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Anthony BELL





Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Shooting at the Ministry of Jesus Christ Church - Kidnapping
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: May 21, 2006
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: October 13, 1980
Victims profile: His wife, Erica Bell, 24 / Leonard Howard, 78, Gloria Howard, 72, Darlene Selvage, 47, and Doloris McGrew, 68 (in-laws)
Method of murder: Shooting
LocationBaton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on September 12, 2008
photo gallery

Bell sentenced to die for 5 slayings

The Advocate

Fri, 12 Sep 2008

A state judge formally sentenced convicted mass murderer Anthony Bell on Thursday to die by lethal injection for killing his wife and 4 in-laws in a May 2006 shooting spree in Baton Rouge.

District Judge Todd Hernandez followed a jury's April 17 recommendation that Bell be executed for fatally shooting 4 of his in-laws at the Ministry of Jesus Christ Church and then kidnapping his wife from the Dallas Drive church and shooting and killing her at an apartment complex.

Bell did not react when Hernandez sentenced him. As deputies led him from the courtroom, the 27-year-old Bell  dressed in an orange-and-white striped prison jumpsuit  looked at family members in the audience and said, "I love you. Never stop fighting."

Before sentencing Bell, Hernandez denied a motion filed by Bell to once again fire his court-appointed attorneys. The judge also denied a motion for a new trial filed by those attorneys.

Bell, who fired public defenders Greg Rome and Margaret Lagattuta in February, represented himself in the guilt phase of his trial but asked Hernandez to reinstate the lawyers during the penalty phase.

The judge allowed the lawyers to act as Bells standby counsel during the guilt phase of the trial.

Before leaving court Thursday, Bell thanked Rome and Lagattuta for their assistance.

Bell, who was found guilty April 11 on 5 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of attempted 1st-degree murder for wounding his mother-in-law inside the church, received 5 death sentences from Hernandez and a 50-year prison term on the other conviction.

Husband and wife Leonard Howard, 78, and Gloria Howard, 72, were shot and killed at the church May 21, 2006, along with Darlene Selvage, 47, and Doloris McGrew, 68.

Claudia Brown  the church pastor and Bell's mother-in-law  was shot and injured at the church. She testified against Bell at his trial.

Bell's 24-year-old wife, Erica Bell, was fatally shot in the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex later that day.

Hernandez appointed the Louisiana Indigent Defender Assistance Board to handle Bell's capital appeal.


Jury’s verdict: Death

Bell killed five, wounded one in shootings

By Steven Ward -

Apr 18, 2008

Convicted mass  murderer Anthony Bell deserves to die by lethal injection for killing his wife and four in-laws in a May 2006 shooting spree, a jury recommended late Thursday.

Jurors deliberated for just under two hours before returning with the verdict shortly before 9 p.m.

When state District Judge Todd Hernandez read the jury’s recommendation, Bell — dressed in orange-and-white striped prison clothes for the first time in the trial — stood straight and stared in the judge’s direction.

There were no outbursts in the courtroom during the reading of the verdict, but many family members of the victims had smiles and tears on their faces when the word “death” was pronounced.

Bell, 27, was convicted a week ago on five counts of first-degree murder and a count of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting spree that began at the Ministry of Jesus Christ Church, where he killed four in-laws, and ended at an apartment parking lot where he fatally shot his wife, Erica Bell.

The same jurors who convicted Bell recommended he be sentenced to death. Jurors had a choice of whether to recommend a sentence of death or life in prison.

“There was only one just verdict in this case and the jury had the courage to render it,” prosecutor Mark Dumaine said in an interview late Thursday after the trial.

“And we had a family patient enough to wait for it,” he said.

“I’m happy,” Jeffery Howard, son of murder victims Gloria and Leonard Howard, said after the trial. “My father taught me to believe in the system, and the system worked. Mr. Bell is going to burn now.”

Prosecutor Aaron Brooks said he felt satisfied for the victims and their families.

“This family can finally get a sense of closure,” Brooks said.

Defense attorneys Margaret Lagattuta and Greg Rome declined to comment on the verdict following the trial.

During testimony Thursday, jurors appeared to be most moved by the victim-impact statements made by family members of the murder victims.

