arrested, charged with a crime, and brought to trial, he is usually innocent. One day a defendant is going to stand up and tell the judge, "If I am legally presumed innocent, why have I been arrested, criminal complaints filed against me and why am I being tried?"

Diane Fanning said...

Cherry,
I am assuming your remark was in response to Victoria's quotation at the opening of the blog. Am I correct?

Bontie said...

Good blog Diane. I wouldn't buy the book, I didn't buy OJ's book.

Tell me? How did Sells get visitation with barriers on death row? Someone should hang for that.

Bontie

Bontie said...

Sorry, that should say visitation without barriers, obviously.

Diane Fanning said...

It was not allowed on Death Row, Bontie and never is. It should not have been allowed at all.
Sells was in Del Rio, Texas, going to court to get his death date. The judge assigned a date in May 2006 but that was put on hold while the last appeal worked its way through federal court.
The Texas Rangers and the TDCJ were not pleased that the Sheriff allowed the visit to happen. It created the risk of a hostage taking or loss of life.
Besides, Sells sure hasn't done anything to deserve special treatment.

Kari Sable said...

Diane:

Did Tommy try to manipulate you with lies during your interviews with him? Did you have to confront him with the facts if he did?

Diane Fanning said...

I didn't always realize right away when he was lying. Usually if I came back later and confronted him, he would deny that he said what I knew he said.
I developed the familiarity with how he told stories over time and was often able to recognize when he was being fairly honest and when he was jerking my chain. Not with total accuracy, but with some certainty.

Leah said...

I didn't realize you also wrote about Sells. I will buy and read your book. I can't imagine how you were able to stand reading their book. How did they convinced a publisher to print it?

Diane Fanning said...

They didn't convince a publisher to publish. It is a self-published book--she paid to have it made into a book. And reading his lies wasn't easy. When I interviewed him, I was working and had a level of detachment that I couldn't muster up when reading the book. It really disturbed me more than the twenty-some interviews I had with him.

Leah said...

I didn't think about self publishing. In that case, maybe they lost money.

When a copy of OJs book circulated here at work, I took one because I was curious. But once I started reading all the BS, I had to throw it out. Like you, I couldn't stand the lies and how he was basically justifying all the domestic violence. Sounds like he and Sells suffer from the same sociopathic mental illnesses.

How were you able to sit with him long enough to get info to write the book?

andy kahan said...

Diane,

Great post. Under Texas law Sells should not receive one red cent. I plan on following up to insure that no monies from book sales are deposited in his trust fund.

If you hear of Sells profiting please let me know.

Diane Fanning said...

There were times when I wondered that myself, Leah. Days when I told myself, I am not coming back again.
But I kept visiting him because once I'd established rapport, LE, private investigators and victims' family members were contacting me wanting answers. I had to find what I could.
And in the end, it was definitely worth it. In one of my last interviews, he confessed to the murder of Joel Kirkpatrick. Joel's mother had been convicted of that crime and given a 65 year sentence. Because I got information from him, she was able to get a new trial and was acquitted. It was worth it all to help get a wrongfully convicted woman out of jail.

Diane Fanning said...

Terrific, Andy. I am delighted to know you are following up on this.
The lies and insults directed at victims in his books is revolting. And to think that he would profit from them is very disturbing.

Sue said...

Fascinating saga, Diane. The bail bondswoman/author's pseudonym sounds like a pointless charade. And it is sickening to think that Sells was able to have a contact visit.
I'm glad, too, that Andy is following up on the money end. My prediction is that there won't be much money in this drivel but that what there is will end up in Sells' candy account and there will be little anyone can do about it. But if a good chunk of the book was demonstrably written by Sells, that could make an interesting argument for nabbing any proceeds, I suppose. But I'm not a lawyer...

Diane Fanning said...

In an interview, she said that she picked Tori because it was short for Victoria and Rivers because she lived by one.
And since she admits it to reporters why did she bother in the first place?

