Bell Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Life | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Bell Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Life

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For background on this case, read the JFP's investigative feature, "Grant Me Justice."

George Bell III pled guilty this morning to kidnapping and capital murder in the 2007 beating-death of his girlfriend, Heather Spencer. Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd sentenced Bell, 33, to life without parole, plus another 30 years for kidnapping.

Bell sexually assaulted and beat Spencer to death on Sept. 10. Her body lay in the Jackson home of Bell's mother, Robbie Bell, until police recovered the body the next day. Prosecutors later charged Robbie Bell as an accessory to the murder.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith said he had no comment about Robbie Bell's case.

"We're still discussing the case against the mother, so we'll hold those thoughts until the time comes," Smith told reporters.

Bell delayed his Sept. 11 arrest by publicly threatening to kill himself at a Northside Drive gas station, making local businesses and administrators at a nearby junior high school nervous. Lt. Gerald Jones—serving over the police impound lot but trained in hostage negotiation—talked Bell into surrendering later that day.

Spencer's mother, Linda Francomb, said both she and her daughter did not think Bell capable of murder, even though Bell had bludgeoned Spencer earlier that year with a hammer.

"The June incident was the first time he had ever done anything to her, and she totally thought it was the drugs, and he assured us that he'd never hurt her again. And that's why we thought, when he got out of rehab, that he would not ever do that to her again, and she totally believed that, so in that respect, her situation was not the same as someone who constantly lives in fear because she didn't feel that way," Francomb told reporters while holding a large poster of her smiling daughter.

Francomb said she did not blame the system for her daughter's death, even though it did little to prevent the second, more fatal, attack in September. She did advocate for better enforcement of a "cooling off period" for partners charged in domestic abuse.

"Maybe if George had been arrested the first time, maybe (the murder) would not have happened. I don't know," she said.

Bell stayed at an out-of-state rehabilitation clinic, after the June attack, allegedly detoxing from cocaine derivatives and steroids before returning home and committing the murder.

Judge Kidd told Bell that he did not believe Bell's rage was entirely the result of drugs, and Spencer's mother said she agreed with the judge's assessment. "He knew what he was doing. I believe he used the drugs to give him the courage to do what he wanted to do. He just wanted to finish what he'd started in June, for some reason. I don't know why," she said.

Bell, barely containing his emotion in court, read from the Bible as he apologized to Spencer's friends and family Monday morning. Spencer's mother said she did not feel Bell's apology was genuine.

"I've read letters George has written before. To me, it just feels like—I don't know if he really meant it. I just don't know if he meant it. I know he loved Heather in his own way, but I just don't believe a lot of the words he says. It just doesn't mean a lot to me," Francomb told reporters later outside the courtroom.

Spencer's brother, Xan Spencer, said God was capable of forgiving Bell. "I'm a firm Christian, and I do believe that God can forgive many times over, and that if George becomes saved and follows what God says and keeps the word of the Bible … I know God can forgive him," Spencer said.

Smith, who took the D.A. oath weeks ago, called the case "one of the most tragic we've ever seen since our administration's been in office," and said he was following the preferences of Spencer's family in not seeking the death penalty.

"Whenever you're considering the death penalty, you have to consider the wishes of the family, and sometimes families believe seeking the death penalty is the easy way out. Sometimes it is. You have to look at it both ways and consider what he family wants," Smith said.

"I feel like he will be better served having to live life in prison, knowing he'll never get out, and he'll have time to contemplate what he's done," Spencer's mother told reporters. "He'll be tormented with the memory of what he's done for the rest of his life."

Previous Comments

ID
98277
Comment

Photo by Heather Spencer I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but knowing that Spencer took that picture does something to me. I mean, that's how she saw him, and in that picture, he looks like a nice person.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2008-02-04T17:22:09-06:00
ID
98278
Comment

ironically enough, this is the one guy a Hinds County jury would probably give the death penalty.

Author
bill_jackson
Date
2008-02-04T20:50:09-06:00
ID
98279
Comment

Well, Rex, he's got some fine, and connected, attorneys behind him, that's for sure. Who knows? But I wouldn't put him in front of a jury if I could help it. And I hear you, L.W. That's why we like to use Heather's photos from myspace. They stand alone.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-02-04T20:52:15-06:00
ID
98280
Comment

It's cases like this that make it very hard to consistently oppose the death penalty--but I guess at least Heather Spencer's family will be spared what would have been a protracted, and no doubt extremely painful, trial.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-02-05T00:32:18-06:00
ID
98281
Comment

Amen, Tom. He'll meet his Maker soon enough.