Irwin Howard, son of murder victims Gloria Howard, 72, and Leonard Howard, 78, described the impact the killing of Erica Bell has had on her three children.

“My heart goes out to those kids. At night, they cry in bed for their mother,” Irwin Howard testified.

Howard’s younger brother, Jeffery Howard, had tears streaming down his face seconds after he took the witness stand. He testified he was not as strong as his older brother.

“When I was at the morgue, I saw my father’s head blown up this way,” Howard said, motioning to the back of his head.

“It affected me so bad it made me want to blow my own brains out,” he testified.

Sonya Mills Laurence, sister of 47-year-old murder victim Darlene Selvage, looked at Bell from the stand and asked him how to soothe Selvage’s 7-year-old daughter, Destiny Mills, who was nearby when her mother was shot inside the Ministry of Jesus Christ Church.

“Mr. Bell, if you only knew. I need you to tell me what to tell Destiny. She had her mother’s blood all over her dress. How could you,” Laurence asked, in tears.

In Thursday evening’s closing arguments, Dumaine told the jury Bell “is controlling and manipulative and what he did was inhuman and obscene.”

Brooks said Bell and his family — some of whom took the witness stand Thursday to plead with the jury to spare Bell’s life — were in denial because they have no other options.

“The defendant called this a monstrous act and (that) is probably the only thing he said in this trial that was true,” Brooks said.

In his closing argument, Rome, the defense attorney, said all he could do was to ask the jury to consider recommending a sentence of life in prison.

Bell represented himself in the guilt phase of the trial, but asked Judge Hernandez to reinstate public defenders Rome and Lagattuta, both of whom Bell had fired in February. Rome and Lagattuta were first assigned to defend Bell in June 2006.

Earlier in the day, Bell’s assertion that he is mentally retarded took a nosedive when one psychologist testified that Bell is not retarded and another psychologist came to no conclusion.

If the jury had found that Bell was retarded, he could not face the death penalty, by law.

Defense witness Dr. Mark Zimmerman said he didn’t have enough data to determine if Bell is mentally retarded.

State witness Dr. Donald Hoppe was more definitive.

“He (Bell) is absolutely not mentally retarded,” Hoppe testified.

Hoppe, like Zimmerman, administered an IQ test to Bell long before the trial and Bell scored in the low 50s. The legal benchmark IQ for mental retardation is 70, but jurors can consider other factors.

Hoppe testified that after he compared his data with Zimmerman’s data and studied more of Bell’s academic records before he dropped out of the ninth grade, Hoppe suspected Bell purposely did poorly on his IQ test.

Hoppe also testified that after watching Bell ask questions during jury selection, Hoppe concluded Bell is not mentally retarded.

“If that man (Bell) is mentally retarded, everyone in this courtroom is mentally retarded,” Hoppe testified.

Bell was convicted April 11 of shooting and killing the Howards, Selvage, and Doloris McGrew, 68, inside the Dallas Drive church May 21, 2006.

He also shot and injured his mother-in-law, Claudia Brown, inside the church.

Later that day, he kidnapped his 24-year-old wife and shot and killed her in a car at a nearby apartment complex.


Anthony Bell Found Guilty

April 11, 2008

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It took jurors about two hours to decide the fate of accused killer Anthony Bell. Late Friday night, jurors unanimously convicted Bell on five counts of first-degree murder for the May 2006 shootings at the Ministry of Jesus Christ Church. Jurors were also unanimous when they convicted Bell on one count of attempted first-degree murder for the shooting of Pastor Claudia Brown.

After the verdict was read, members of Bell's family left the courthouse saying, "God is still in control." Some were in tears. Members of the victims' families would not comment to the media.

Bell represented himself in this bizarre case. During the course of the trial, Bell told jurors his ex-wife, Erica Bell, killed four people inside the church before taking her own life. Bell told jurors she did the shooting because he was having an affair with Pastor Claudia Brown. On the stand, Brown denied any physical relationship with Bell.

Jurors will reconvene Monday. Their next task will be to decide if Anthony Bell should receive the death penalty for his crimes or spend the rest of his life in jail.

There were fewer fireworks in the courtroom Friday and much more emotional testimony. Also, Bell's former employer says on the stand that he had knowledge of an affair between Bell and his mother-in-law. The alleged affair between Bell and his mother-in-law was pretty much the cornerstone of Bell's entire defense.