Rae said...

Great article, Diane. I recall vaguely of hearing of Sells before, but nothing specific about his crimes - just reading about him here gave me the creeps-I wouldn't touch that book with a barge pole.

I am curious about this, though:
"We may also never know anything about the financial arrangements between Vicki and Tommy. But what are the odds that every book sold puts money into Sells’ prison bank account?"

Is there no law in Texas that prohibits Sells from profiting from his crimes? Wouldn't this fall into that category?

Catchmekillme said...

Dianne,

Hello, this is Victoria Zubcic, Tori Rivers.

Now, let me say a few things in regards to your attack on me. You need to check your facts before you put them on the internet and Put them in print.

Tommy Lynn Sells and I are friends, Just as you stated many times you and he were. I suppose you can be his friend and write a book about him but I can't??

You have looked for many ways to discredit me over the past few years. You actually emailed me and told me the FBI investigated me because of this book a few years back when I ask you who told you this you said no one official you just thought I would like to know.

You continued to write Tommy and still send him cards. when he decided to quit writing to you, you became disgruntled. Now you can say what you like about me but make sure you know the facts and the truths...I told you before when you tried to put this marriage thing in your book it was slander and it is. You don't seem to get the gist here. You did remove the part of me being married to Tommy though, I will give you that.

It is a shame you make attacks on me every chance you get. I feel sorry for you that it upsets you that I wrote a book about the same person you did.

Dianne. I hate to burst your bubble here but Victoria has no secrets as you put it.

As for Tommy making money off this book, again that is slander. He makes nothing off this book, nothing.

I have letters here where you told Tommy you would send him more but you had to finish your contract on writing a couple more books. I know that Tommy cannot gain from this and that was never the intention. You have sent Tommy things in prison, why don't you mention that??

Before you call the pot black you better take a good long look at yourself.

As far as me being married to anyone you are so wrong. I just don't get where you come off with all this.

I also have a picture of you and Tommy at visit. You and he seemed to be quite happy. So come on Dianne, get off my back and quit sending your henchmen after me.

And re-victimizing anyone...read your own book Mz. Fanning.

Vicky aka Tori

Catchmekillme said...

Oh After though Dianne

The purpose of this book was to let people see how a serial killer thinks. It by no means was meant to bring any sympathy to Tommy. It is not a self serving book by all means.

Vicky

Diane Fanning said...

Rae, It is not legal but there are ways people get around that by making payments to another party.

Diane Fanning said...

Victoria, Glad to see you posted a comment. It's a shame you still don't get it.

Rae said...

Well, out of curiosity, Vicki, why don't you set us all straight on specific points?

Did you take out a marriage license for you and Sells? (It's a matter of public record, so I doubt Diane would make it up-and she did NOT say that you were married to anyone.She said you took out a marriage license. There is a difference.)

Does Tommy Sells defend his rapes as consensual sex?

Has he stated that his victims had no moral character at all?

Did he murder his last victim?

Does he hide behind mental retardation as an excuse for taking other lives?

I mean, come on. If you're going to come on here and blast Diane for 'discrediting' you, perhaps you could re-establish your credibility by addressing the specific accusations. Otherwise, we have to believe that Diane is being honest, and you are using an attack on her as a smokescreen to cover the truth.

vicky said...

Diane, yes I do get it...I get that you are mad about losing contact with Sells. After all any TV show you have done was about him, I get you are mad I wrote this book. Your friend Rhiannon mentioned something about beating a dead horse..you have done that with Sells..over and over and over.
I get that leaving the comments about me that you do is leading the horse to water and take it from there. I also get you had a movie deal in the works at one time about Sells...maybe this fell through. Hmmmmmmmm.


As to who I am married to or not married to, who I file for license with or don't is none of yours are anyone elses business. Hmmm could be a good thing keeping you all guessing now couldn't it.

Did Tommy kill the girl in Del Rio, of course he did. That was never a question in my mind are anyone elses.

