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A Texas man commits murder, then flees the United States

Bell was finally captured in Panama

Bell was finally captured in Panama

Bryan, Texas, is the type of place that people have in mind when they dream of escaping the big city.  But in September of 1984, the illusion of small-town security was shattered for one local couple whom we will call Sue and Bill.  Sue had always considered herself strong and self-reliant.  However, the events of September 6th would test her character in ways she never imagined:

“My husband was leaving for work and I went back into the bathroom in the master bedroom to finish getting dressed. I was standing there, looking in the mirror, finishing up my hair, and I picked up the make-up mirror.  And I looked and he had a large hunting knife.”

Fearing for the safety of her child, Sue instinctively attacked.  She forced the intruder from the bathroom and then drove him out of the house at gunpoint:

“It was very quick. And I don’t think he was expecting me to do that.  I think he probably was expecting me to plead with him not to do anything, and I reversed the situation on him.”

Sue had seen the man up close, but authorities were unable to identify him.  She and her husband tried to put the incident behind them.  Then four months later, Sue got another look at the attacker:

“I was going through the newspaper and I opened it up, and his picture was in the newspaper.  And I was just shocked to have found out what he had done.”

The newspaper listed the state’s most-wanted criminals. Right at the top was the knife-wielding intruder. His name was Edward Harold Bell.  Edward Bell’s long criminal record stretched back to 1969 and included aggravated rape and numerous counts of indecent exposure to children.  Sue also learned that Edward Bell was wanted for a shocking murder that took place on August 24, 1978.  That summer, 26-year-old Larry Dickens was visiting his mother and sister in Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston.  An ex-marine and youth counselor, Larry was also the father of a three-year-old girl. According to his mother, Dorothy Lang, Larry was cutting her lawn when Edward Bell pulled up in his pick-up truck:

“I was standing at the kitchen window.  And there were a lot of children playing in the intersection right by our house. I saw this pick-up truck drive up.  He parked, and he got out of his truck, and he was nude from his waist down.”

Bell was sentenced to seventy years in prison

Bell was sentenced to seventy years in prison

As Dorothy phoned the police, Larry went out to confront the flasher. His mother watched from the kitchen window as the man pulled out a gun: 

“And I said, ‘Please don’t shoot him.’  And the man just shot him, anyway. And then he turned and started running out of our garage. And Larry, even with all those bullets in him, was still trying to stop this man.”

Larry had been shot four times in the chest and once in the head with a .22 pistol. At just that moment, Larry’s 17-year-old sister, Dawna, was returning home from cheerleading practice:

“I pulled up to the stop sign and I saw a man cross the street to the edge of my driveway. And I looked and I got a good close look at the man. And I tried to block his exit.  I realized he had just shot my brother.  I just started screaming. And I just screamed and screamed, and then, when I couldn’t scream anymore, I remember I just went over and I knelt down beside my brother and I watched him die.”

A dispatcher radioed the suspect’s description as police units headed to the scene. At that very instant, the officers recognized the suspect’s truck. Within 20 minutes of the murder, Bell was in the hands of police and on his way to face Larry’s mother and sister:

“They opened the back door of the police car so that I could see him there.  I just wanted to get my hands on him.  It hurts me so bad that he killed my brother. There’s always going to be an emptiness.  Part of me is missing.”

Incredibly, Edward Bell was released on bail less than two months after the murder. He quietly liquidated his assets, and with more than $140,000 in his pocket, disappeared.

Update:

When this story aired, at least two viewers recognized Edward Bell.  One said he had recently met Bell during a business trip to Panama City, Panama.  Another viewer claimed that Bell had lived in Panama for several years.  According to Special Agent Rolando Moss of the Houston FBI, Bell was prospecting for gold on land he owned near Panama City:

“The Panama police were able to locate Mr. Bell, at which time, they placed him under arrest, and the FBI, along with the Panama City Police Department then brought Mr. Bell back to the United States.”

Edward Harold Bell was convicted of murder and sentenced to 70 years in prison.  He has since been named as a “person of interest” in the murders of six young girls in the Galveston area.  Bell will be eligible for parole in the year 2013.