Earlier in the day, however, unspoken words rocked the murder trial for Anthony Bell. The gesture of a 7-year-old little girl reduces most of the jury to tears. Destiny Mills, daughter of Darlene Selvage, took the stand and was questioned by prosecutor Mark Dumaine. He asked her, "Destiny, who shot you mommy?" Without saying a word and clutching a teddy bear in her arms, she reached out and pointed right at Anthony Bell.

At that point, female member of the jury were in tears. One woman had her face in her hands, while others were grabbing for tissues. It was quiet throughout the courtroom. Later, the jury watched a video tape of Mills from a few months ago in which she described what happened. In that video, she says Anthony Bell was indeed the person who shot her mommy.

Many family members were in court with the little girl. A number of them wore buttons with a picture of Destiny with her mother, Darlene Selvage. The buttons read, "Team Destiny." We spoke with one of the witnesses, a former girlfriend of Anthony Bell. "I feel much better to let the jury know that... how he was when he was younger and if his mother would have got him help, maybe Erica would be here to raise her son," says Lekeria Coleman.

Louisiana Man Shoots Four Dead at Church Before Killing His Wife
May 22, 2006

On Sunday morning a man entered in the Ministry of Jesus Christ Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and opened fire killing four of his in-laws. Another woman, the head pastor at the church, was wounded in the shooting.

After the shooting, the suspect, identified as 25-year-old Anthony Bell, kidnapped his wife and three of his children, including a newborn.

About 90 minutes after the killings, police got a report of a shooting at an apartment complex in Baton Rouge.

Chief Jeff LeDuff of the Baton Rouge Police said that the body of Erica Bell, the suspect's slain wife, was found in a parked car at the Ardenwood Park Apartments, a few miles from the church.

The kidnapped children were found all unharmed while Anthony Bell was discovered nearby, crying and holding his infant son.

Police are still investigating why and how the killings were carried out, but it's believed that they probably stemmed from domestic problems.

Chief Leduff commented that "when you start stacking up human life like this, it's sad. It's a sad day for the whole city."



5 Dead In Louisiana Church Shooting

4 Killed In Church, Suspect's Wife Found Dead Later

By James M Klatell - CBS News

May 21, 2006

A man opened fire Sunday morning at a church hitting five people, four of them fatally before abducting his wife, whom he later shot to death at another location, authorities said.

Church members wept as they watched investigators examine evidence and search for clues.

The suspect, Anthony Bell, 25, of Baton Rouge, was captured at an apartment complex near the church. Three children abducted with the woman were all found safe.

"This is going to be one of the worst days in the history of our city," Police Chief Jeff Leduff said after Bell was captured and his wife's body was found at the apartment complex. Her name and those of the other victims were not immediately released.

Bell is accused of shooting five people at the church before fleeing, Sgt. Charles Armstrong said.

CBS affiliate WAFB reports that one of the shooting victims died after being transported to the hospital and the surviving victim is listed in critical condition. Police say two of those killed are females and one man, all older in age.

It was unclear whether Erica Bell, 24, was killed at the complex, police said. Her three children, including an infant, also taken from The Ministry of Jesus Christ church were found safe, officials said.

Erica Bell's mother, church pastor Claudia Brown, was wounded and was in serious condition at a hospital, police said, but would not provide further details.

Jeffrey Howard said his mother had been shot in the back of the head.

Anthony Bell faces charges of murder, attempted murder and kidnapping.

Investigators did not know the motive for the shooting at The Ministry of Jesus Christ church.

"This is senseless. This is a total waste of human life," Leduff said.

The small church shares space in an old warehouse with a guitar shop in a nonresidential area of Baton Rouge. Bell is believed to have entered and opened fire shortly before services were to end around 10 a.m.

After shooting five people, Bell fled with his wife and with three children, including an infant, police said. The two older children were found safely at a residence.

Hours later, police responding to a 911 call about a shooting cordoned off the apartment complex. Officers found the woman dead and Bell holding the baby, Leduff said. Bell was arrested without incident.

At first police said the three children belonged to the couple. They later said it was unclear whether Bell was the father of all three.


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