By the way he got rid of the type writer you got him and I assume you still have his TV from Del Rio?? That is unless you pitched it.

Lets get real here and like I said, this is a sad case of the pot calling the kettle black.

I did not attack you Diane, you have been coming after me for a long time. Ever since you lost your control over Tommy Lynn Sells.

And his IQ was below 70 at the age of 18 if you did your home work Diane.

Rae said...

Well, your refusal to answer is an answer in itself - obviously, you did get a marriage license, and there was or is something more between you and Sells than friendship.

Which, if your book had been on my reading list, would make me strike it right off.

I am the former wife of a murderer who was convicted on the grounds of vicarious liability. Which means he didn't carry out the actual crime. But, he was there, and he was just as responsible. And I blame HIM for being there. I don't blame law enforcement, or the prosecutor, or his childhood, or his level of intelligence. I especially don't get on the Internet and make him out to be some kind of misunderstood hero, who couldn't resist the moral depravity of the woman whose life he helped to end.

Free will is a great thing. Unfortunately, Sells used his to rape and murder. Fortunately, we can use ours to avoid your book.

Diane Fanning said...

Anyone who's seen me on Forensic Files and a couple of other shows, Victoria, knows that your second sentence is false. They can draw conclusions about the rest from there.

vicky said...

If you want to know about a marriage license...go check for yourself, that is what I would suggest.

And as for people drawing there own conclusions..why don't you just admit you used Sells as much as you could to make a name for yourself and became enraged when you could no longer do it.

All the shows I have seen you on involved Sells. And that movie deal of yours??? Why don't you comment on that??

Then you chose me, because I am a friend and close to him to attack.
Anyone can see when you started this post and exactly what you were doing..attacking me on the internet.

Let my book do as it may and don't worry yourself so much about it are about me. Just your attacks on me personally tells the story of what you are about.

But Diane, I am just as capable of attacking you but really, I have to many other things to concern myself with..then wether are not your book sells are about your personal life.

So I would suggest you leave me be.
You have a case of sour grapes and by what you are doing proves that to the max.

A. said...

Victoria--Your ugly, arrogant tone makes me wonder if Sells has some contagious disease, that you may have caught from hanging around him too much?

You seem to think that you're leaving us hanging on your every mysterious word. Let me assure you, this is not the case.

You're singing your song of bs to the wrong choir...

Rae said...

Nope, couldn't care less about a marriage license, and not going to waste my time looking for something that I know is there.

But, and you don't seem to grasp this, the very suggestion of a romantic entanglement blows your objectivity out of the water. Tossing in your apparent sympathy for this child killer, and your repeated, ridiculous attacks on Diane here...well, again, even if I had been interested in reading your book, Vicki, I no longer would be. I like my books to examine both sides of the story, not just spew vituperative, "I did it, but it's not my fault that I did it" from the killer.

You do make want to read Diane's book, though. (Hey, look at that. I've never read her book, never heard of it before, only vaguely heard of your boyfriend - and, yet, surprisingly, I've known who Diane Fanning is for several years now. So much for all her recognition being related to Sells.)

vicky said...

Hey I don't know why you consider my statements arrogant, I am just setting the record straight. Why would I let someone attack me and just sit back...thats not me and never will be. This is just as I have said before a case of sour grapes and the pot calling the kettle black.

And the book is meant to take you on a journey into the mind of a serial killer and that's exactly what it does.

As for my boyfriend...hmmmm glad you are so sure who he is. :)))))

You can tell you people in here are not going to listen to a thing I say...this is Mz Fannings blog not mine...but I will stand up for myself and will in no way not correct her fables.

This is not the first time I have gone through this with Mz Fanning and won't be the last.

So again, assume what you like.

Why don't you ask her, did she send Tommy Lynn Sells money, supplies, typewriter, TV set..ect..ect.. and if she continues to send him cards on special occasions. If she was working on a movie deal about him.

