ST. LOUIS -- On April 27, 1982, a single mom and her two young daughters were viciously attacked in the middle of the night.
Was the attacker a friend? A former fling? A family member? Or could it have been a serial killer? It's a question for some that still remains unanswered.
In 1982, Melissa DeBoer was 7 years old. She lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of St. Louis with her mom, JoAnn Tate and her 4-year-old half-sister Renee.
On that night, Melissa woke up to find an attacker in the house and her mother lying on the floor. The naked man proceeded to sexually assault Melissa. When she fought back, the man stabbed her repeatedly. Going into survival mode, she pretended to play dead.
Melissa wanted to get away, but knew she couldn't leave her little sister behind. The man then attacked her 4-year-old sister Renee.
Melissa passed out. When she woke she went to her mom.
Melissa woke a few hours later to knocking on the front door. It was her uncle and her mom's boyfriend.
The next thing she knew she and her sister were being rushed to the hospital.
Their mom, JoAnn, was dead. She had been stabbed multiple times and sexually assaulted with an object.
Despite their horrifying injuries, both girls survived.
With Melissa's help, a police sketch artist came up with a composite sketch. A family member recognized him: The face was one of JoAnn's former boyfriends, Rodney Lincoln.
Even though he had an alibi for the night of the murder, Lincoln was taken down to the station and put in a lineup with three others.
Rodney Lincoln was a grocery store truck driver who had dated JoAnn briefly the previous year. Something else that made Lincoln an attractive suspect: He had killed a man nine years before.
Lincoln was arrested and charged with one count of capital murder and two counts of assault in the first degree.
There were two trials and two key pieces of evidence against Lincoln: A lone hair found on a blanket, and Melissa's testimony.
The first trial ended in a hung jury. In the second, the jury found Rodney Lincoln guilty.
"I'm not in law enforcement. I'm just an author who's talked to criminals and looked at crimes, and I look at the case against Rodney Lincoln, and I say it stinks," said Diane Fanning
Fanning, a famous crime writer, explored the world of an unrelated serial killer. Doubts about who killed JoAnn Tate started to emerge.
"He could have been there and he could have committed that crime," said Fanning. "It has all his markers."
Fanning has written 23 books about the most ghastly murders imaginable. One of her most popular is called "Through the Window." It was a book that would turn the murder of JoAnn Tate on its head. It was when she met a man named Tommy Lynn Sells.
"It's about the cross-country killing spree of Tommy Lynn Sells over two decades," said Fanning.
While doing research, Diane Fanning wrote to Tommy Lynn Sells to see if he'd be willing to talk. His address? Death row in a Texas prison.
Tommy Lynn Sells had been in trouble with the law since he was a teen in St. Louis But murder was one charge that never made it onto his lengthy rap sheet -- yet.
In the course of a lengthy interviews, Sells confessed to killing 70 other people and he admitted to killing in 10 to 12 other states.
Sells was a transient who traveled the country while working at carnivals and as an auto mechanic.
In a different case in Del Rio, Texas, Sells didn't get away fast enough. Sells' killing spree was over. He was convicted of capital murder and received the ultimate punishment and several months later after sells was settled into life on death row -- author Diane Fanning got in touch.
In more than 20 face-to-face visits and tons of letters, Sells shared a lot with Fanning.
The truth was coming into focus -- there were likely other murders he had evaded.
"I am convinced that other people are behind bars serving time for crimes committed by Tommy Lynn Sells," said Fanning. "He did say there were closed cases in the St. Louis area that he'd committed and someone else had been convicted of committing those crimes."
Could Rodney Lincoln be one of the people doing time for a Tommy Lynn Sells crime?
Supporters urge those concerned to write a letter, make a phone call, submit an email or send a tweet to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to express support for Rodney Lincoln. Governor Nixon leaves office on January 8, 2017.