Author
ellen
Date
2008-02-05T00:59:11-06:00
ID
98282
Comment

Heather's mother said at the sentensing hearing that she did not want the death penalty for Bell. She stated, "That would be too easy...I want him to suffer....." It is so sad that this situation progressed to the point of a beautiful young talented woman losing her life.

Author
justjess
Date
2008-02-05T09:21:48-06:00
ID
98283
Comment

Did anyone else see Robert Smith on the WLBT news commenting on the case as if his office had something to do with it? I guess he got this tactic from FM. FM is famous for showing up at a crime scene or arrest and parading in front of the cameras to give the impression that he actually had something to do with the case. In actuality Jim Hood's office and the JPD did the work on this case. Smith had nothing to do with it. So far it appears that Smith is a chip off the old Melton rock.

Author
clarkkent
Date
2008-02-05T09:49:05-06:00
ID
98284
Comment

The death of Heather Spencer was one of the worst events of last year. This news brings closure of a sort. I appreciate the comments from her mother. Thank you for this story.

Author
Izzy
Date
2008-02-05T11:35:38-06:00
ID
98285
Comment

Bell is a clear reason why men shouldn't cry in public. Boy, wasn't he ugly and pretentious. We just don't cry as pretty as women do. Glad the case got resolved short of death. Glad the family was smart enough to know killing in return didn't solve anything or punish deeply. I hope they can soon move on with their lives. God bless them and I'm sorry for their loss.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2008-02-05T11:35:47-06:00
ID
98286
Comment

clarkkent, his office did have something to do with it; they negotiated the plea bargain. We can't turn around and say that criticisms of Peterson (based on her pleading out cases) are unfair, then make the same criticism of Smith. Presumably one of the reasons Bell plead out was because he knew he'd be looking at a capital case if he didn't.

Author
Tom Head
Date
2008-02-05T12:35:05-06:00
ID
98287
Comment

It is interesting to note that, during Peterson's time as D.A., the practice of getting people to plead to life increased. Of course, her haters reduced that into her pleading too often. I don't hear them saying that now. To his credit, during his campaign, Smith made it clear that the criticism of Peterson's office for plea bargains was naive and unfair.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-02-05T12:47:22-06:00
ID
98288
Comment

There is hope for Jackson after all. Kudos to CCCJudge Kidd.

Author
Queen601
Date
2008-02-05T13:22:52-06:00
ID
98289
Comment

Tom Head, you are mistaken. Spencer's family requested that Hood's office handle the case. The Spencer family was concered about Smith's affiliation with Ed Peters, who is good friends with Tom Royals and Tommy Mayfield. Mayfield's wife, Clara, presently serves as Robert Smith's office manager. Hood's office handled the negotiations as well as the actual plea. Neither Smith nor his staff had anything to do with Bell's plea. http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080205/NEWS/802050375/1001 Smith's office is handling the case against Bell's mother. I will be interested to see how his office handles this case.

Author
clarkkent
Date
2008-02-05T16:15:10-06:00
ID
98290
Comment

clarkkent, I thought that was true, too, but wasn't certain so I didn't say anything, yet. Oh, and complete the thought for those who might miss it: Tom Royals is George Bell's attorney. I suspect we'll see lots of situations like these with both Smith's connection with Peters and Melton (remember that Melton told me on the eve of the Batman trial that Smith was "one of mine"), not to mention all the perennial bad boyz he has represented as a defense attorney. We've always wondered how efficient his office could be if he had to hand off so much, but all of that didn't seem to resonate with voters last fall. He certainly had good PR, helped along by Peters, on his side. As a complete aside, Peters and Tommy Mayfield came up in this discussion, which originated on Folo. Small county, eh?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-02-05T16:43:49-06:00
ID
98291
Comment

Donna, we both failed to mention that both Royals and Tommy Mayfield were present at the plea this morning. Mayfield left the DA's office to become Royals' partner in his law firm. By the way, Royals and Smith have worked together in the past. Royals and Smith each represented one of the Brooks brothers. They were the brothers that were convicted of murdering their father, Rufus Brooks, Sr., around Easter two years ago. You may recall Rufus Brooks, Sr. served as an associate minister at Greater Bethlehem Temple in Jackson. Even though Mayfield's wife works for Smith, an obvious conflict, Smith did not ask Hood's office to handle the case. Smith was going to HANDLE it himself. It was only after Spencer's family approached Hood about prosecuting the case that Smith relinquished. I can only imagine what type of DEAL Smith would have fashioned for Royals & Mayfield had he been allowed to prosecute the case.

Author
clarkkent
Date
2008-02-05T17:00:18-06:00
ID
98292
Comment

th Royals and Tommy Mayfield were present at the plea this morning. Yes, I noticed that photo in the corporate daily.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-02-05T17:35:02-06:00

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