Why only question me?? It just goes to show you this blog is to only attack me.

Well have fun..thats all I can say and I hope something else besides my book and myself catch your interest.

Rae said...

"As for my boyfriend...hmmmm glad you are so sure who he is."

Boyfriend, fiance, former boyfriend, former fiance, whatever. Or did you take out the marriage license just to play Sells for more revelations?

"You can tell you people in here are not going to listen to a thing I say...this is Mz Fannings blog not mine...but I will stand up for myself and will in no way not correct her fables."

Stand up for yourself? You won't even answer simple questions. You could, but you won't.

Does Tommy Sells defend his rapes as consensual sex? Does he defend his killing as self defense?

Has he stated that his victims had no moral character at all? Does that include the children?

So, do tell us, what are these 'fables'? Because you certainly aren't correcting any specific points.

I think the part I find most appalling is that you are a mother. And, yet, you publish this book which can do nothing but cause further anguish to the families of Sells' victims-and you justify it by saying that you wish to take us all "into the mind of a serial killer". Even here, you gloss over multiple murders with "Yes, he did it, but the real bad person is Diane Fanning...". How do you live with doing that?

Have YOU sent Sells money, supplies, cards, etc etc...or is that another question that you wants us to ask Diane, but which you will duck?

And you keep blathering on about some movie deal...as if, if YOU were offered a movie deal on your book, you wouldn't accept it. A book is a marketable commodity. So what if she has a movie deal or sold the film rights or whatever it is?

Kathryn Casey said...

Sorry I assumed you'd married Sells in my comment above. Figured since you took out a license...

I don't know if Diane's talked about a movie deal for the Sells book, but if she has, there's nothing wrong with that. Producers approach a lot of us about making movies out of our books. That's not at all unusual.

The problem here, Vicki/Tori, is that you've hidden your identity and your connection with Sells, not disclosing it to the folks who read your book. Since you went to the trouble of adopting a pseydonym, I gather you did that consciously, so folks won't rightly assume you had a reason to be biased?

Also, I wrote a book called "The Rapist's Wife" on a serial rapist named James Bergstrom. I had extensive interviews with him and did what you're saying you tried to do with Sells; I took the readers inside Bergstrom's diseased mind and explored how he saw the women. But I then included the reality: that he was vile and delusional and his perspective was a lie. That the women wanted nothing of him. That he stalked and victimized them. That counter to Bergstrom's delusions, the women he raped did nothing to provoke his attacks.

Did you do that in your book? Did you set the record straight? Or did you just let Sells' diseased mind do all the talking, as if he wasn't a monster? Just wondering...

vicky said...

Ever since I was a child I was called Tori by my grandfather who has passed away and by other family members. I decided years ago to use this name, its not to hide my true identity..matter of fact my email is in the front of the book.

I did let Tommy do the talking in this book, I wanted to people to be able to see just how he thinks. If I set the record straight it wouldn't have been what I was trying to accomplish, this is a serial killers mind and not many get into it this deeply.

Tommy and I are good friends, I have know him for over five years now, I have no problem with him what so ever. I am not biased with Tommy, I know the crimes he commited were incredibly horrible, that has never been an issue with me as far as seeing and understanding that.

The movie deal Diane may or may not have had is really no bearing, but she has been good to Tommy and so have I. Of course I have sent him writing supplies..ect..ect. And if he could have a TV I would also provide one for him. But you all were led to believe he would reap a profit from this book and that is so wrong. That will never happen.

I never said Fanning was a bad person, I just stated facts because I was being attack and I don't appreciate that. No one would and I know she wouldn't like it either.

I'm not an evil person and by most considered to be a kind person.

Kathryn Casey said...

So you wrote a book in which Tommy Lynn Sells, a serial killer, portrayed himself as a basically good person and his victims as scheming, unsavory women who deserved to die, and you didn't correct that? You let him play the sympathy card and didn't show your good friend, the serial killer, for what he is, a monster? Vicki, come on, you know this isn't right.

vicky said...

He certainly didn't portray himself as a good person in this book nor did I. not one bit totally the opposite. He actually didn't play the symphathy card at all. In the book it does tell about the abuses he went through as a child and I think people needed to know this, what creates are possibly creates a killer of Tommys magnitude. If people can't figure out by reading this book that Tommy was a monster while he was loose on the streets then something is wrong. He sugar coates nothing. I don't understand why you would think this is a self serving book for him, it just tells it like it is.

Rae said...

"He actually didn't play the symphathy card at all.He sugar coates nothing. I don't understand why you would think this is a self serving book for him, it just tells it like it is."

Tells it like it is?

"He related an incident where he lost his temper with an FBI agent. He changed the story, though, making the agent an ignorant jailer who made less money than “a kid flipping burgers.” In his version, Sells battered the man until he “screamed like a bitch.” In reality, he was brought up short before he could do much more than bluster."

Does that tell it like it is?

"He also insulted the woman who fought back when he attacked her and put him in the hospital for two weeks before he went to jail for five years. He claimed that the rape was consensual sex. He made derogatory remarks about her personal hygiene. He insisted he was being a nice guy when she attacked him as he emerged sparkling clean from the shower. He then said he fought for his life, slamming her head into the wall before he ran away. He doesn’t bother to mention the bloodied piano stool he broke in two when bashed her in the head or the stab wounds he inflicted on her body."

Does that tell it like it is?

"He often bragged about having sex with women, painting himself as quite the cocksman. He claimed that even when he was sexually assaulting victims, he was giving them pleasure."

Does that tell it like it is?

"But, according to him, most of his victims enjoyed his attentions and had no moral character at all."

Does that tell it like it is? Does that include the small children he killed, too?

Diane is right. You just do not get it.

Kathryn Casey said...

Food for thought, Vicki: Years ago, I interviewed Roy Hazelwood, one of the founders of profiling at the FBI. We discussed a study the agency did back in the seventies. Something like 80 percent of the serial rapists claimed childhood abuse. Hazelwood remarked that he didn't trust the figure. He said something on the order of, "Psychopaths try to get sympathy, to blame others for their crimes. We have no way of knowing the truth since we can't trust what they tell us."

That said, we're wasting our time, Rae. A valiant effort, but I'm sure Vicki/Tori will admit/recognize none of it. You and Diane are both right, it appears that this woman has no empathy for anyone but herself and her good friend, the serial killer.

Rae said...

We can only hope that the relatives of the victims don't stumble across this book. I doubt that would be a "journey" any of them would want to take. :-(

A. said...

Exactly what I was thinking Rae.

How anyone could think there's nothing wrong with what they're doing.

Vicky--for you to "have no problem with Tommy, whatsoever" is pathetic. And I hope that anyone who is re-wounded by your insensitive book, can see that this is an expose about your poor character, more than anything.

Jan said...

There is a line that can't be crossed when writing about a sadistic killer.

Once the author believes the self-serving lies being told, then all that comes after is propaganda.

That, I think, is the difference between Diane and Vicki/Tori. Diane was able to see the real Sells, and Vicki/Tori believed and saw what Sells wanted her to see.

Maybe she didn't go into the relationship with that intent, but at some point Vicki/Tori was drawn into his delusional world, to the point she was willing to separate his actions from the person he wanted her to see.

Therein lies the problem. We all see the real Sells and Vicki/Tori only sees the illusion.

Lauren said...

Diane Fanning clearly has an axe to grind here. She is not thrilled that the other author gained unprecedented access to Sells and told the story in his words. She made no claims to justify his words or even support what he said as truth -- rather, she merely sought to publish what he believed to be the truth. As a student of psychiatry, I find this account disturbing yet fascinating, and am pleased that such an account exists without the addition of Fanning's purple prose.